A helping hand for start-ups
You can have passion and you can work hard, but sometimes a new business venture needs a shot in the arm from an investor. found hers
Your passion, hard work, enthusiasm and great ideas – while absolutely vital – will only take you so far. Eventually, you will need help and money to keep the wheels of your business running, and make sure you are fed and clothed.
Many start-ups don’t make it out of first gear because, sooner or later, they run out of cash. While you’re scurrying around the country, charming clients with your elaborate pitches and plans that will make them look good, you are churning out the money – but sometimes the money isn’t coming in as fast as you’d like, despite your timeous invoices and haranguing collection phone calls made with increasing frequency.
Start-up funding is always hard to come by. Most banks won’t even look your way, despite what their numerous advertisements claim. Another option is funding provided by state bodies like the department of trade and industry, and provincial government.
Sometimes access to this money and the tedious paperwork needed to get it can drive you to drink. Wine from a tumbler through a straw, in fact.
MEC for economic development in Gauteng Lebo Maile recently announced that his fund for start-ups had dried up (such is the uptake of this). So what to do when you have an idea but need money to make it work – or at least get off the ground?
If you’re lucky, like we have been, you find an angel investor. This happened within the first few heady days of our start-up – when we worked 18-hour days and courted anyone who dared to listen to our story.
I’d been moderating a panel discussion at the same event as top businessman Jabu Mabuza. During the tea break, he made the mistake of asking what I was doing because he hadn’t seen me on telly in ages. By now, I was well rehearsed and enthusiastic when rolling out the company’s pitch. I waxed lyrical and whipped out my business card to show that, well, I meant business.
He was sufficiently impressed/ overwhelmed/intrigued and suggested we meet.
Now, if you are merely being polite and don’t mean these words, don’t ever utter them to me because I will take you at your word. I will hound you until we meet. But there was no need for this when it came to Mabuza; he promptly arranged a time to meet.
He is an easy-going, pleasant and straightforward man.
When we scheduled the meeting with Mabuza, it wasn’t our vaguest intention to get money from him. At that stage, we simply wanted to meet as many influential people as possible to spread our gospel and see where or how we might strike beneficial partnerships or, if we were really lucky, bag a client.
As I drove to the meeting, I was nervous and petrified, but reeled off my lines as Charlotte and I had rehearsed. “We, as Amargi Media, want to tell African stories…”
TaJabs – as we would later call him – listened carefully and patiently as I rattled off our vision nervously, eagerly listing the clients we’d bagged in our short existence and what we hoped to achieve.
After a dreadfully long silence, he responded by relating his own story about his early beginnings in business and how, when he was floundering once, legendary businessman Meyer Kahn came to his aid and kept him afloat.
He said he would never forget the kindness shown to him because that gesture changed his fortunes, and he believed strongly in paying this forward.
TaJabs went on to say he believed that entrepreneurs would be the ones to grow the economy and they deserved all the support they could get, especially from those who had succeeded – in whatever form that took.
I wept when I left that meeting, because I left there with so much more than I had imagined or hoped for. In TaJabs, Amargi Media found an investor, a partner and a mentor.