The world faces countless problems that need smart, courageous people to solve them.
But often, would-be and aspiring entrepreneurs don’t know where to start, how to grow their businesses, or where to find support.
To give you a head start—and to mark Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)—we listened to four podcasts featuring entrepreneurs, business experts, and thought leaders so that you don’t have to (although we highly recommend that you do).
Here are our key takeaways:
Simon Sinek speaks to Seth Godin about why entrepreneurship takes time, commitment, and courage
Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, marketing expert, best-selling author, and speaker. In this podcast, he speaks to Simon Sinek, author, speaker, and creator of the infamous ‘Start with Why‘ theory on finding your purpose.
In this podcast, Seth, Simon, and Helene (Seth’s wife) discuss what it means to be an entrepreneur, taking risks, letting go of perfectionism, and affecting change in a way that scales.
For Seth, entrepreneurs solve social problems. He says that entrepreneurship comes from a place of generosity, a desire to solve a problem, and the joy that comes from making others happy.
Social entrepreneurs put an idea out into the world without the intention of owning or controlling it, but with the intention of changing the market, sparking a movement, and encouraging others to copy them. They put in the initial work and “publish the playbook” so that others can also work on the problem, take what they’ve started, improve it, and reach more people.
“Entrepreneurs create something that inspires others; something that others want to steal. They have the courage to go first, and they share their successes and failures so that others don’t have to make the same mistakes. And they make it possible for others to copy them. The key to changing culture is scale, and scale is possible if you’re willing to give up ownership and eagerly have people copy what you’re doing. This is how you stay on top of your game,” says Seth.
Although many people think that entrepreneurship is risky, Seth says the ones who go first don’t think they’re taking a risk and have enough resilience to survive if they’re wrong. They’re willing to fail on the way to figuring it out.
He stresses, however, that in the entrepreneurship journey, the highs are extremely high, and the lows extremely low. Having a support system to ride the waves with you makes a huge difference.
So, how can you affect change at scale, according to Seth?
- Start small. You can affect change in a sticky way at the grassroots level instead of waiting for governments, corporates, or the world to change. Start with yourself.
- Be specific and seek out the smallest audience. If you try to make something for everyone, you will fail. Don’t try to change the world—try to change your world. 100 people will tell 500 people, and so it grows.
- Show up consistently. Entrepreneurship takes commitment. Accept that failure is meant to happen. When it gets hard, don’t give up; see it as a chance to do more work. Keep at it because you believe in it.
- Let go of perfectionism. When you learn from failure, you’ll reach success faster.
Gary Vee speaks to Tim Ferris about why not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur and how to scale your business if you are
Gary Vaynerchuk, aka Gary Vee, is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and internet personality. He chats to fellow entrepreneur Tim Ferris, who is also an investor, lifestyle guru, and author of The 4-Hour Work Week, among other books.
In this podcast, Gary and Tim discuss why not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur.
“Entrepreneurship is hard; being a successful entrepreneur is stunningly rare,” says Gary. “It has zero cost of entry, and it feels like anyone can do it—but should you?”
There are ways to test the waters and determine if entrepreneurship is for you. Tim and Gary recommend these activities:
- Buy something and sell it online for a profit. There’s always some level of buying and selling in entrepreneurship. This will be a telling exercise to see if it’s for you.
- Ask for a 10% discount on the next 10 coffees you buy. This tests your negotiation skills and helps you get used to rejection, and makes you comfortable with discomfort.
- Work for a fast-growing start-up or high-profile person for free if you can afford to. Think of it as an internship where you can focus on learning rather than earning. Do something that allows you to be in the room with people who are negotiating and deal-making because, at the end of the day, it’s the skillset that matters. “You want to get very good at crafting deals, persuading, and negotiating, and the easiest way to get good at that is to observe someone who does that regularly,” says Gary.
- Start a student club or student union. You’ll have to sell memberships, take notes, and keep track of things. You’ll learn how to deal with deadlines and interact with people. These experiences mimic the real world and things you could never learn in school or textbooks.
In their discussion, Gary and Tim share key lessons and advice for entrepreneurs:
- Don’t be afraid of your first steps because there isn’t a clearly defined path. There are as many paths to entrepreneurship as there are entrepreneurs. There’s no one right way. You could start at 20, fail 20 times, and still become a billionaire later in life.
- Get comfortable with failure. No matter how many projects fail, keep going because it has a snowball effect. Along the way, you’re picking up skills and relationships; inevitably, if you stick with it, you will win.
- See failures as blessings in disguise. “90% of the stuff we do doesn’t work,” says Gary. “We’re losing all the time, and it doesn’t matter.” If you get a few things right, you can screw up almost everything else because you’re developing skills and relationships. You will make mistakes, but if you see these as opportunities to change things and improve, you’ll eventually win.
- Don’t try to appeal to the entire world. Find 100 people—your true fans—who believe in your idea and want what you’re selling.
- Stay true to yourself, but evolve. Believe in your thing, stick with it, and the world will come to you. It’s easier for us to indulge our obsessions and to do that thing—no matter how weird it is—than to hold it inside.
