From 20 to 1000 and Everything In Between; Lessons From Chale Wote

Abu Okari | Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

At a glance, 20GHC seems like a small amount of money to use to start a business in Accra, or anywhere for that matter. However, to our Entrepreneurs-in-Training, capital is much more than the cash at hand. The academic year kicked off for the 2018s with the annual Bet Buy Barter Challenge,  an exercise whereby EITS are given 20GHC and challenged to turn them into as much money as possible within 72 hours. The setting for this year’s challenge was Chale Wote, Accra’s world famous cultural festival.

What started as a simple challenge turned out to provide a perfect grounding for all the lessons that will be acquired at MEST. To quote Evalyn Wangari, an EIT from Kenya, “When I look back, I am proud of the mistakes we made”.

Precious, from Nigeria agreed with that: “I am now open to taking risks and more receptive of the programme at MEST”. In addition to teamwork, here are some of the lessons they took away.

Bootstrapping

BBB can be considered an early lesson in bootstrapping a startup; many didn’t feel the investment was insufficient. In fact, some made money without using their capital, instead relying on their existing skills.  One team offered website services on a classifieds site with a 24 hours turnaround. They got several offers, accepted the most lucrative, went ahead to build 30% of the site in four hours, sent it to the customer as a show of goodwill so he pays 40% of the cost upfront, which they reinvested in another activity.

Sell, and sell some more!

Agility & Pivoting

The teams had members with various backgrounds, and they didn’t hesitate to draw from their experiences to contribute to their ventures. For instance, one team set up a bit further from competitors but realized they were not selling, but when they relocated close to the competitors, their sales rose rapidly.

Another team realized they had bought the  wrong materials for face painting when they got to the festival. The following day, they bought the right paint from another team who were no longer using it and ended up making more money from the paint than the team that had sold it to them.

Product Packaging  & Positioning

Chale Wote is a festival where fairly everybody is either selling or buying.  So, the teams realized for them to sell, they had to make the products stand out.

One team that was selling custom made wristbands realized it was more strategic to avoid putting a fixed price; some people paid more than others. They also realized that they had to know who would buy their products and target them accordingly.

🙶We then realized that we had to recognize and define our target market. We were going to sell the accessories to foreigners that appreciate the craft and also focus on kids and women for our face painting and photo frame. I personally realized that people were moved to buy our accessories when I mentioned that we made them ourselves🙷,  said Elohor Thomas.Collaboration

Initially, the teams  viewed each other as competitors, but a few hours into BBB, they realized leveraging their various strengths for common achievement was more beneficial than training their strengths on their competitors. Simphiwe, one of the MEST training fellows, later succinctly summed up the situation: there are no permanent enemies in business.

Marketing & Partnerships

The EITs learned quickly that they had to be aggressive to be noticed. Some teams forged partnerships with companies at the MEST Accra incubator.  Another team realized branding their products helped them get to the next level; when they gave the story behind their products, they sold more.

Interested in testing out your entrepreneurial skills? How about an opportunity to establish useful Africa-wide contacts and a chance to get an investment for your business idea? Apply to become an EIT here.