06 May Conversations with a founder: Tapuwa Mataruka
StartupGuy: Can you kindly give us a brief background of who you are and what your company does…
My name is Tapuwa Leo Mataruka, African born and raised. I was born in 1992, my birthday was actually yesterday (31 March). It’s scary when you stop counting with a youthful bliss. I’m getting older and the responsibilities and expectations mature daily. My company is an online and mobile educational media platform, for the people by the people. My company is called, Afrivision.
StartupGuy: Well happy belated birthday. Where did it all start? What sparked your interest to become an entrepreneur?
It all started when I was in grade two, I teamed up with two girls that used to create paper art, and sell them. Paper mats, paper planes etc. I was the sales man for their product. We made decent profits for our demands at the time. Frozen juice, sweets and chips. I think the interest was sparked by the ability to network and connect with a diverse group of people. If you cant relate, you won’t sell. Im more driven by the thrill of building a business, from nothing, to an idea, to a service
StartupGuy: Speaking about sales, how did you make your first sale when it comes to your startup?
First sales are always the hardest, you have no track record and the trust levels from potential customers are low, depending on how they size you based on their individual personal beliefs. There is always a barrier, depending on who you are dealing with it will range from gender, race to nationality and ethnicity. I made my first sales by offering my service in return for marketing and brand awareness support. The initial focus was not revenue generation but awareness. My first sales were centered in mutually beneficial partnerships.
StartupGuy: How did you get credibility so quickly?
In all honesty credibility has been hard to attain. Building a network from scratch in a familiar place is hard, but in a foreign space you have so many other barriers to confront before you even gain attention from the average person. It always boils down to who you are, where you are, who you know and what they are willing to assist you with. For me gaining credibility has been a patient but hard process. It is through platforms like yours (Startup Mzansi) that small black run businesses like mine can gain traction. I did not want to gain credibility off selling ideas but selling products and thats a longer marathon.
StartupGuy: How did you develop key partnerships?
I started off with networking events, then partnerships with other starts ups. Once I was confident and secure enough to take the risk of sharing my idea on platforms I applied for entrepreneurship programs and competitions.
StartupGuy: I see that you have also been selected as part of the 1000 Africans on the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme for 2017, congratulations. Tell me, how did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
I used my allowance money and savings for the first few months. Had to sell some of my musical equipment and games. I literally sold everything I could until it was unsustainable to run my business. I had to start applying to venture capitals who did not have favorable options so I had to just wait it out until random opportunities for partnerships came.
StartupGuy: What are the habits that helped make you successful?
Persistence, faith, ignorance to ignorance, delusions and rebellion. I wish they were all good but when you follow your intuition and your heart there is rarely any room for constant political correctness
StartupGuy: What mindsets helped make your successful?
My high school motto, “With faith comes confidence, everything else meets there.”
StartupGuy: How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I do not believe in competition, its either there is room for a mutually beneficial partnership or we are not running the same race.
StartupGuy: What was your biggest mistake?
Not being able to leave the university of Cape Town with my degree in Computer Science and Business Computing.
StartupGuy: How did you deal with failure?
It was hard in all honesty. It was confusing, on one end I had learnt crucial life lessons. I had come to know who I am, what I want to achieve and had drawn a step closer to my purpose. On the other had I had failed to fulfill personal and societal expectations. It was bitter sweet because I would have never learnt the lessons I did if I did not believe in myself first before the system but believing in the system before yourself also has its perks. I’m still dealing in all honesty, but each day brings a brighter sunrise.
StartupGuy: How did you learn from that failure?
I learned that things are not always as great as they are painted, there is usually a huge double standard between what is taught and what is actually going on. Believe in yourself, you have a purpose, and a passion under everything you have been told you are that does not resonate with your DNA. Nothing worth it comes easy.
StartupGuy: What was unexpected?
Everything, I didnt think a person with ideas to unite and create partnerships would face such resistance. No one cares about you, in all honesty we are all on a journey to fulfillment in a world that has told us we cant do it together. At the end of the day you are all alone, just like how you came to be.
StartupGuy: What would you have done differently?
It’s a hard one because on one side there was so much to learn and gain but on the other there was so much pain and depression. I think when going to varsity I would have focused more on the institution culture than the global rating. Ratings are always endorsed by a certain agenda, if you do not fall within that agenda that rating does not apply to you.
StartupGuy: How did you test your assumptions?
I came to know another word for assumption is ignorance. You do not know until you have walked and lived it, at least ask and research.
StartupGuy: How can you minimize the unknowns?
I cant minimize the unknowns but I can maximize on the knowns, who I am, what I want to achieve.
StartupGuy: Any last words?
Challenges will come and go, the aim… is to stay afloat irregardless of the wave – big or small.
That’s it folks! Thanks for sharing your inspiration with us, Tapuwa. All the best with your startup endeavors. We hope you enjoy your R15K digital marketing spend with Simple Brands.
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