- Break the rules of business occasionally. Like Hip Hop dancing, there are certain techniques and basic principles in business, but beyond that, you have the power to improvise and break the rules. People will still recognise your business as a business, but you have the freedom to create and translate the rules of engagement. Make it a point of breaking your own rules, as experiments, to see what happens.
The secret to scaling effectively is to scale very, very slowly in the beginning. The goal is to build a business that’s not dependent on you and where you don’t become a bottleneck for all decisions.
- Hire people intuitively but fire them quickly if you know something is wrong.
- Systematise how you train people by creating documents and videos of you performing an activity in real-time and using it to teach others.
- Remove yourself from the business for at least four consecutive weeks a year to prove that the company can function without you and allow other people to make decisions. This forces you to put systems, policies, and rules in place that allow you to take time off without everything falling apart because you’re not there to hold it together.
- Scale can create complexity. Be patient; don’t be in a rush.
Jay Shetty speaks to Guy Raz on how to safely quit your job and build the business of your dreams
Jay Shetty is an author, life coach, former Hindu monk, and host of the On Purpose podcast. He’s interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs to break down the entrepreneurial journey. In this podcast, he speaks to Guy Raz, journalist, radio personality, and host of the How I Built This podcast.
In this episode of On Purpose, Jay and Guy discuss how to know when you’ve found your passion, whether you could make money from it, and how to build a strong foundation before you take the leap from employed to self-employed.
Many people don’t always know right away what their passion is and if they should pursue it. Getting to that point requires being open to ideas.
“The way we come across an idea is because we have a problem that we need to solve for ourselves. As we begin to interrogate how to solve that problem for ourselves, it starts to crystallise in our minds that maybe other people have the same problem, and you can solve it,” says Guy. “Each time you think, ‘I could do XYZ much better,’ or ‘If they just tweaked XYZ, this would be better’, is an opportunity to connect the dots.”
Entrepreneurial thinking happens all the time without us realising it. An idea could be something you experience; something that causes you a lot of pain daily, like a mother coming up with an idea to get her kids to eat their vegetables.
That idea is only the starting point.
Often, the idea becomes something slightly or significantly different from how it started out, like Slack, which started as a massive multiplayer online game that was ahead of its time. Slack’s founders ended up building something completely different—a communication and collaboration platform that was really useful to many businesses.
“Sometimes the idea sneaks up on you. And although you have a vision, the pivot and discovery of a product might not be what you expected. But you must go through the other stages to get there,” says Guy.
The lesson? Don’t start with the result or worry about whether it will be successful and make money. Be motivated by a problem. Try to solve something, fix something, or build something. It’s about the challenge, the team you collaborate with, and the connections you make with people around you.
So, how do you know when you should quit your job and go all in?
Guy shares this advice:
- Mitigate your risk
Most entrepreneurs mitigate their risk. They use their jobs to get experience while building a platform to stand on. Build your side project while you’re employed. Once you’re comfortable and confident enough to take the leap and you’ve saved enough money to get you through the first few months, then jump.
- Take risks, but in a safe way
There are ways to take risks that, if it all falls apart, it will not be catastrophic. It’s vital to experience failure in the entrepreneurship journey. Failure can happen in small, medium, and even big ways, but it doesn’t have to be catastrophic. Don’t put all your chips on the table, have a mitigation plan, and ensure you can bounce back from any risk you take.
- Build your skills and reputation in the trenches
Learn as much as possible about your craft and master it through repetition. Your skill might be that you’re a great people person, a connector, or a great interviewer. Or you could be a developer, a fashion designer, or make a really good cup of coffee. Whatever it is, work at it until it becomes effortless.
- Find your co-founder
There’s nothing wrong with being a solopreneur but working with someone with complementary skills (e.g., a copywriter and web developer) often results in more creativity (think Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak).
Although working in partnership can sometimes be tense, it’s crucial to have that support for the days when you want to give up—and there will be days like those. Having a partner creates a higher probability that you will succeed. Your cofounder will be the one next to you saying, “we’ve got this; we can get through this”, and there will be other times when those roles are reversed. Find someone that you trust, respect, and get along with.
- Don’t fall for the funding myth
The biggest myth about entrepreneurship is that you need funding. In some cases, you do, but in most cases, it’s a misperception. Elon Musk didn’t have funding when he cofounded X.com.
“The reality is that building a business is not about building a billion-dollar unicorn. Building a business is about building something sustainable, something that gives you fulfilment, and might actually provide employment for other people,” says Guy.
If you’re like most people, you don’t have a rich uncle, heaps of savings, or access to venture capitalists—but you do have access to ways to get funding. And it starts with building your network.
Talk about your ideas with others, build circles, get feedback, listen actively, and ask people if they know of anyone you should meet. You start to build funding by building a network of people. “It’s possible. It just requires time, hard work, and a willingness to put yourself out there,” says Guy.
- There comes a time when you just know
There comes a time on your entrepreneurial journey when you think, “I can do this; I’ve got this”. It comes after you’ve spent time in the trenches, getting experience and getting better at your craft. It’s intuitive. It’s something inside that gives you permission to take the leap.
Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It’s about thinking creatively, collaboratively, trying new and different things, and improving ways of working; it’s about teaching other people, even if you only have a year or two more experience. It’s a way of thinking, and everyone has the potential to adopt that mindset.
Riël Malan speaks to African entrepreneur, Joshua Ngoma
Riël Malan is a South African entrepreneur, technology investor, and Shark at Sharktank. He also hosts the Shakers, Makers, Builders, and Breakers podcast. In this episode, he speaks to Joshua Ngoma about his entrepreneurial journey, which has all the above elements: Experience, failure, partnership, and passion.
Joshua was born in Zambia. His father was a successful entrepreneur who started teaching Joshua about business when he was five. But a year later, tragedy struck. His father was killed, and his family was left with nothing. Joshua promised himself that he would never depend on anyone.
So, at age seven, he started his first business, growing and selling vegetables to his community. He was grateful to have grown up in Zambia, whose president at the time, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, valued the importance of free education.
Joshua was top of his class for most of his school career and received a government sponsorship to study mining engineering in the UK. He returned to Zambia with his bachelor’s degree and spent six years literally in the trenches, working on the copper belts. He was offered a job in South Africa in 1994—two weeks before the general elections—where he’s been helping to develop the country ever since.
It was only after three decades in mining, mastering his craft, and honing his business skills that he partnered with a group of black professionals to create Eyesizwe Mining Ventures, which would later merge with Kumba Resources to form Exxaro. He spent two years consulting at Anglo Platinum and then started another mining business with the same group of people that created Eyesizwe.
But life had other plans for Joshua. In 2012, he became ill and was forced into retirement. While he was lying in hospital, he came up with the idea for the Enterprising Africa Regional Network (EARN), which was established in 2014.
EARN aims to create an enabling environment for African entrepreneurs to grow profitable and sustainable commercial agriculture businesses.
“The problem in Africa is that we’re training a lot of people, but there aren’t many job opportunities,” says Joshua. “The only way we can develop this economy is if we have more people creating opportunities for themselves and others. So, I thought, why don’t we develop entrepreneurs who can create jobs?”
And so, EARN was formed to encourage the youth to create something and take responsibility while being guided along the way. “The idea is that, if you want anything in life, you have to earn it. At EARN, we enable people to work for themselves instead of working for others, but the flip side is that no one owes you anything—if you want it, earn it.”
EARN aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. “Agriculture ensures food security, and it’s the biggest employer in most of the developing world,” says Joshua.
Situated on a 21-hectare property in Centurion, the EARN agricultural training centre teaches the youth how to start and scale a commercial farming operation through technical, practical, and operational skills. Its state-of-the-art facilities focus on horticulture and undercover production to grow produce and flowers.
“Young people seem to shun agriculture,” says Joshua. “To attract them, we need to go into high-tech farming methods so that agriculture isn’t the last resort when you’ve tried everything—it should be the first choice. Our vision is to develop young African entrepreneurs to create profitable and sustainable businesses that will create jobs and increased levels of prosperity while ensuring food security.”
EARN trains about 40 people a year, and each one has the potential to start their own farming business and provide employment to others. “Because we’re creating commercial farmers, it means that in five years, we’ll have created about 10,000 jobs, if not more. That’s how you grow society. You don’t grow through handouts but only if people learn to produce for themselves and others.”
Here’s Joshua’s advice to the entrepreneurs he’s developing:
- Teach people. “We need to pass on our skills, knowledge, and guidance. That’s how we’ll grow our world. But if you’re going to teach people something, you must know how to do it yourself first. Good leadership is about training people to do something for themselves, knowing that they won’t return to you once they know how to do that. A good leader encourages people to work, to earn. They ask, ‘How can we work together so that you can create something so that you can have a better life?'”
- Find your genius. “We are all born geniuses, but we only demonstrate our genius if we’re placed within our natural space. Understand that you are special. Use your strength.”
- Ditch the scarcity mentality. “Adopt an abundance mentality—there’s enough for everyone. Handouts don’t develop self-esteem. Doing it yourself does. We have so much power within ourselves that we can do whatever we want to earn the life we need. We should focus on creating more abundance by creating more entrepreneurs with the skills, connections, funding, and land to create opportunities for others.”
- Be a good citizen. “What can you do to help others? Whatever you do, make sure you do it ethically. Don’t cut corners. Pay your taxes. Make sure everything is in order. Go to bed knowing that everything you did, you did well, and someone else benefited.”
- Have a vision. “There’s an African saying that goes: Society grows when old men grow trees in whose shade they know they will never live under. I’m in my 60s now; I don’t know how much time I have. I don’t know whether I’ll be around to see the impact of everything I’m doing now. But I do these things not because I want to benefit from them myself, but because the people that remain behind are going to benefit from what I’ve left behind.”
- Honour your word. “A man’s word is his bond—his integrity. If you say you’re going to do something, you must do it. If you don’t, you stop being what you should be.”
“We need to start thinking differently if we want to improve our country’s economy. We all need each other. We cannot do that if we’re divided, but only if we move forward together.”