The totally awesome Creatives In Business Forum

Yesterday I attended the Creatives In Business forum held at the Michael Joseph Centre.  It was organized by the Creative Community Network whose mission is to create wealth by empowering individuals and organizations in the creative and cultural economy.
The forum aimed to provide a platform for creative entrepreneurs to network, learn and share to exploit their full creative economic and social potential.
There were three sessions covering business essentials, tech futurism, and the bottom line.
The panelists for the first session were Leonard Mudachi, Isaac Kute, Maia Von Lekow, and Boniface Mwangi.
Isaac Kute talked about finding a niche.  A way to differentiate.  To succeed one needs to prepare to fail. His advice was if you’re not making money then you need to look for a new career or find a way to make it pay. 
Isaac talked about thinking outside the box.  Isaac and his partners opened a nightclub in UK and came up with innovative ways of marketing and financing.  One way included using the whole marketing budget to provide free nyama choma on Sundays for 3 months and this was a family day so people came with their families. After one month they had so many new customers that other businesses which had lost 90% business forced them to start selling their nyama choma so that they could get back some business. Another was using the entrance ticket as a flier and business card.
These were his insights on business.
You need to know who your customers are.
Price is an issue but if you know your customers and sell them an experience they are likely to keep coming back.
Money for promotion may be a big issue but look for ways to promote your business using little or no money.  Be innovative.
Isaac says at the end of the day don’t shortchange yourself.
Also learn to work in partnerships.
Desire to succeed has to be more then fear of failure.
Learn to fail well.  Every time you fail get a lesson and do better.
Maia Von Lekow –  A globally recognized musician
Maia said being an artist and running your own business isn’t easy.  There are resources out there that can help.  She recommended essentials of starting a business www.  Davidparrish.com.
In order to make it as a creative business person you need:
Learning to manage time – time management.
It’s good to know yourself and your abilities.
Do research in the market to find out what’s going on and what your competitors are doing as well.
Differentiate yourself.  You can do this by having a website, a business card.  She talked about never underestimating the power of a business card.
Don’t be afraid of competition.  Know them, see what they are doing, and purpose to do better and differentiate.
Value yourself and what you do correctly.  If you don’t value your skills no one else will.  This gives you higher morale and professionalism.
You need to be a great leader and manager. The people who answer to you should know that you can do the job you are asking them to do.
In order to make if you have to be able to manage yourself.  If you can’t manage yourself then you can’t manage others or your skills.
Write out a business plan for yourself as an individual and for your business.
Leonard Mudachi of Blancos
Leonard talked about hiring for attitude and training for skill.  The attitude of staff is more important then skills.  You can train for skills but not for attitude. Leonard talked about staff being a reflection of him and his brand so rather then invest too much on bricks and mortar and cut down (compromise on quality of staff) he would rather invest a lot on getting and training the right staff.
The most important things he said was hire employees with great attitude and train for skills.
Get mentors.  If you want to learn something don’t be afraid to approach someone who you think can help you, buy them coffee or something and get information.  Don’t be afraid to try.  Sometimes the person you want to meet looks untouchable and unapproachable.  Try anyway.  You may be surprised that they will agree to meet you.
Passion is key because early on there will be more bad days then good days.  So find out your passion and do it.  Sometimes it takes a long time to get where you want to go and having the passion to keep going is important.
You have to be able to engage politically.  Leonard talked about a tender for having a restaurant at the new terminal at JKIA which would effectively lock out Kenyan businesses based on criteria for winning the tender.
Boniface Mwangi.
Frankly I was very inspired by his story.  Boniface started by selling stickers of wrestlers to fellow students.  He dropped out of school and started hawking books, flowers, and teddy bears before getting into photography.  He started taking pictures and he used to hawk them.  He self trained himself to do photography.  That is why he started Pawa 254 to mentor individuals who may want to learn photography.  He talked about the importance of mentorship.  That’s why Pawa  254 is a rare mentorship space.
Boniface talked about the importance of doing something your passionate about.  Books are important as they help give us knowledge and self improvement.  Boniface said you can’t replace money with knowledge.  Money does not account for success.
Three point points that Boniface raised was have passion for what you do, improve yourself, and communicate vision to build your team.  Boniface said don’t be afraid to dream and use your talents.
After what we had refreshments and a chance to network.  I got to hang out with Mark Kaigwa, Boniface Mwangi and a few other participants.  We had a discussion about why people describe themselves by what they do e.g Boniface Mwangi – photographer as opposed to just stating who they are. Mark was also teaching me techniques on how to remember people’s names which is one of my weaknesses. We will see how that goes.
The next session was on tech futurism. The panelists were Mark Kaigwa, June Gachui, Jessica Colaco from iHub and Kaburo from Kenya ICT board.
Mark Kaigwa talked about using social media to do three things.  Bring in business prospects (word of mouse), brand building, and managing customers.  Digital platforms are the new way to market. “Think less word of mouth and think more word of mouse.”
It’s very easy to start blogging according to Mark .  It’s as easy as sending an email to prosterous.com.  Mark said that’s his defination of a lazy man’s way to blogging.  This is especially important to those who have never blogged before and want something simple to start. For a professional look Mark recommended us to use www.about.me.
