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The Art Of Embracing Rejection in Building a Startup

Jordan Stephanou

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“Chaotic”, “uncertain”, and “rollercoaster” are three words that would effectively describe almost any entrepreneurial journey. If death and taxes are certainties in life, then failure and taxes are the only two guarantees in business.

If failure is (to some degree at least) inevitable, why should we fear it? In this piece I will try demystify failure, and look into why it should be embraced and not feared.

  1. It’s Part of the Job

We can start by separating failure into two different categories – micro and macro-failure. If a macro-failure can be considered as the overall failure and shutdown of the business, micro-failures can be seen as the day to day events that go wrong – that potential client that hangs up on your cold call; the sales pitch that gets the soft-no response of “we’ll call you”; the product launch that no one pitched up to. As Mark Manson puts it, business (as in life) is just a process of becoming less wrong over time.

So the first thing to address is that to fail in business is not to fail in life, Nobody wants to be “a failure” of a person, but failing in business is where lessons are learnt. Being a failure and failing are two entirely different things. If we learn from our failures, we are not, and will not become “a failure”. Some investors only invest in people who have failed before in previous startup attempts in hope that they won’t repeat the same mistakes.

Everything is a hypothesis that needs to be tested, and the process of business is applying the lessons from each hypothesis – each micro-failure – to be less wrong next time to move the business forward.

As Seth Godin says, “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing”. Embrace being wrong. Rejection and failure are part of the job.

  1. Opportunity to Refine

There is one undoubted truth about every failure – and that is, each failure gives an experience to dissect and learn from. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius had a similar view; that to one person a situation is good, and to another, that same situation is bad – Only perception decides.

As an entrepreneur, it is important to adopt this stoic thinking of managing your perceptions. Look at situations rationally, and perceive rejections as opportunities to refine the product that the market really needs – not the product you are forcing on your market.

  1. With each Failure, Fear it Less

One of the great things about rejection or failure, is that the more often you are exposed to it, the less you fear it. In fact, micro-failures can become such a common part of an entrepreneur’s day, that you stop even noticing them as failures at all.

You may look back on a day with multiple rejections from prospective clients as a normal day on the path to building a business. The goal is to get to that point as quickly as possible.

  1. One Less Avenue

In the beginning, any failure will elicit a strong emotional response, however, when it becomes embraced as part of the journey, as crazy as this sounds, you may even get excited for the next rejection or micro-failure.

Why? Because each micro-failure takes away one possible path you could go down in your business. Entrepreneurs tend to be highly ambitious, highly idealistic people. This may result in wanting to do too many things, take the business in too many directions simultaneously, and run before walking.

The beauty of failure is it re-clarifies the path, stops the entrepreneurial mind from getting carried away, and brings everything back into perspective. What’s better than pursuing 1000 potential clients? Pursuing 999 higher potential clients.

Eliminate avenues that aren’t right for your business as quickly as possible so that you can spend time on providing best possible product or service for the ones that are right.

  1. Practical Tip to Embrace Rejection

So with all this theoretical talk out of the way, how do we get over that fear of failure to see the beauty of it? Start by watching Jia Jang’s TED talk of 100 Days of Rejection. The talk genuinely impacted my life. I have since implemented an annual (and much less impressive) 10 days of proactive rejection in my life. The goal is for 10 days, to do anything in any aspect of life that you would do if you weren’t ruled by fear. Ask yourself today, “what would I do if I wasn’t scared?”

The goal is to actively seek rejection to remove the power of fear from damaging your business’s potential.

Finally, I believe we should get our heads around the idea of celebrating our failures. Go for a drink as a team and give a toast to that failure even more than if it was a success. After all, if life is more about the journey than the destination, surely we should celebrate and cherish every event of the journey along the way?

Every event that happens will be critically important in forming the empire of a business that you are building. Take a step back, see the big picture, and smile whenever it doesn’t go as planned. See the beauty of failure.

