Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Time To Learn

I’ve been building KEZA (with the help of an amazing team) for over 3 years now. I’ve certainly learned a lot of invaluable lessons throughout the process. Most notably, I’ve learned to understand that our “failures” are necessary steps towards our success. I have an opportunity to learn from each one if I choose to. I can (at least partially) inoculate myself from having to endure the same lesson again. This is how progress occurs.

I’ve also learned a lot about building a business in Africa. But business is in my blood. Even in the moments of what seems to be absolute chaos in the business development process, I am still operating within a realm that feels like home to me. And I tend to thrive in chaos anyway. Developing building systems, marketing, branding and all of the other essentials of building a successful business are ingrained in me. I am not intimidated by it, and rarely am I perplexed by a dilemma. Generally speaking, I’m operating within my domain. I’m just listening and learning daily and applying it to what we do.

However, as of recently, I have entered into an entirely different realm; that of fund raising. I have never done it effectively, and what funds we have stumbled into have been sort of organic and not as a result of my actively tracking them down. But now we’ve come to a place where I absolutely must dedicate myself to becoming a fund raising expert. We’ve built this Ferrari of a business, and it took everything we had in order to get here. Now I’ve got to go out and find fuel for this machine.

This is new territory for me. I must head back to the USA to learn how to raise funds. I feel 100% confident we will generate and income based on sales that will alleviate our dependency on donations within the next 12 months. However, we’re not there yet and right now we need seed money, to the tune of $200,000.

I am now relying almost totally on the council of many others that are greater than I in the field of fund raising. It is admittedly a mental and emotional challenge for me to operate in a realm where I am absolutely clueless. I am clearly out of my league on this one. That certainly feels lonely at times and tugs at many of my insecurities. I do not find myself here often, but I understand that it is necessary.

I do, however, welcome this new realm. It is a tremendous opportunity to learn something I’ve never had any concept of before. This is not a time to be depressed, it is a time to be grateful for such an opportunity to learn and become a better leader and provider. It’s a time to add another skill to our arsenal. And it’s a time for me to humble myself before my peers and our creator. Though it is difficult for me to accept, this is not a time for me to lead; it is a time for me to listen and rely on the miracle of ubuntu with those around me. It truly is a time to learn.

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