This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series Running a StartUp in a Crisis Economy

It was getting to Christmas celebrations and the usual rush to secure food items for the ‘D-Day’ had led to an increase in the prices of commodities. As men, we hardly thought of this as we didn’t even know what to cook because we didn’t care much about cooking. On the eve of December 25th, it occurred to us that we had to do some cooking. That we needed some fowls. But none was available at that moment.

Then, the race to purchase that precious bird began with the consequent alarming prices that come along with the demand and supply ‘wahala’. We succeeded to get the contact of a fowl dealer who could supply us with some hefty birds for the pot. All attempts to reach him, however, failed until late in the evening when he responded to our messages. But it was late and stepping out to check the fowls with the current crisis wasn’t a good idea.

How were we to confirm if he was offering what we needed?

Luckily, the vendor was connected to WhatsApp. So, we asked him to take some snapshots of his fowls and send to us so we could arrive at a decision. He did that with ease and then we agreed he makes the delivery very early the next morning. His salesboy arrived very early with the birds and we were happy. It was time for payment but there was insufficient fiat money at hand. It was only after a while we realized that he accepts electronic payment.

We had the birds and him, his money paid via Mobile Money, and we parted ways with smiles and a good relationship established.

Using technology to sell

In this world of mobile phones and the Internet, online marketing has become the new normal if you must succeed as an entrepreneur. Online marketing is even more important when you happen to be running your business from a location that is rocked by insecurity and unsafety (especially, a socio-political one) which limits the normal flow of your business activities.

As usual, I like to tap into the mind of a creative individual. The young man who made the delivery was in a hurry to make the next delivery when I convinced him to spare only five minutes of his time for me to understand how he goes about his business during this crisis period.

He hesitated at first, but eventually gave in. As an honest young man, he told me he’s working for someone. He quickly revealed some of the strategies his boss has employed to keep his business alive. And this is how it goes. Click To Tweet

He used WhatsApp to advertise the fowls on the 24th which happened to be a Monday and a ‘Ghost Town’ day and many persons secured their fowls by paying via Mobile Money. He then delivered at their homes on Christmas Day morning.

Ingenuity

For those who didn’t trust him, he preserved their fowls, delivered to them and they paid on the spot. Interestingly, he had a money back guarantee if ever a client was dissatisfied. He also had a referral discount of 500 FCFA to customers who referred their friends and neighbours to him.

I’m sure by now you must be wondering how he could sell that number of birds in a day. It will interest you to know that he succeeded with the assistance of over twenty young men who were in charge of the deliveries in different directions. This is an aspect of teamwork and collective effort, which many businessmen used to their advantage. “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything. It takes a team to win,” says John Doerr.

Creativity and innovation: the keys to business success

Many youths, if asked these days what they’re engaged in, their response is a quick “I’m an entrepreneur.” The Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as ” someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity.”

How often do you see a new opportunity in your entrepreneurship venture? The question could be better asked, how creative are you as an entrepreneur? Do you constantly seek opportunities for improvement and success in that business you’ve chosen to operate?

My encounter with the young man had stirred up some thoughts in my head. How many young entrepreneurs complain of lack of success? Could it be that they aren’t innovative anymore from when they started their entrepreneurship adventure? Do they think it’s only something of office space? The questions are inexhaustible.

For anyone to succeed in business, they need to combine, among other things, creativity and innovation. These two will always keep you informed of who your customers are and what quality of service you should provide. Click To Tweet

One of the attributes of quality is availability. Depending on the service or product you’re offering, are you always available? Customers (even potential customers) want to be sure you will always be there when they need you and that you will meet their needs.

Thriving amidst the crisis

For those of you in areas rocked by crises and where there’s limited movement, you must seek new ways to make use of Social Media. You have at your disposal, tools, and opportunities that were absent in the days of the millionaires and billionaires of old. The only difference between a useful and a useless tool is what you make of it. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are three platforms that if used correctly, will bring unlimited returns to your business.

Before you go, may I ask if you’re one of those who unfailingly renew their monthly data subscription just to take photos and videos for Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp? I guess that habit has got to change.

What do you do with your minds and thoughts when you assume the recent big title in town – ‘Entrepreneur’ or CEO? If you are like the hero in this article, then you will agree with me that your mind should never go to sleep. Crises situations have the potential to either put an end to your business or help you find new ways to improve on it.

Be inspired by the story of this young entrepreneur who runs a small poultry farm in Buea and was able to sell hundreds of chickens amidst the crisis, even when movements were restricted. You too can make a difference in whatever you’re engaged in. What’s stopping you?

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