They say when you’re starting a business expect a lot of rejection. I recently heard one young entreprneur say that over 90% of the people that he approached looking for assistance with his venture either didn’t reply or declined to get involved. And last week I was speaking with a very impressive individual who is raising funds to launch a private microfinance bank in Sudan and Sierra Leone. He said that at the start of his venture he decided to write 10 beautiful hand-written notes to people asking for assistance because no one sends letters anymore so they are bound to catch people’s attention. And of the 10 letters that he sent guess how many replies he received…? One. One person replied. And that person said no. All other nine didn’t even find the time to do the gracious thing and at least thank him for the hand-written letter.
So clearly one of the key attributes of a budding entrepreneur is thick skin, unnerving confidence and an ability to keep on going ignoring the rejections and believing in yourself and your idea. And this was exactly what I had to learn to do.
A couple of weeks after my pitch to the Young Foundation I returned for a meeting to discuss my proposal. We chatted for an hour and they were very encouraging and offered me their contacts for support and said I could use their resources; but unfortunately, they weren’t in a position to support it financially.
In hindsight, it was about the nicest rejection one could ever hope to receive but at the time I was a little devastated. I was devasted because I felt it was the end of KenyaWorks. I left and travelled home with my head down not really sure what to do next. My confidence had taken a dent and I wasn’t sure where to turn. I was 24, had limited contacts, had never set-up or run a proper business and had no credibility to win support. I really needed organisational support to give imputus to the project. And my best hope of that was the YF because I had worked there for 3 months as an intern and they knew me well. Approaching another organisation looking for support would be more difficult because they would not know me as a person and I would have to convince them a) to support me as an individual and b) support my idea. So it really did feel like the end. I also felt a bit embarassed to tell my friends because I had been so positive that I would find support. Just 2 weeks into KenyaWorks and things weren’t looking good!