|Photo Courtesy: Asenti|
I sipped down the last of my toast with coffee as I glared over the innovation tips painted on everywhere there was the excuse of having space on the walls. Their varying colors made sure to keep my attention long enough to finish them. Or was it the coffee…I loved it either way. The space buzzed with the sound of people networking and tummies rejoicing. At the entrance was a desk filled with company brands advertising their services and the Asenti team sorting out the still inflowing participants and guests. Behind them was a four sided wall structure with glass windows that let in additional light seemingly from the skyline on the roof.
The podium stood on its right surrounded with neatly clothed chairs of alternating blue and white. On the left of the staff desk was my favorite attraction in the village: an orange BMW motorbike that combined both the dimensions of laid-back and sports bike all in one frame. The semi-rusty nature of its tire rims suggested it was a classic. I admitted to myself of the desire to restore it and ride; and also wondered how they managed to fit it in the lift.
The bike stood right on the edge of the four corner wall and on the left of it was the advertising stalls. The floor windows opened up the well occupied side of the room as the sales people tried on making their stalls better than next. Behind the wall structure was the serving counter; my favorite place in the room and not because they serve Uganda’s tasty wonders with a touch of nutritional western diet. Moving round the room was like making revolutions around the four cornered wall.
The MC picked up the mic and called us back to our seats. After an African few minutes, we were all in our seats fumbling about as the speakers found their way to the podium. The MC/moderator was a female for this session and faired in introducing the theme Building a Global Business Brand & creating a Social Impact. Even though throughout this theme most of the speakers merely used their enterprises as examples for the session, they schooled everyone on the importance of social impact of any enterprise. As the moderator simply put it, “Don’t just innovate to succeed, innovate to take everyone around with you.”
The first speaker on the table was Ms. Melanie Cheary from the African News Agency (ANA). She explained how her company is the wholesaler of African news to all other news outlets in the world i.e CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, you name it. She further passionately emphasized on the stories of the small scale entrepreneurs who help their communities through their businesses. These stories is why they made an announcement that snapped the drowsiness off everyone’s face.
|Ms. Melanie Cheary during one of her session|
Their news agency was opening a new section in their website that will feature any small scale entrepreneurs with social impacting enterprises and ideas, so that each of them can get a world-wide exposure for their businesses. And the best part of it all, anyone can get a chance to hold the torch. Even you. How you ask? Just follow the instructions below to stand a chance at the spotlight:
- Describe who you are,
- What your business is,
- What inspires you
- What your vision is,
- What are your challenges and,
- What your strategy is.
When you’re done, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and stand your chance to get the break you’ve always needed. You can also check their website and other African entrepreneur success stories out at their site: African News Agency.
The next speaker was Mr. Julius Mugisha, Business Manager of Nakasero Hospital Uganda. I loved his talk because the level of success he brought to his hospital was a living example of what I aspire to see in my organizations back home.
|Mr. Julius during his talk|
Before I proceed, here are the two major lessons I learnt from the methods of Nakasero Hospital under Julius:
- Be Clever; you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but be resourceful. If there’s someone who can do a better job than you can, employ their skills. It’s much more quality assuring and time efficient.
- Be genuine; if you have people under or around you, sincerely care for them. They determine the success of you at a larger scale. For as they say, “If you want to achieve your goals quickly, then do them alone. But if you want to fulfill them at a long lasting and grander scale, then do them with others.” (my favorite)
Among the things Julius and his team were able to achieve for this hospital was that it was one of the most recognized facilities in Uganda. And they didn’t even advertise it to the people. And the biggest secret to it all was that they genuinely cared for the staff that worked for them. I met with him after the session and he explained to me his simple rule, when the staff feel cared for, they automatically repay the care to the customers and clients. This is why the local slogan around Nakasero area was, “if you haven’t gone to Nakasero, you haven’t gone to hospital”, he said in his cool collected manner, and the rare confessions of “I love my job!” I added, in thought.
