by Claudia Castellanos, ceo, Black Mamba Chilli
Being an entrepreneur is very hard (I usually use a stronger word to describe how hard it is, but for decorum’s sake I will revert to the word “very” this once!). It is so hard, and in so many ways, that you must have a great reason to become one, or a great motivation to keep pushing when things get tough. Finding that reason, that deep purpose, is crucial to succeed.
The Japanese have this amazing concept called Ikigai which is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life. It can be interpreted as ‘the reason for being”. Translated to entrepreneurship, the intersection of 4 things will allow you to find that “sweet spot” - your Ikigai - that will make your entrepreneurial journey a success.
These 4 things are:
What you’re good at. Even though there are some stories of accidental entrepreneurs that have succeeded in totally unknown territory, the reality is that you are more likely to succeed doing something that you’re good at. This means you need to develop skills and experience; study, research and work hard on getting those 10.000 hours of practice in and become an expert in your field (this is even more important if you are a woman and you are working in a men dominated sector). When we started Black Mamba, both me and my husband had great experience in marketing and branding. Building a strong brand became one of the pillars of development of the business and remains today one of our main strengths.
What you love. This is perhaps one of the most important components of entrepreneurial success. I’ve met many aspiring entrepreneurs whose motive to start their own business is “to make money”. And while willing to make a living out of your business is completely fair (see number 3 below), it is not a strong enough reason to keep you going when things get though. Passion is a big component of determination and resilience. Doing what you love will guarantee that you want to get out of bed (almost) every morning.
What you can make money from. Personal fulfillment and recognition feel great (I always equate them to a pat in the back) but it feels better when you can pay bills out of your hard work too! Even if your main motivation is not monetary you will need to make a living, eventually, otherwise you will lose your willingness to work through thick and thin for your business.
What the world needs. When facing terrible issues such as climate change, an impending 6th mass extinction, extreme poverty and famine, lack of access to clean water, gender and race inequality (just to name a few), we need to focus on what we as entrepreneurs can do to improve the current state of the world by choosing a worthy cause that is close to our hearts. It is easy to blame big companies or governments for these issues, but the reality is that we are also responsible, either by our actions -or lack of thereof. As entrepreneurs we should evaluate our performance based on a triple bottom line, and prioritize people and planet before profit. The beauty of running your own business is that “doing what the world needs” can become inherent to the business itself. My personal mantra is “be the change you want to see in the world” and my company has become an extension of that mantra: Black Mamba was created to support the development of rural communities in Eswatini, and more recently our social mission has evolved to include the preservation of the planet for future generations. Another plus of this concept: seeing positive change on the cause you decided to embrace feels really good!
If you are thinking about starting your own business, answering these 4 questions will help you to figure out what drives you, and if that motivation is strong enough to make you persevere and succeed. And if you’re already running your own business, your Ikigai will act as your compass, steering you in the right direction, helping you grow, providing you with a deep sense of purpose - and ultimately happiness. And isn’t this what we are all pursuing anyway?
Claudia Castellanos, Colombian by birth and African by heart, is the founder and Managing Director of Black Mamba Foods, a social business and growing fair trade brand based in Swaziland that manufactures and distributes gourmet chilli products in Southern Africa and overseas. Claudia holds an MBA from ESADE Business School (Barcelona) and has over 15 years of experience working as a strategic marketing consultant and a lecturer. She is passionate about finding ways to develop the continent through sustainable projects that take into consideration the uplifment of women, the inclusion of grassroots communities and the protection of the environment, and loves good food (preferably spicy) and wine.
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