I was alone at breakfast beginning my daily routine of reading the Bible and praying. It was promising to be another bright, sunny day in the low seventies in Kampala, Uganda. I had a wonderful view of the Sheraton’s gardens and pool area—overgrown lush trees, manicured grounds, huge prehistoric-like birds commuting onto the grounds, and the often present hawk circling overhead searching for breakfast for the family.
My attention was redirected to Harriet, my Ugandan waitress. She asked if I would like some coffee. I said, “Yes.”
She asked, “Are you a pastor?”
“No. I am a businessman from America. I make it a practice to commune with God through prayer and His Word each day. This discipline helps me integrate my faith into my work,” I said.
She asked, “Why are you in Uganda?”
I told her about the Youth Ablaze Conference and that I am the keynote speaker. I said, “The theme of the conference is ‘Igniting Kingdom Minded Entrepreneurs.’ The goal is to have the participants, who are fifteen years and older, see the possibilities in breaking free of poverty.”
She told me, “I have started a business.”
She could see she surprised me and continued, “I am a born again Christian and God has gifted me in business. He has given me the idea to start a peanut butter manufacturing and sales business. I call it Divine Peanut Butter.”
I asked her to tell me more. “I am currently working out of my house. I have one piece of equipment to make peanut butter and need capital to expand.”
I asked her, “Who will buy your peanut butter?”
Harriet answered, “Everyone.”
I said, “Who are you selling it to now?”
She said, “Neighbors.”
I told her in order to raise capital she was going to have to sell to more than her neighbors. She offered, “I’ll get business cards.”
I said, “Business cards will not find people who want peanut butter or sell the peanut butter for that matter.”
Then she got it.
“I will go door-to-door in my neighborhood and beyond. I will tell everyone I meet about my excellent peanut butter.”
I told her she is on the right track.
Knowing What’s Important
Harriet is like many entrepreneurs in Uganda and America. The tendency is to be product focused. The thinking is, “If I had the money to build the product or produce enough product, my business would do very well.”
Nice thought but not true. Most of the effort in getting a startup out of the ground and into the market is spent on sales. I have observed this in entrepreneurs over the last thirty-five years. By day, they love working on the product, then spend sleepless nights figuring out how to sell it. They should have spent the day working on sales and their nights improving the product.
Harriet is now thinking about her sales plan. She has no capital, which means she will have to be very practical. Because of this and time constraints (she is a waitress), she will soon discover who buys peanut butter, how to get in front of them and how to sell them. This is the first and biggest hurdle for every entrepreneur.
The market is like a twenty-foot high wall, and you alone have to figure out how to break through. Succeed here and you have a chance to build a business. Miss at this early challenge and you are eating peanut butter alone for a very long time.