Not All Entrepreneurs: The Microfranchise Accelerator
When I started my career, one of the first books I read about Development was the Professor Yunus famous’ book Banker to the Poor on Micro-credit and how it could play a role in eradicating Poverty. The message that I could not get out of my head is that every Human Being is an entrepreneur. I simply could not stop thinking about it! I spent some time wondering why… oh why I was not that entrepreneurial, how I could palliate to this gap in my life and really how I could become an entrepreneur anyway, since I thought it was the only way to be or be successful.
Well, it took me a few years of experience in Development (and probably a few more years of age too simply) and I finally accepted that not only we are actually not all entrepreneurs, but IT IS COMPLETELY FINE! I discovered that personally, I am a strong implementer, and there is no shame to the word: I can take a really good idea from concept to life, make it happen and grow it. And I can be actually really successful doing it too! Yes, entrepreneurs are needed in our society, but implementers are just as needed.
In 2012, after 4 years in India and being based out of a luggage for a year crossing continents with work (with a base in Kenya), I was looking for a new exciting challenge to implement and I wanted it to be in South Africa.
I decided I would meet everyone I could, I got in touch with two incredible people: Tracey Chambers who is the CEO of The Clothing Bank and Egbert Wessels who runs the Business Place Philippi. After years of experience in creating, supporting and growing entrepreneurs in South African townships, they had experienced that 80% of the people they help in their respective organizations are in actual fact “necessity entrepreneurs”: they aim at being sustainable and supporting their family but clearly lack entrepreneurial attributes. To answer this gap, Tracey and Egbert both decided to create a centre that would answer the need of these necessity entrepreneurs and called it the Micro Franchise Accelerator, or MFA.
It simply clicked in my head and I fought to get to run the project: an organisation for great implementers that are not entrepreneurial – could not be better matched to my convictions!
The MFA caters perfectly to “necessity entrepreneurs”: it provides a portfolio of aspirational container-size business models that they could buy into and apply to succeed. In the MFA’s portfolio, each business model is proven, commercially viable and the franchisees have to be able to make R5,000 profit from it, which is considered attractive in the townships of South Africa. The business models have to be standardised and replicable at scale as well, so the MFA can actually be a real solution to the South Africa’s problems like the 25% of unemployment, the lack of skills or the education gap.
I have been running the MFA for about a year now and we have started the implementation phase in 2013. By now, I have 6 amazing (and happy!) implementers (that we call franchisee) running 2 of our proven business models in containers in the townships here in South Africa. All of them are making over R5,000 profit monthly too! We are starting rolling-out the models and should have a total of 21 franchisees by the end of 2013.
So are we all entrepreneurs? No! Can we still be successful? Hell, yes!