Breathing life into a business idea can be a long-term commitment that requires patience, determination and a creative flair for problem-solving. Two start-up founders give their views on what it took.
What makes an entrepreneur? Many qualities go into defining them – solid leadership skills, insightfulness, business acumen, motivation. They are professionals who can create demand in the market and change consumers’ perceptions. But more importantly, what differentiates them from the pack is their perseverance to keep going even in the face of insurmountable odds.
Such is the story of Elie El Tom, CEO and founder at Yalla Pickup. Speaking with Accelerate SME, he recalled a time in his early days as an entrepreneur when he had to sell his fridge so he can afford to buy food for his family.
“When you know you’ve given so much, you cannot afford to let your venture fail,” he pointed out. “There were many ups and downs along the way, but I’m very passionate about the things I do. I’ve always wanted to simplify people’s lives and contribute to the community and I get a kick out of it. We are the ‘Uber’ of pick-up trucks and we try to [address] the pain that is often associated with moving and packing.”
Leena Khalil, co-founder at Mumzworld, plunged into the world of entrepreneurship after becoming a mom. A former investment banker, she admitted that she was not prepared for what motherhood entailed.
“I only realized how difficult it was when I did it myself. Now, as an entrepreneur, I cater to moms and get immense personal satisfaction,” she said. “Our business model is based on our experiences as moms and whatever we do now is based on what moms want. It’s in line with our personal beliefs, coupled with the thought of giving back to the mom community in the country and the region.”
Balancing multiple roles
There’s a view that since entrepreneurs are expected to wear many hats, the pressure to carry out these different functions successfully can play havoc with their personal lives. However, Khalil does not subscribe to this concept.
“Yes, as an entrepreneur, there’ll be days when you’ll be putting in 20 hours a day, but it’s a long way to go so you can’t suffer from burnout. I believe, in handling things differently. You need to find a balance, only then can you innovate more, go back to work and look at problems with a different perspective to find solutions.
“When faced with problems, I always revert to motherhood as it offers many solutions and helps me think differently. I also try to have friends from a diverse group and engage with different people in different environments. You’ll be surprised how these things can help an entrepreneur become more creative than just sitting in an office setting for long hours,” she said.
The Mumzworld co-founder also believes that entrepreneurs are problem-solvers – people who look at a problem with a view to finding solutions.
Patience is a virtue
Both Khalil and El Tom agree that patience is an important trait every entrepreneur must have. Whether it’s looking for business opportunities, building a team or strengthening relationships with clients, being patient will put any business owner in good stead.
“We are a B2C model and the hardships we face are very obvious. Our customers will know if we are facing a problem. In the past, our last-mile service did not go well and we spent several nights in the warehouse, trying to understand our customers. We dealt with the problem patiently and today 90% of our customers are happy with our service,” said Khalil.
El Tom is also a firm believer in handling problems patiently. “At some point, and in every business, you’ll have to handle an upset customer, as not all deals sail smoothly. The challenge is to handle such situations patiently because the last thing you’ll want is to lose a customer.
“We are very firm on customer satisfaction and loyalty and it’s a lot of hard work to score well on that. We have to deal with truck drivers of different nationalities and at the same time keep up the level of customer service,” he said.
He added that they try to achieve this by “maintaining our cool”.
“Firstly, we filter the drivers as our runway is not very long, then, look for ones who can align themselves with the vision of our business and are willing to learn so that we can deliver the best customer service,” he added.
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© Accelerate SME 2018