Finding a job in Mali is not easy so, like many young people, Justin Traoré hoped to start a business of his own. However, starting a business requires money – to buy livestock or rent premises, for example – and many people do not have access to sufficient funds.
‘I have always wanted to start an activity that can generate income and does not require too much money to get off the ground,’ says Justin, a graduate of an agro-pastoral institute who lives in Pélengana, in Ségou.
Every aspiring businessman or woman needs a good idea. According to Justin, there is a high demand for chickens in Segou but not enough supply to satisfy this demand. So, despite his lack of funds, Justin started a poultry farm with the encouragement and the help of his father. ‘I have always been passionate about poultry farming,’ he says. ‘With my father’s help, I was able to build a hen house. However, I still needed financial help to buy the chicks needed to start my poultry farm.’
During his search for financing solutions, Justin got in contact with Jeunesse En Mission (JEM), one of Tearfund’s partners in Mali. JEM holds training sessions on entrepreneurship. It also helps young people and women to start income generating activities by providing loans and technical support. JEM believes that it is often better for young people to start their own businesses rather than wait for job opportunities.
Justin received a loan of 150,000 CFA francs (USD 250) from JEM, which enabled him to buy about 100 chicks. ‘Before getting in contact with JEM, I was doubtful about how I would be able to buy the chicks. Now my dream has become a reality. When I received the loan from JEM I knew that all was not lost, and I was hopeful that I would succeed with my business plan.’
Today, Justin is running a successful poultry farm in Pélengana. He is happy and confident that his business will allow him to make enough money for his needs. ‘In this enterprise, I want to be an example, a role model for the youth of the church and the community of Pélengana. To do this I will always be open to learn and find new ways to increase the number of chickens I have, and grow my business.’
Justin has the following advice for those starting out in business: ‘Have a clear idea of what you want to do and what you hope to achieve. For example, if you want to breed chickens like me, you must know what type of breeding will work with which breed of chickens.
‘You must love what you want to do and trust in your business – for these two things are critical when everything else is not working as expected. For me, a company cannot evolve until the entrepreneur has confidence in it. This allows people who work with you to trust you and have respect for what you do.
‘Make sure you seek advice from those who have hands-on experience in your chosen area of business. Finally, work hard. It’s not enough to have the vision to do something, you have to actually do it and do it well.’
What does a business need to succeed?
As well as finding the funding, there are a number of common skills and attributes that a successful entrepreneur and/or business will display:
Motivation and attitude: It takes time and effort to start a new business and begin making a profit. It is important to have a clear understanding of the reason you want to start a business, and the passion and positivity to stay motivated and see the business succeed.
Business plan: Successful businesses need to have a clear business plan, which gives an outline of the business and how it aims to achieve its goals. It needs to be simple and concise, and to show an understanding of the market (eg who you will be selling to and how many other companies are already selling similar products). It should also explain how the business aims to make money, and over what time period.
Good record-keeping: In order to understand whether your business is on track for success, it is important to keep good records. These records will help you to manage your business on a day-to-day basis and identify potential challenges that need to be addressed.
Organisation: Being organised will help you stay focused and complete the tasks that need to be done for your business to flourish.
Ways of managing risk: Your business can be threatened by unpredictable weather and other forces outside your control. Find out about the likely risks you may face and ways to minimise or manage them. This will help reduce the damage they could cause to your business.
Awareness of competition: Understand the market in which you are operating. There will be other existing businesses that will be competing with you for customers. Be creative and think about how you can make your business stand out from others.
Consistently high-quality goods or service: Customers want to know that you will provide the same high-quality goods or service each time they visit your business. If you do this, they will be more likely to come to you again the next time!
(An extract from an article by Claire Hancock, published in Footsteps 103).
For more information: Footsteps 95 is focused on poultry keeping and is packed with practical ideas and tips for healthy chicken breeding, while Footsteps 103 explores entrepreneurship and offers excellent advice on how to run a successful business.