Mark also mentioned the need to join an organization like The bloggers Association of Kenya.  www.bake.or.ke.  You can also get information on how to join by sending a tweet to @bake_ke or @kachwanya.
Mark also mentioned the importance of knowing what information is out about you on the internet so he suggested that we should google ourselves on the internet.  That is what is written about us on the internet. Branding ourselves the proper way on the internet is important.  Build a brand presence on the net so that when people look you up they see great stuff.
Kaburo talked about how Kenya ICT board supports SMEs to get online.  She also talked about the Konza city concept. The Kenya ICT board gives 30-40 potential grants. Details on ICT.go.ke.
Jessica Colaco talked about forming business relationships and following them up.  Jessica also talked about knowing your online audience and segmenting them until one can narrow down to a total addressable audience.  Doing market research helps you focus and build your brand.
June Gachui who is an intellectual property lawyer talked about how ICT develops a lot faster then the law that govern it.  So law is usually playing catch-up. It only costs 1000 shillings to register copyright.  June talked about the differences between licensing, franchising, royalties, outright ownership.  She also talked about patents and trademarks. June said to write things down on paper or on digital media. Once it’s on paper it’s copyrighted.  Royalty is a form of continued payment.  This is the kind of income where you work once but earn forever.
June said that if you’re very creative you can sell some of your ideas and use the money to finance other ideas that you don’t want to give out.  There was also the issue of staying away from unclear relationships.  If you’re going to do business with someone write a contract.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If your going to pitch and want protection for your idea so that they don’t use it if you don’t get the job write a non disclosure agreement.
June said that it’s difficult to protect services but that it’s easier to do it when they are well branded and provide a unique experience.  Kenya is a signatory to the world intellectual property org so creatives can seek legal redress from international courts as well as local.
June stressed the point that when work is commissioned by a client, copyright is owned by a client.  Also when you work for a company and are earning a salary to create ideas this work is owned by your employer not you. June said know that people aren’t always honest or morally upright so get to know your clients or the people you are dealing with.
Actually most of the questions in this session were on Intellectual property. I think this will probably be tackled some more at the next forum.
In the afternoon we had a forum on the bottom line. Sam Gichuru of Nailab, Betty Kariuki of Enablis, Ndoria Muya formerly of KCB and Financial services consultant, Ken Yapha a financial advisor, author,  and pastor.
Sam Gichuru talked about the 3 F’s of easy funding which is Family, friends and fools.  Sam talked about getting loans from family to do business, using barter trade and crowd funding as well to raise money.
To get funding from investors you have to show:
Belief in your product or skill.
You have to have a business plan.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It can even be five slides of PowerPoint.
Do you have the skills to make your idea work?  This includes attitude.
Betty Kariuki talked about how you need to demonstrate how you will make money from that business and grow it.  She also talked about building strategic partnerships.  There was also the issue of benchmarking what you want to do with what’s already there.  Enablis does three things: – capacity building, building networks, and funding.
Ken Yapha talked about creatives writing down great ideas for lenders to understand.  He encouraged people to learn by starting small.  The law of nature is that big things start with a small seed.  Everything starts as a seed then grows.  His most important insight was if you can’t manage small money you can’t manage big money.  So learn to manage what you have.  Lenders are looking at the bottom line.  Will I get my money back is their question.  Ken offered to give free financial advice to the participants.
Ndoria Muya talked about how to build credit worthiness.  Banks want to see activity in your account.  You can build credit worthiness by always depositing the money you get into your account. Even if you remove it there is a record.  He talked about having a business plan.  The bank needs to know how you intend to make your idea work.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Ndoria did say there is a need for banks to also recognize Mpesa transactions as many people do their business through Mpesa transactions as opposed to bank transactions.
Sam Gichuru and Isaac Kute said that some venture capitalists who fund ideas are usually vulture capitalists in disguise.
Patrick Wameyo (writer, former actor, and financial consultant) who was our moderator ended the session with seven pearls of wisdom called the seven principles to outwit the devil.
  1. Definiteness of purpose.  Have a purpose and build business over it.
  2. Have mastery over self.  Have disciple over self, over money etc.
  3. Learning from adversity.  Those who have not failed have not started.  Those who have failed have experience.  Don’t be afraid to try.
  4. Control your environment.  Who are you spending time with?  Who influences you?
  5. Controlling time.  Use your mind to make money.
  6. Harmony with self.
  7. Caution.  There are those who are poor forever and those who are doing something about it.  Don’t generalize and say things will not work.  Venture out and try it.
I had very many take outs from this forum.  It was well organized.  Kudos to Simon Gachui from the Creative Community Network.  Also thumbs up to the Michael Joseph Centre for hosting us.  The forum was free but the advice was priceless. The panelists were experts in their fields and gave us great insights.  I think the exposure that creatives got both from the sessions and from the networking was amazing.  I personally look forward to the next Forum.  I know that between this forum and the next I will have grown using the expert advice I got.
The creative community network also offered each participant a free one hour session to discuss how they can improve themselves and their business.
Things I took out.  Have a business plan, believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to start small, don’t let fear keep you down, build an internet presence, make sure you pay your taxes because the government will eventually catch up with you and know what your worth then you can name your price and get it.
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