 

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Founder of tastePal / Startup Shack / Job Creation Project with African Union & European Union / One Young World

Entrepreneurs

24-Year-Old Hannie Maye Takes Fashion Design by Storm in Somalia

Kimani Patrick

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Born in the United Arab Emirates about 24 years ago, Hannie Maye moved to Kenya at an early age to pursue her studies.

“Fashion Design runs in my blood since young age,” she says. “I had an obsession with fashion, particularly when I saw Tom Ford and Sally Karago on tv I was inspired and I believe they are major part of me becoming fashion and designer during my upbringing before I started this business.”

The global citizen is now the founder, lead designer and namesake of the Somalia-based fashion design company – Hannie Maye (HM).

For Hannie, she never dived right from the beginning. After high school in 2011, she moved to Malaysia to further her studies where she studied Accounting and later flew to Mogadishu, Somalia to start her business in 2015.

Her entrepreneurial journey started out 4 years ago in Mogadishu. It was a bold move, she says, “a very tough time for a Somali youth to even think of designing clothes because of the war.” But this could not deter Hannie from stepping into her passion and turning it into a business, “and right there I made up my mind and decided to move to Somalia and took up on its development, changing the mindset of the youth, changing some young girls lifestyle while educating them the importance of the fashion world.

Becoming the first fashion designer in Somalia wasn’t just a road to success but it was truly tough journey for Hannie. However, she sees it as a dream come true and she is proud to inspire many youths in Somalia who are becoming more involved in fashion industry.

Her company which now dresses top Somali women business and political leaders is poised for the international market. Her vision is to go global and dress men and women from all walks of life. “I just want to reach my dreams and expand my company and my clothing line to compete with international fashion designing companies.” With this, she assures me that it will have to come from her hard word and dedication. “the future more is yet to come,” she expresses her faith.

It has not been a smooth ride though for Hannie, “One of my challenging moments was when I conceptualized the first fashion show in Somalia. I got rejected each time I approached to book a conference hall. Everyone feared extremism because in our community when someone hears the word “fashion show” they think of bikini or women getting naked. But that is not what I was up to, and no one could agree with me.”

To overcome this and many other hurdles, Hannie says loving what she does, holding herself accountable and constantly learning from her mistakes keeps her going.

Her passion is also a great motivation. “I’m on a mission and nothing is going to stop me.”

“Fear is what holds many entrepreneurs back,” she says, “and if you don’t learn to overcome your own fears then nothing will succeed. I don’t let my fears come my way because am promoting my passion  in a developing country where by extremist do not allow women to work let alone dressing stylish, so am taking huge risk for my business and I believe I can overcome all my fears as long as I believe in myself and with God beside me.”

To win the game of business, Hannie advises other entrepreneurs to have a strategic mindset, be creative and engage into constant learning while embracing failure in the process. For her, she engages in meeting new people through networking events, traveling, socializing outside her normal circles, and going online to see what’s new. Having a strong vision to where you want to go and what you want to achieve is something that she also advises as a must have for entrepreneurs.

To get in touch with Hannie Maye kindly send her a whatsApp message or follow her on Facebook.

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From the Village to the World, There’s Not Stopping for Wanjuhi Njoroge

Kimani Patrick

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Being brought up in a small village at the foot of Mount Kenya didn’t prevent the 29 year old Wanjuhi Njoroge from being a successful entrepreneur. Today, Wanjuhi is the CEO of The Web Tekies LTD and RootEd Africa (both which have now been rebranded to Nelig Group).

Her father nurtured her entrepreneurial and leadership skills. She sold eggs and plums mostly after her KCPE. “It was my dad who discovered and nurtured leadership and the entrepreneurial skills in me. I was only 12 and without prior business experience, but my father’s great wisdom guided me through it all.” Says Wanjuhi.

Wanjuhi vividly remembers her first mistake in business while she was still young, “A kilo of sukumawiki (kales) was KES 7 by then, but this woman came and requested that I sell to her a kilo at KES 5 instead. She was poor and said that her children had been sent home for school fees. I knew she had been struggling and so I decided to sell the kales at KES 5. My father wasn’t amused when I narrated the story later that evening but he made me understand why I had to be firm in business.”