Whatever we do in this world, there will always be people involved, including business. When you create an environment where the employees, team members, colleagues, friends, family; where anyone can admit they don’t know something, where its ok to fail at first try, where they can make mistakes; where they feel safe, then the level of commitment, blood and sweat genuine-ness you will get from them will not only have an awesome effect on you, but also on the others around them (i.e customers, other people etc). This is why The Seven Seas, Virgin, Apple, this is why they are great companies today. But you have to care for them first. Never forget.
Finally, the last speaker for this session was Ms. Nathalie Roy, East African Manager—Mentoring for Africa Germany. As her title suggests, her Germany based company, Enpact, is offering the priceless and invaluable gem of mentoring to young and potential entrepreneurs at an affordable price. Entrepreneurs fill a compatibility form that would match his/her requirements and preferences to the best mentor, who is a successful entrepreneur in the same field of interest.
|Ms. Nathalie talking on mentor-ship|
The mentors are personally and financially driven, with strict penalties for not pulling through and whose destiny is tied to yours until the end of the program so it’s a full proof deal for your money. Furthermore, you get the chance to mingle with other mentors of other entrepreneurs and even get to meet up with the whole family of Enpact in person, aside from the guaranteed one on one meetup with your esteemed mentor. I know, I liked the sound of it the more I listened too.
Be sure to give them a look-see at this non-profit organization’s social media handles: Facebook @Enpact and Instagram @enpact_startups.
But as with life, not everyone can afford this priceless noble service to the humans in entrepreneurship, so here are some of the tips she gave anyone looking to find a good and compatible mentor:
Passion; find someone with drive and interest in what they are doing. You cannot risk having a mentor who is in that field of business because he/she heard it has money in it.
- Grit; As one of my mentors puts it, “It demonstrates the power of passion and courage to get what we need.” Find someone who has held his enterprise of a dream with both hands and/or has weathered a few storms as well. These are the people who are ready to find a light in an infinite tunnel of darkness in what they pursue. Good people.
- Role model; if you are in any field, let alone business, you should have someone to look up to and emulate. They are the ultimate guideline on who you want to be and what you want to achieve. Because they already did.
- Someone you actually like; positive emotions are relative to mentor and role model. You can take god qualities from less favorable people in your book but to emulate, the word ‘negative’ should not have any room in there.
After she was done, I quickly confirmed on my program the afternoon session by Melany Cheary from ANA. The reason for this is how she shifted her body as much as she could to face the other speakers to either side of her as each spoke. It is a sign of giving assurance and attention to someone when you shift your posture, legs and/or feet to them, so I knew she was genuinely interested in what they had to say. Consciously or not, postures speak words the mouth can’t, and she said all the right words in my book; proper self-awareness. My afternoon was set.
The line was already getting stretchy when I joined. It was beside a couple of the advert stalls. The round hand-sized waist high rail bars running beside separated us from two of them and as the line casually dragged along, I found myself glancing at the brochures on display. I wasn’t the only one. A lady from the stall caught me. Naturally, she started to explain to me what services they offered and how reasonably affordable they were. I knew things were weird when she mentioned Endoscopy and I meekly asked,
“Isn’t this the Hospital the speaker, Julius, was talking of?”
She smiled in acceptance and amusement as she looked at me with her face lit with glee and delight and said,
“He is the one standing in line in front of you.”
Honestly, I was slightly embarrassed and felt kind of dumb. But as fast as he introduced himself did we dive into the vast and humanely noble oceans of genuineness and care. His principles reminded me of a man I considered as one of my heroes in this generation, Simon Sinek, and I made sure I told him. Gladly enough, he’d never heard of that name before in his life; a brilliant sign that there are still great people in the world doing great things. What a great man that man.
He received his plate and went on his way. I did so as well and revisited where I had coffee that morning. It was just close to the entrance opposite the staff desk. Also had a good view of the BMW so, what more could I ask for. Little did I know that at that lunch was I to make one of the more important friendships in that event.