By Brianna McAdoo
Special to the AFRO
In the spirit of forwarding Black excellence, service and leadership diasporically, Howard University teamed up with StartUp Africa on Nov. 16 to host its 8th Annual Entrepreneurship Conference at the institution’s Interdisciplinary Research Building.
StartUp Africa is an organization that supports “youth in building business skills and in endeavours that foster financial independence, create jobs and grow African economies,” according to their website.
StartUp Africa’s Entrepreneurship Conference creates a platform of engagement for youth, emerging leaders and professionals to engage with established entrepreneurs. Over the past eight years, StartUp Africa’s conference has created a space where thinkers and leaders not only share a wealth of knowledge about entrepreneurship, but discuss the latest trends and obstacles of business in Africa and ways to develop substantial business and economic growth in the future.
The conference was set to begin with welcoming and opening remarks at 9 a.m. followed by an Opening Plenary on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. After a late start and absent panelist slightly delayed the morning, the speakers in attendance re-awakened the energy of the conference providing a plethora of insight.
The present panelists included: President of P.E.R.K Consulting Andrena Sawyer, Will Holmes, the namesake and founder of Will Holmes Consulting, and CEO and Founder of Be Inspired Global Naomi A. Burrell.
Collectively, the panelists placed a huge emphasis on knowing the customers and their wants and needs. They highlighted that a mistake many aspiring entrepreneurs make- creating a product or service that customers may like, but not necessarily need.
“The secret to making money [is]…you find a need, you fill a need and you get paid,” said Holmes.
Aside from finding a need, the panelists emphasized the importance of thoroughly knowing your customer, asking for feedback and being consistent with your business.
Burrell, whose company Be Inspired Global collaborates with media companies including the AFRO, shared her journey as an entrepreneur. She reminded the young leaders in the room,“If it’s not broke, build on it.”
The Be Inspired Global founder and CEO recommended a host of online tools to help enhance a business. Her recommendations included Hootsuite, Mail Chimp and checking out one’s State’s business resource center.
While entrepreneurship is often trial and error, the panelists discussed the importance of utilizing resources, collaborating with others and creating a plan of action. “[Don’t] underestimate the value of creating strategic plan and infrastructure,” Sawyer said.
To find out more information about StartUp Africa and their upcoming events, visit www.startupafrica.org.