By Simphiwe Mabaso

On July 11, GlobalGirl Media started their journey on JAMLAB’S Accelerator Programme where we established the importance of creating a network of connections, and finding things in common. This can be crucial because starting something requires support from a network of people.

We also looked at examples of big brands and investigated what made them so successful and what problems they are solving for many of their customers which contributed to their success. What was interesting was that many of these big corporations did not start out trying to solve many problems for many clients; they mainly focused on their niche markets.

Since then, it has been a process of building on and refining our business models using the Lean Canvas which is crucial in collating information. This ensures that nothing is being omitted and it helped with breaking down our ideas to the essence of problems that we want to solve. Working on this Lean Canvas helped us figure out how our product will be beneficial to our customers. This process taught us to carefully distinguish our customers from our early adopters. Another crucial thing is segmentation which ensures focus and direction.

The most eye-opening moment for our team was realising that we are solving problems that we think our clients might have and not necessarily solving the problems our audience have and this can easily be the downfall of many start-ups. Thus, when you solve an important problem for a niche market it can be a more viable business model rather than deciding to solve everyone’s problems all the time. The reality is that not everyone will be equally happy with your product at all times.

We have since learnt that the monetisation of our media services is not as simple as contacting our clients, setting up meetings and pitching to them. Cold calling Non-governmental organisations (NGO) is not the best approach thus; working through a network of connections is more likely to get the answers we need. Going through the process of contacting NGO’s as well as government organizations has given us vision for our clients and expanding our client base. The first event hosted by the JAMLAB broadened the vision of who our client base should be and expanded our networking opportunities.

However, as the process of contacting NGOs continued the more stressful it became. Even though we were getting responses from some, all of them stated that the problem that we had identified was indeed the most pressing problem that they had, however they have no funding for content.

This would not only affect the media production bureau vision, but also from an academy point of view it would directly affect the girls as employment would not be guaranteed after training them. On a larger scale it would contribute to the social issues that as an NGO GlobalGirl Media would be trying to solve.

With help from our fellow accelerator participant, Andile Masuku of African Tech Round-up, our approach changed completely and our business model pivoted significantly and this taught us that changing ideas and models is part of the learning process. Thus learning what will work and what will not is the biggest task of a startup.

As a team we have also learnt the value of time through the accelerator programme. It means that we cannot afford to spend three months of the six on simply brainstorming ideas. The sooner we are out there on the ground, collating information, the better for our startup. It is valuable that we adopt a method of doing and have fewer discussions because that would cut down the time that would have been spent realising that our model is not quite sustainable. Instead, in that time we could have changed our business model into a more sustainable one and we would have saved time. We have learnt that change is necessary when testing assumptions and tackling client needs and problems. Therefore, it is crucial that we do not get too attached to an idea as it could easily be our downfall as a team. Ideas are to be thrown around until something solid culminates and from there it is simply refined and confirmed.

Canadian Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen listening to presentations by JAMLAB accelerator programme fellows at Tshimologong. Picture: PATRICIA ARUO

Our time so far, has been one of exponential growth but also realising that mistakes are important during this process If you are afraid to fail, then there is no way that any learning can take place. Neither is there space to improve on anything because your fear of failure overpowered your desire to learn. We were also privileged enough to get a visit from the Canadian Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen. It was an honour to present our business model to him and to be in the same room as the Canadians as GlobalGirl Media haas been funded by the Canadian High Commission before. This interaction was memorable and one of immense growth.

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