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Calvin C's story on... purpose-led entrepreneurship

Calvin became aware of the rife disillusion there was in what should be a non negotiable in business: good service.  While there is no denying there is certainly an apathy to fix this, it remains to be a problem both locally and internationally.  Calvin managed to take that initial frustration and used it to drive change in a major sector that had experienced little change in the last three decades. 

“In any entrepreneurial journey, you have to be crazy optimistic.  You cannot start off with all the reasons why you can't do it.  People would say to me ‘but you don't have a licence’ - I’d say I’ll get a licence.  ‘But you don't have funding’. I’ll get funding. ‘You don't have a platform’. Don't worry I’ll get that. Do NOT listen to all the naysayers”. 

Many viewed his quest as an impossible mission but by breaking it down into bite size chunks and working on these easily digestible pieces of the puzzle each and every day, one can move mountains.  Calvin did just this, and the rest is history!

Calvin adeptly points out though, to not disrupt for the sake of disruption.  If you are going to go against the grain, he advises that the industry you are trying to disrupt should be big enough for you to do so.  When aiming to disrupt well established industries, there are certain standards that have become accepted as the norm.  Our job is to fundamentally change these.  While Calvin certainly keeps his eye on competition, he warns us not to necessarily measure ourselves against them.  Being better than your not so good traditional counterparts is no real metric of success, we need to aim much higher. We need to redefine what good looks like and how we measure it.

“Assuming your fundamentals are in place ie. your product is relevant, priced correctly, etc, if you put the customer at the centre, and you make sure that the customer is happy, you don't have to worry about retentions, they won't be going anywhere.”

How does he get this right?  To reduce the friction customers experience, Calvin believes in what he calls the 99/1% rule: do not punish 99% of customers to accommodate 1% of outliers.  This means we should not tailor how we engage with our customers according to the worst case scenarios but rather focus on finding smart ways to identify and deal with these without putting ALL customers through the ringer to catch the anomalies in the process.  

“Entrepreneurs try it, fail, fail fast, learn from it and move on. Do not be scared to try stuff.  It is better to do something than nothing because of a fear of failure. Put guardrails up to lessen the risk, but just do it.”

Calvin hits on a truth in how different the entrepreneurial world is to its more traditional corporate counterparts: entrepreneurs are all about execution where strategy comes through failure during that execution, versus corporates who suffer the reverse, heavily lacking in execution.  

Calvin believes two of the biggest challenges founders face is access to funding and skills.  His advice when it comes to funding is to be honest with oneself in terms of how much funding is required.  Founders often know very well how much money is required for a startup yet we like to believe we can do it for less.  He urges founders to rather focus on the amount needed and to not stop till that amount is locked.  His rationale is that when founders start going for less and then later need more, and more, they have to give away more each time, and it becomes a very messy business.  With regards to skills, he acknowledges that there are many service providers who drain funds with a very low level of delivery and they are difficult to spot for a newfound entrepreneur who may lack in this aptitude of skills vetting in the various niche aspects of a founders business.  He reminds us of how important it is to build our networks in order to get connected with the right people who have the right skills, people who are recommended by those with actual know-how.  Being mindful enough to recognise when certain skills need to be brought in is not enough if not followed through with the right fit connection that can help your business soar.

“If you are embarking on an entrepreneurial journey to be super wealthy, don't do it.  If you are doing it to make real change, do it.  Money will be a net result of achieving that.  If money is your main motivation, you will constantly be unhappy because money doesn't come overnight.  It is an extremely tough journey where little goals are met in terms of disruption and change and if that continues to drive you, it will bring happiness during the journey.  Money comes much later.” 

Calvin acknowledges that as founders we often share the stories of success over the stories of the battle it took to get there.  It comes without saying that entrepreneurship comes with hardship and sacrifice.  When the journey is purpose led not money led, it makes it all worth it.  In conversation with Calvin, there is no doubt he is a purpose driven founder, inspiring us all to reflect on our why behind our entrepreneurial quest. “Some days I’d say to myself, ‘Are you absolutely mad? Can’t I retract my resignation and go back to that cushy job? Never!”

“Solving niche challenges Founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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