12 Successful African Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Advice

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On July 25-26, Nairobi will be abuzz with entrepreneurship. In case you missed the memo, heads of states (including U.S. president Barack Obama), entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders will converge on Kenya’s capital for the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Didn’t get a ticket? Don’t worry. You can still get top-notch entrepreneurial advice, and you don’t even have to stalk the summit Twitter feed. Check out six of the 12 entrepreneurs that were chosen by Akilah Net to share their wisdom on living the dream.

Mwangi Kirubi, founder of Click Pictureworks (Kenya)

“Get out of the social prison! … You don’t have to conform to what the world expects of you. Follow your heart. By doing so, you will find peace that surpasses all understanding. Believe me, you’d rather be broke and happy than rich and sad.”

Jason Njoku, CEO and co-founder of iROKOtv (Nigeria)

“My pet hate is hearing people, smart people, complain about how they can’t get their business idea off the ground because they haven’t secured tens of thousands of dollars in investment. I started off with a few hundred pounds, thanks in no small part to my best friend, Bastian Gotter. Bastian would literally give me £100 here, £400 there, and we built a multi-million dollar business on the back of that. If I can do it, so can many more people — they just need the will and the nerve.”

Henri Nyakarundi, founder of African Renewable Energy Distributor (Rwanda)

“Rejection will be part of the day-to-day business for a while, but as long as you keep pushing and adapting to your marketplace, doors will finally open up. Business might be different in substance, but the tools needed to succeed are always the same. The No. 1 reason why people fail is because they quit, and we all know quitters never win.”

Phoebe Munyoro, co-founder of African Beads Safaris (Kenya)

“Start simple so that you keep on marveling at your growth. Things such as registering a company, setting up a website, and joining associations that will add value to your business are important.”

Bernard Kiwia, co-founder of Accelerating Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (Tanzania)

“If we innovators can be daring, we can create great products like our Chinese counterparts. We are brilliant. If we can copy Western musical and fashion styles, why can’t we, with the same vigor, copy innovations but change them so they solve our day-to-day challenges?”

Olive Gachara, founder of Image with Olive (Kenya)

“You have to love what you do. Don’t do it for money, fame, or recognition; do it because you believe with every speck of your being that that is what you are meant to be doing. Everything else will fall into place.

When it comes to capital, only look for it if you really need it. If you are able to get things done without a bank loan or outside investment, start. Then plough back all the profits into growing the business. If you absolutely need capital to get started, there are lots of ways to get funding from banks, individual investors, and investment groups. You may find it easier to get money for expansion rather than start up. So wherever you are, whatever your situation, just start!”