This is my very first blog (ever) and I figure that you may have a few questions on what my story is. I thought I’ll tackle this by applying a popular formula used by investigators to establish the complete story on subject- The Five W’s and the H (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How). For the summarised version- hop on over to the About page.
Born in Port Elizabeth as the youngest (or as we say in Afrikaans- ‘n laat lammetjie) of 5 daughters in 1989 and raised by my two older sisters in Pretoria from the age of 11. My name, Wafeeqah, actually means Successful in Arabic. Clearly my parents had high expectations for me! No pressure right? My parents made the difficult decision to send me to Pretoria with my sisters in pursuit of a better education.
I was fortunate enough to obtain a few scholarships to attend private school and a full bursary to study towards becoming a chartered accountant. I moved to Cape Town to attend UCT, completed my 3 years of articles at a large life insurer. That gave me some good exposure and insight into the corporate world including a 3 month secondment in London. I then landed an investment analyst role at a formidable asset manager and spent 3 years analyzing companies and recommending investments for our client funds. I am now back in corporate, involved in strategising for the shareholder investment funds for this same insurer. After 12 years, I think I’ve earned my citizenship for the Republic of Cape Town!
On a more personal note, I am married to my best friend of 12 years. I’m an animal lover and I have a gorgeous fluffy Ragdoll cat called Cinnamon. I suffer from a severe case of wanderlust. One of my (many) goals was to travel to 30 countries by the time I turn 30. Being a slight over achiever- I reached 35 countries by 30.
Why did I decided to try my hand at my entrepreneurship? Well, for starters, it runs in the family. My parents and all four of my sisters run/ran their own businesses. Secondly, I identified a need and I decided to do something about it.
The problem: Politicians will often complain that more and more needs to be done for small businesses. While I acknowledge that small businesses do face a myriad of challenges, nobody seemed to have taken stock of what initiatives are already in place. The problem is that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Africa is deep but fragmented- everyone seems to be operating in silos and the entrepreneurs are not aware of their existence.
In Economics 101 we learn about “a perfect market” with “perfect information” but this is not the case with the South African SME market. The problem is not access to finance or access to market- the problem is access to information!
Herein lied the opportunity…
The solution: In the knowledge economy we live in today, information is king. We simply needed a way to navigate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Africa- a one stop website that will list all the support structures in place. Given that many of the initiatives currently in place focus on niche markets (women, youth, black, industry focuses etc), this info also needed to filtered in some way.
So why did I decide to take this upon myself? Well, WHY NOT? Being a Chartered Accountant and assisting family and friends with the odd business question here and there, I realised that small businesses would find CA skills invaluable, but it is it often not very affordable. Although I would involve myself with a few volunteer activities, I always wanted to do more or pay it forward, if you will. So here I was, having identified a gap and thought to myself that someone needs to attempt to bridge that gap- it might as well be me! It was never about the money. I wanted this service to be free for entrepreneurs to use. Although, the accountant in me obviously knew that I would need to generate some sort of revenue in order for the business to be sustainable. Besides which, the answer is a website, it shouldn’t be that hard right? Little did I know…
If you look at it, a lot of the successful companies these days fill a gap in the market without owning the actual assets. For example UBER is the biggest taxi company and does not own a single taxi- same can be said of Air BnB. The answer is simply an online market place- essentially bringing together those looking for a product/service and those offering it.
There’s a name for it now- Uberisation: The utilisation of computing platforms such as, but not limited to, mobile applications or websites, in order to facilitate peer to peer transactions between clients and providers of a service, often bypassing the role of centrally planned corporations.
Being online, one is able is to keep operational costs relatively low. You don’t need expensive brick and mortar offices, an extensive distribution network or that many employees (obviously apart from you developers). Your clients can access your services, anytime and anywhere, at their convenience. Furthermore, it is much easier to analyse trends and understand your market if you have an online business and your users create profiles for themselves.
Ok great, so I figured out the answer is a website, but what on earth do I know about ICT and coding? The most I remember of my 2 semester courses in Information Systems at varsity was me passing by the skin of my teeth. The only thing I knew about monetizing websites was that advertising has something to do with it. I then turned to trusty ol’ Google and honed in on my researching skills. Just to emphasize the zero base I started off on- I didn’t know what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) stood for! Needless to say, I had to get some experts on board.
My initial light bulb moment occurred shortly after I returned from a trip to Vietnam in April 2016. Maybe I needed to get out of my routine for my mind to exercise some sort of creativity? I couldn’t start on anything then as I had a huge exam to prepare for in June. I kickstarted my business in July 2016 and charged at full speed- until March 2017 when my then boyfriend proposed at the foot of the Eiffle tower. Needless to say, I was over the moon! We decided to get married in September that same year. I pride myself in being able to multitask but it was incredibly hard to juggle my job as an investment analyst, building a company from scratch as well as planning a wedding, honeymoon and renovating our new home at the same time. I thus decided to temporarily put Entrihub into coma for a few months… of course, a few months turned into a year as I was enjoying my honeymoon phase! As I write this, its two years since I registered Entrihub and I still have not launched it. I make no apologies though. Yes, Entrihub could be further but work/life balance is important too. Also, there is a multitude of hurdles to jump over to get your business over the line, some of which take longer than expected and some completely out of your control.
I am currently based in Cape Town which is apparently the “Silicon Valley” of Africa. If (or should I say WHEN) all goes well, having an online business means I don’t need to be based in any one location and sit in traffic to get there. It will allow me to be flexible and work from anywhere in the world- another one of my dreams.
Okay, so there you have it- me in a nutshell.