Wanjuhi says this early exposure is what motivated her to going into business and her father remains one of her greatest support.

Wanjuhi went into employment at 19 while she was still in college. “I didn’t like it, it was too rigid and constraining. I didn’t have the freedom to spread my wings,” says Wanjuhi.

This dissatisfaction in employment experience saw her go through a series of jobs in different companies. “The longest I stayed in a job was 6 months.” She says.

Her life changed when she went to work in a startup, founded by a young man in his 20’s. “At first I thought his parents were rich. But surprisingly his parents were not rich. This was my very first experience with a young person who was running their own business. I realized that it was very possible for one to quit and run their own business.”

“In 2011 I went to my parents and told them that I was quitting employment to start my own business. My mother didn’t take it lightly. She demanded to see my bank statements. She meant well. I decided to start my business as a side hustle while I worked full-time and took part time classes. My parents   eventually approved of my resignation and my    company opened its doors in January 2013.”

Today, the University of Nairobi graduate who pursued a double major in Sociology and  Communication is a full time entrepreneur. Wanjuhi, together her with her business partner, Eva Njoki, have founded two companies; The Web Tekies Ltd, which is a media conglomerate that assists startups, organizations, individuals as well as groups tell their stories online and offline while RootEd Africa is a social enterprise she founded out of her passion for ICT, mentorship and education.

RootEd Africa seeks to transform lives in rural and remote parts of Africa through ICT and non-curriculum activities such as sports and mentorship. RootEd Africa works with primary schools and the local communities around these schools with an aim of eradicating school dropout cases especially among teenage and adolescent girls who often dropout due to teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

Wanjuhi is also a Vital Voices Fellow 2015, a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum and the youngest member of the Nyeri County Affirmative Action Social Development Fund (AASDF) Committee. Ann is also a Board Member & School Patron at Kabaru Primary School.

Her advice to young people who want to venture into business is to have a passion, patience and be ready to invest time in learning that thing they want to do. “Start from where you are, from zero and learn your way up.” She advises.

When not courting her clients, Wanjuhi is on the road for adventure, reading a book, watching a documentary or writing on her blog  .

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Article first appeared at Inversk Magazine on June 20 2016

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Go For Gold: Lessons From Chris Kirubi

Inversk Review

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As an entrepreneur, you have to pursue and attempt to achieve the very best possible outcome or reward from the same activity, task or endeavor. Below is advice transcribed from a few of Chris Kirubi’s #AskKirubi show.

Gold is very symbolic to mean the fine things in life. You don’t find gold all around you, but you find at least somewhere close to you. Very scarce indeed. Does that mean it is not meant for everyone? It’s all in your mind. Reach out for the best possible solutions. Reach out for the biggest venture. Reach out for the biggest investment.

Gold is a great reward. Great things don’t come easy. You will struggle to get to it, but the fruits will be there. To be the best, you have to effect change. Don’t be afraid to effect the change. Within our comfort zones, we as entrepreneurs might feel like we have actually achieved it all. When that feeling crosses your mind, that’s when you need to move and effect change. Change is the only constant thing in the world.

Don’t say you can’t move. When you get that mindset, you will be poor. The worst thing you should avoid is being poor in the mind. Do not conform your mind to weak struggles. Conform your mind with strong struggles such that you will put more effort in your deeds. Challenge yourself and out great effort into that. Then expect great rewards.

Arm yourself with knowledge. Knowledge should be your weapon whenever you want to attack and get huge profit margins. Be hungry for knowledge and do not shy away from wanting to know more.

Go for quality. Quality begins with you. Be quality. Don’t be shady. How you look, is how you act. From what and how you dress, to how you carry yourself and interact. Look quality. Talk quality and expect nothing less of quality anywhere you venture into. When you are quality, you will definitely attract quality.

Build your own stature. No matter how difficult it may seem. It will cost you but it will be worth it. Do what you will be proud of. Quality will definitely make you a proud person.

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