Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
25 October 2019 | People
Starting and running a business is very much like riding a crazy rollercoaster at a funfair.
It’s exciting, dangerous and assaults the senses like nothing else. Do you sit and scream and close your eyes, or do you sit and enjoy the ride and anticipate the next loop, dip or climb? When I started LEFA, the ride-hailing company right here in Namibia that works through a smartphone app, I was full of optimism. I still am, but it has been slightly tempered and it’s been a crazy ride so far.
We all feel our struggles are unique and in some ways they are. However, as an entrepreneur we all go through several similar stages. Once you’ve started the business, the various stages of this rollercoaster ride occur over and over again. Simply making payments that are due every month provides enough excitement and sometimes cold sweats.
Stage 1: The first stage of the concept is called ‘Uninformed Optimism’. At this stage on a rollercoaster, just getting to the top, you experience feelings of an adrenalin rush, characterised by excitement and nervous energy. LEFA definitely made me experience this when it launched. Would the people embrace it? Would there be sponsors and would investors showing an interest? We assumed they would and thought we would be an overnight success… well, ‘an over one-month’ success, perhaps.
Stage 2: The second stage is called ‘Informed Pessimism’. As you ride over the top of the curve you now have a bit more information. Feelings of fear, nervousness, and frustration begin to set in. Perhaps you even want to get off of the rollercoaster. This too was a sensation I embraced almost unknowingly. Will it work, will people download the app, will drivers sign on? These were all things that kept me awake at night. Being a young entrepreneur suddenly seemed a lot more daunting.
Stage 3: The third stage is called ‘Crisis of Meaning’. You’re past scared. You feel despair. It’s as if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff ready to jump, and you begin to think, “Today the rollercoaster’s going off the bottom of the track for the very first time.” LEFA was getting downloaded, but the expenses kept coming and discussions with drivers and potential investors took much longer than anticipated.
At this point, you face a critical juncture. You can come off the bottom of the curve and crash and burn, which is when your business goes bankrupt or get a stress burnout. Or you can come around the corner because you’re getting support during ‘Crisis of Meaning’ and you can enter an upward swing call ‘Informed Optimism’. LEFA started getting traction in the media. I was able to attend Vivatech Paris and FABlab Namibia became a big supporter and LEFA was invited on a trade mission by the Namibian government to Portugal. Along with Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) as a sponsor, seeing some investors becoming interested meant that LEFA and I were weathering the storm. We weren’t on dry land yet, but the hellish conditions were behind us for now.
Stage 4: ‘Informed Optimism’. You’re calm. You’re informed. You might even say you are cautiously optimistic. It’s very fragile at best. But it does seem as if LEFA has gone from being a rollercoaster ride with its hair on fire to a more manageable ride with bumps, but definitely no fire.
In Namibia we dream of a good paying job and alternatively we dream of making it big as an entrepreneur. There’s something to be said for both sides. I have experienced both, and despite the crazy moments, the uncertainty and the ever-looming moment of your hair being on fire, being an entrepreneur is definitely the way forward; especially with a business like LEFA, where we are offering a great service which has proven successful internationally and which keeps Namibia’s roads safe. I will choose entrepreneurship each and every time.
*Melkisedek-Shivute Ausiku is the founder of LEFA