The spirit of free enterprise

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Photo by Chesney Bradshaw

A while back we browsed a small seafront market at Walvis Bay, Namibia. It was amazing to see how alive and well the spirit of free enterprise was in this dusty fishing industry town.

At one restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean we sat down and had fresh Namibian oysters in the mid-morning sun … with a well known Namibian beverage. A large yacht, was steaming out to take passengers for a sea cruise. Gigantic pelikans perched on poles along the jetty. What a beautiful coastal scene – thanks to the entrepreneurs who made it all possible.

I’ve just found out that entrepreneurs have taken over the old port lighthouse at Walvis Bay and converted it into a mini hotel. Rooms cost an arm and a leg for locals but will be chump change for overseas tourists. The lighthouse accommodation is surrounded by desert sand and even a ship wreck on the rocks in front.

The spirit of free enterprise can be nurtured at a young age. Youngsters who have the opportunity to work in their parents’ businesses begin to understand what entrepreneurship is all about. Entrepreneurship can be learnt after school too.

But for those who have sat in public or private jobs, it can be challenging. The reality of small business operations often means you have to start from the bottom, sweep the floors, pack shelves, load crates into a bakkie and do all the dirty but necessary work.

In a previous era, people would give you a strange look if you said you were an entrepreneur. Nowadays because of financial necessities entrepreneurs received due respect.

It’s a good time to think about entrepreneurial opportunities. In an economy that has been heading south for many years (we all know why) and with no glimmer of hope yet for economic growth, opportunities are available everywhere:

– landlords are battling to charge exorbitant rentals
– assets, particularly second-hand equipment, are available at much lower rates
– interest rates are low and expected to decline
– suppliers are more willing to give discounts
– technology, especially digitalisation and the Internet, is helping to bring costs down
– customers are looking for alternatives and if you can save them money or make their lives easier, your chances of winning their business is increased

Entrepreneurs do it better. But there is no denying that entrepreneurship requires hard and clever work. It is not as glamorous as the guru talk show hosts and wizard business advisers proclaim. It takes guts, grit and determination. It’s character building when you have to sell on the street and persuade strangers to buy from you.

I recently came across a person who is 60 years old, previously employed in the film industry. He said his one regret was that he never learnt a new skill while he was working for other people. He never gave the future a thought.

If you have any inkling or itch to be an entrepreneur, then the time start acquiring the necessary skills and experience is now.

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