Patricia Mbatia-Macharia, the CEO of GameChanger marketing company, started an art school with no experience in managing a school, no background in art; just the drive and passion to succeed.
When she and her partner realised they might need more than just passion, they decided to seek out the experience needed in the corporate world before re-embarking on entrepreneurship.
After a stint in marketing and public relations, working for companies like Ayton Young and Rubicam (A, Y & R), MultiChoice and Experiential Marketing, she decided to venture out on her own again, this time armed with nearly a decade of experience and contacts from the corporate world.
At no point in her shift from entrepreneurship to employment and back did she feel or think that it was an impossible task.
“The way we were brought up, there isn’t a thing that you want to do that you can’t do,” she says.
“What I find interesting is entrepreneurship is open for everybody. Anyone who wants to do it can do it. We are brought up with a mentality of fear because we don’t know what will happen. There have been scary stories of people starting something and it goes down with their money but you can’t live life fearing,” she says.
For Patricia, starting the new venture only needed her to take the first step, and bring on board a single client and the rest would follow.
“I just needed to take that one step, find one client. So I found one. You can’t play football from the stands. It’s either you get in the field or languish in the stands being a commentator,” she says.
To her, gender is not a factor when it comes to starting a business. Financing is also available if the business idea is right, especially given the number of institutions willing to support women and the youth.
“Look at the mama mboga, she has a plan. Maybe not a ginormous plan but it’s one. Mama samaki has figured it out. Sometimes people say it is harder for women, but the question is ‘who is saying that?’,” she asks.
“When the rubber meets the road, are you going to say I cannot get into business or will you say my children need to eat? Or will you say I need to have a creative thought with my talent or what can I do?
“Most who say that it is hard for women to get into business are sitting in corporate offices enjoying the perks. It is hard to walk away from the comfort of a corporate cheque," she adds.
According to her, one needs to evaluate what they have to offer the market. You must know what idea you want to sell before you get into the business.
“Once you have answered “how do I go about this?” then you will find your source of financing,” says Patricia.
In fields that are capital-intensive, such as manufacturing, she suggests initially branding and packaging products rather than making them from scratch. One can also lease out a line in an existing factory to save on the cost of setting one up.
“Start by piggybacking on someone else’s line. Then once the money starts trickling in, you can invest in your own line,” she says.
Once the product is ready, the challenge of pricing is next on the tackle list. The pricing must cover the cost of making the product, selling it and give you enough to reinvest into the business.
“You need to price it right so you can get the money. It is expensive to keep getting money from financing,” she explains. Financing especially from banks comes with the added cost of interest.
She further explains that business ideas can come from multiple areas, including travel. When one comes across a novel idea abroad, tailor it for the local market. It is about looking at challenges or unmet needs in the market, getting a solution-based idea and turning it into a business.