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Mishaan's story on... milestones and realignment

“From employee to entrepreneur, I was working harder but I was also working in a very different way.  A more innovative, flexible and enjoyable way.  It feeds this craving for knowledge and pushing boundaries.  Sure, at times it's miserable and exhausting, but you always get those reminders of why you are doing this”. 

Mishaan spent a good few years in the role of employee before entrepreneurship found him.  Initially signing up for a life in finance, he soon realised this wasn't where he found joy, and made a pivot into the field of marketing and strategy. Having found success in this domain, he had a firm and prosperous position in the corporate space working across the most exciting and dominant brands in the business. But Mishaan always had a feeling that he wanted more.  Although he enjoyed the work, he would quickly reach a plateau in his roles and despite climbing the corporate ladder, he knew he didn't quite fit into roles that were very structured and confined in a corporate setting. 

He was later presented an opportunity on a silver platter when the business went through a merger affording him the decision to stay or to leave with a package. He took it and ran off to start his very own consultancy specialising in strategic branding and positioning.  But this was only the beginning of his entrepreneurial endeavours, today Mishaan is the co-founder of South Africa’s first pure play subscription model for digital goods and appliances with the bold mission to democratise and dematerialize ownership of technology devices and appliances for all African consumers.

“I started my initial business by going on a very wild acquisition strategy to speak to anybody I could.  I went out and presented to multiple individuals and businesses.  Of course there wasn't immediate interest but I continued to do this.  Eventually someone called me a few months after seeing them and I got my foot in the door with this one big client that really kick started my business.”  

We learn here about the importance of starting with sales because the sales process can be long and delaying it can significantly delay business growth.  Mishaan’s goal from the onset was deliberate: to hustle and gain exposure. He explains that with exposure we are afforded with learning, and as our expertise grows, clients come knocking for this expertise.  And so do other connections, like the co-founders of his current venture who knew they needed Mishaan’s expertise to complete the team that would take their venture forward.

Mishaan's path to entrepreneurship was not all roses, with his family growing he was under immense pressure to achieve success.  He believes that this sort of pressure is a key ingredient we need to really push ourselves as entrepreneurs.  Running his own consultancy business at the same time as building a completely new venture from the ground up, he continued until he could no more.  Many Founders experience the moment when we have to make that choice - are we going to go all in?  He believes that hedging our bets is fine but if we really want to be successful and if we really believe in what we are doing, we cannot have a plan B because without one, you HAVE to make it work.

“If you really want your venture to work, you have to be all in.  You have a finite amount of time with which you can extract value, a twenty-four-seven slog towards a bigger goal. The potential before me was massive, and it deserved all of my time”.   

Mishaan believes in recognising the milestones we reach in the journey and what it took to get there but urges Founders not to lose sight of the fact that we are still IN the journey and the milestones are not the destination.  Securing funding is a great achievement, but he cautions that the focus should be on how to deliver on this and the added pressure that comes with reporting to investors.  The same with celebrating your first 100 customers - we should be doing less celebrating and more asking how we are going to get to 1000 customers.  As we transition from one milestone to the next, we have to constantly rethink what it means for the business and what needs to be relooked and rethought.  For him it is all about learning and evolving through the phases on the journey and applying those learnings to constantly be better.

“Don't take too much time to celebrate the high’s.  You have to continue to move forward.  Usually reaching a milestone is when the real hardship starts.  It's in all the new problems you haven't even thought about yet”.  

When it comes to the team you build within your business, Mishaan explains that we have to remember that this is OUR journey as Founders which they have chosen to embark on as an employee. This means that we need to be committed to walking with them through this journey as they will not necessarily think the same way or have the same mindset as the Founder.  It helps to be rigorous in our hiring process as well as clear and actionable on our business values to help bridge the gap. Sometimes we forget it is these very people that will be our constant source of inspiration throughout the journey.

Mishaan is honest about his entrepreneurial experience.  He shares how it is rewarding in spurts, but looking back on it, it’s probably a good thing he didn't know what he was getting himself into as there is a high likelihood that he would not have taken the dive, um, leap!  Blessed with a good founding team all of whom had entrepreneurial ventures before this one, has afforded them with the deep understanding of the risk they have taken.  Their ability to push themselves to the limit to get results has put them in great stead for the success they are tasting.  Constantly challenging one another whilst still offering unwavering support, it's clear that their solid foundation at Founder level is where their business magic lies. 

“Solving niche challenges Founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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