BY LANJI OUKO
It’s an early morning at Java right by Upperhill Medical Centre, 7:00am to be exact, but there’s not a single free table. What strikes me, is none of them seems to be here for breakfast, no; young, handsome men in three-piece suits and brown leather brogue oxford shoes.
When I say young, I mean approximately under 30 years of age. These men look tired and agitated but they mask it quite well under gentle smiles.
A bevy of young loud ladies walks in ten minutes later, armed with notebooks and laptops as they scramble for a seemingly empty table by the door.
Indeed, a generation that believes we will sleep when we die.
A lot has been said about millennials. But can anyone ever say enough about us? Do we even comprehend enough about ourselves, to start with?
In every ten millennials, eight are entrepreneurs. A phenomenon openly gleaming across the board, which we have grown to accept, is, employment is not for us. A debatable statement however you may look at it. Circumstantially, by default or by choice, the word employment is not synonymous to millennials.
Recently the International Monetary Fund declared Seychelles as the only African country to achieve full employment. Which as expected, sent shockwaves across the wild web with the over exhausted question, Uhuru, where are our jobs?
Interacting with fresh young minds has enlightened me, in more ways than I may acknowledge. A strong message from the youth, that nobody is listening to, is the need for change! I say this with the least intention of it coming off as a political agenda because it isn’t the need to change politically but the need to change our mind-sets and outlooks on everything. Was it Albert Einstein who said, insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again but expecting a different result?
Portrayed as a generation after instant gratification, who only want to have a good time, it is difficult for our voices to be heard. Our perspectives are often referred to as too extreme, or radical.
The first African-American and the first woman to run for the presidency in the United States of America, Shirley Chisholm, said, “if they do not give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Unanimously our response as millennials was “your wish is our command.”
With no jobs in either the private or the public sectors, we’ve seen the immense growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in different parts of the country.
Every single morning at java coffee house, those young industrious, innovative individuals are awake by 4:30 a.m to beat traffic, just to attend meetings hoping to finally meet an investor who will take their idea from step B to Step F. Unfortunately, 60% of these meetings bear no fruit but quitting is not an option, so we continue to push!
Generation X and Baby Boomers did a good job breeding the next generation of entrepreneurs. Hungry, energetic and eager to learn but even as I run my own start up, it strikes me, do we understand the task ahead of us as entrepreneurs?
Or is it a word we have coined to sugar coat the period of hustling while in between jobs? Is it a career, or title we will stick with forever? More importantly, could it all just be a phase?
To begin with, most of us have never stepped foot in a business school. We either studied the arts, law, design or ventured into the world of business straight after high school. We are simply playing a game of chess! One false move and game over, but as I mentioned, we are a hungry bunch, so we embrace failure as a key component for future success.
We subscribe to podcasts. Buy heavy economics and self-help guides to ‘making your first million’. These books are in plenty on Biashara Street and cost us anything ranging from Sh200 to Sh350 at most. We learn and unlearn as we move along. But recently, a new trend emerged! To most, it is a chance to finally be a successful entrepreneur but to critics such as myself, I raise an eyebrow.
Business is often bad for young entrepreneurs. Despite how flowery they may portray their businesses during radio shows, business is bad. From my understanding, it is either because we have no capital, therefore we produce substandard products or no capital to adequately market the products. Also, if the target market of your goods isthese same millennials, it may be tricky because, as I mentioned, we are broke.
Being broke, with poor sales, translates to desperation and we often have to head back to the drawing board and seek employment because we were no longer able to sustain or fund our brainchild.
But here is the catch 22. We now have to pay certain firms before our applications may be considered. Why?
As young entrepreneurs, we are easily blinded by a Rolex, a second hand imported 2010 BMW and a grey sir Henry’s suit. With the social media era, the illusion of success is a hard one to spot. We are caught in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to discerning a fake entrepreneur from a genuine hard working one.
Nairobi money speaks louder than words. It is in the car you drive and the tenders you sign.
The get rich business is one based on hope and ambition. Just like a classroom, ‘successful entrepreneurs’ have found a niche market within the other spectrum of entrepreneurs by being mentors and life coaches.
Teaching about wealth and how to be successful. Each class or event fee ranges from Sh2000 and could go up to Sh10, 000 per session, daily. Why so expensive?
In their defence, they are teaching you the tricks of wealth, aren’t they?
Over the years I have attended spectacular classes, where I have been able to learn transferable skills and learn business hacks through successful entrepreneurs. Depending on the speaker, those types of events have been pricey, however, I admit I acquired invaluable lessons to take home.
On the other side of the fence, we have 26-year-olds leading these success platforms, young individuals who have never paid for a mortgage but rent flats in Kilimani, teaching the youth about saving to buy property, wealth and financial independence. Are our sources of inspiration credible? Must we live off inspiration, role models and tirelessly seeking sources of motivation?
But again I ask, why prey on our vulnerability and desperation?
We pay for job applications, to network, and to learn how to sustain our business.
Fair enough, I see no harm in paying to network or learn key components of running a business, however, who is training us? Is there a threshold or qualification, to be a life coach?
How do we discern knockoff entrepreneurs masquerading as successful moguls in the name of ‘power sessions’ and ‘make your first million training?’
We are taught to fake it till we make it, but there must be criteria to identify, at what point to draw the line of “faking it.”
We fake it so much; we get caught up in the illusion of progress. An illusion of progress inhibits our sustainable growth
No law can be passed against these millionaire phonies. However, it is important for us to be objective with who and why we seek motivation from people. Success doesn’t have one formula, so whether we pay Sh10, 000 or Sh2, 000, the outcome is not guaranteed.
Come August, we do pray; we vote in a leader with our best interest at heart. We don’t know from where, but all we kindly ask is to be employed.