Sunday, April 2, 2023

How 10 Super Successful Business Moguls From Africa Raised Money To Start Their Businesses

Majority of African youths when asked why they don’t have their own businesses the first reason they give is lack of capital to start the business. What they fail to understand is that the capital they need won’t just fall on their doorstep. You have to move an extra mile and make immense sacrifices in order to start any business. However as an aspiring entrepreneur, start where you have with what you have.

Most of these Super-successful African entrepreneurs had very little while starting off, but their persistence and patience saw their businesses growing to be worth multi- million dollars:

1) Fomba Trawally (Liberia)

How 10 Super Successful Business Moguls From Africa Raised Money To Start Their BusinessesWhen the civil war broke out in 1989, Fomba Trawally fled Liberia and settled as a refugee in the Gambia.

In 1991, he returned to his country and started a trading business with a sole focus on rubber slippers (flip flops) which were very much in demand at that time.

His startup capital: $200. All from his life’s savings.

That initial investment in rubber slippers made quick returns and the business grew steadily. By 2005, this self-made multi-millionaire entrepreneur owned three retail stores in Monrovia, selling items such as paper products and cosmetics imported from all over the world.

In 2010, Trawally made the transition from being an importer to a manufacturer. He set up National Toiletries Incorporated, Liberia’s first paper and toiletry products manufacturing company.

Annual sales from his factories have crossed the $1 million mark and he’s making plans to double production capacity soon.

Fomba’s is an inspiring story of a former refugee who turned his life around, and is now one of Liberia’s richest and most successful entrepreneurs.

2) Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (Ethiopia)

How 10 Super Successful Business Moguls From Africa Raised Money To Start Their BusinessesBethlehem Alemu grew up in Zenabwork, a poor village in the suburbs of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Her business – SoleRebels – is one of the most popular and fastest-growing African footwear brands in the world! Her collection of eco-friendly footwear (made from recycled materials) have been sold in more than 50 countries across the world, including the USA, Canada, Japan and Switzerland.

These days, her business rakes in annual revenues in excess of $1 million.

But her business dream would have never been possible without nearly $10,000 in capital she raised from family and relatives in 2004.

Buoyed by her success with SoleRebels, Bethlehem recently launched Republic of Leather, a new business that trades in luxury leather products like bags, belts and other non-footwear leather accessories.

Her inspiring success story has been featured on Forbes, the BBC and CNN. And she has been described by Forbes as ‘One of The World’s Most Powerful Women’.

3. Jason Njoku (Nigeria)

Jason Njoku is the co-founder and CEO of IrokoTV, a mobile entertainment and internet TV platform that’s particularly popular for its impressive catalogue of African ‘Nollywood’ movies.

The growth of this business has been very remarkable. To date, IrokoTV has attracted up to $40 million in investment funding from foreign investors.

But the struggle in the early days of this business was not as glamourous.

After a few failed attempts at previous businesses in the UK, Jason returned to Nigeria in 2010 to build local relationships and purchase content rights for his new startup, IrokoTV.

Cash was tight, and starting this business would have been impossible without the £90,000 contribution of Jason’s friend and business partner, Sebastian Gotter.

That single ‘small’ investment in what was a very ambitious idea, has created a multi-million dollar company that’s now dubbed as the ‘Netflix of Africa’.

IrokoTV recently raised $19 million in additional funding to expand its business across Africa. 

4) Adii Pienaar (South Africa)

How 10 Super Successful Business Moguls From Africa Raised Money To Start Their BusinessesAdii Pienaar is co-founder of WooThemes, a South Africa-based tech company that was recently acquired by Automattic, a US-based online tech giant, for $30 million.

He started WooThemes in 2008, at age 23 while he was still in university. Adii worked part-time as an online freelancer and consultant on the side while he continued to work hard on WooThemes, using his savings and earnings at the time to support the business.

This strategy of starting a business with no money — or, at least, very little money, is commonly referred to as ‘bootstrapping’.

It is the art of making personal sacrifices, using personal savings and limited financial resources to support a business in its early days.

Despite his impressive success with WooThemes, Adii Pienaar remains a serial entrepreneur and continues to work on several promising startup projects.

I’m sure he’ll accomplish something great again. Bootstrappers have a very remarkable fighting spirit!

5) Patrick Ngowi (Tanzania)

How 10 Super Successful Business Moguls From Africa Raised Money To Start Their Businesses

Patrick dipped his feet into the world of business at age 19 when he started selling Chinese-made mobile phones.

Today, he owns one of East Africa’s most successful solar energy companies – Helvetic Solar Contractors.

But his journey to the top wasn’t an easy one. To get started, he took a loan of $1,800 from his mother, and a close friend sponsored his travel to China.

In 2013, his business made more than $5 million in revenues and the company was valued (in 2014) by KPMG East Africa at $15 million!

To date, his company, Helvetic Solar Contractors, has installed more than 6,000 small rooftop solar systems in Tanzania and other East African countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

These days, through his Light for Life Foundation, Patrick Ngowi is giving back to his community by providing better access to clean renewable energy.

He has been featured by Forbes as one of ‘10 Young African Millionaires to Watch.’

6) Lorna Rutto (Kenya)

How 10 Super Successful Business Moguls From Africa Raised Money To Start Their Businesses

In 2010, Lorna Rutto quit her bank job to start a waste recycling business.

Her company, EcoPost, collects and recycles waste plastic into aesthetic, durable and environmentally-friendly fencing posts, an alternative material to wood.

Through these efforts, she has contributed immensely towards the conservation of forests, employs hundreds of Kenyans and is expected to create 100,000 new positions in the next 15 years.

Her business and its remarkable achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of international and local NGOs.

In 2010, she applied for and won a $6,000 SEED Award which served as start-up capital for her business.

In the same year, she won a grant award of $12,700 from the Enablis Energy Globe-Safaricom Foundation.

She also won a business plan competition organized by the Cartier Women’s Initiative, and received a prize award of nearly $12,000

Recently, her business attracted an equity investment from the Blue Haven Initiative and the Opus Foundation amounting to USD 495,000.

Lorna’s business which started as a small cottage venture has now moved to a large manufacturing facility equipped with advanced recycling machinery.


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