Go for your dreams - Ganje

HARARE - Zimbabwean-born businessman Herbert Ganje says aspiring entrepreneurs must go for their dreams despite the various economic challenges.

“My advice to emerging young business people is to venture into something that they are passionate about. Because days will come when money will not come through, zero income, but the love you have for the industry will carry you through,” he said.

The Botswana-based Ganje, who runs a multi-million dollar advertising company — H&G Advertising — that has conquered most of southern African countries, also emphasised the need for entrepreneurs to be accountable to someone they can look up to in their aspiring economic sectors.

“It is important for young entrepreneurs to find a mentor who is successful in any field — whom you need to visit at least once a month and 12 times a year to get good advice.

“Young people have passion and are ambitious but parallel to that they are rules to be followed in business — especially the back end of your business, that is, how to account for your money and making strategic decisions, and you can only learn this from seasoned business people” he added.

The 29-year-old businessman, whose company counts international giants such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and Samsung among its clients and has an annual turnover of $38 million, was early this year ranked among Forbes Africa “30 under 30 millionaires”.

“Not many can say they spent merely one year at high school and went on to make millions of dollars a year before they turned 30, nor that they started out by sleeping in a tuck shop-cum-office,” he said.

“To make matters even more difficult, I dropped out of school to be an entrepreneur in Botswana, a foreign land. At 18, with little but a dream of a media empire, I turned to odd jobs like painting windowpanes, to survive,” Ganje added.

The affable young business executive said although he survived on bread crumbs during his first year in Botswana, he remained focused on his vision of setting up a business.

The goal was clear, he said, but the going hard.

“For a start, I was lucky to get help from a mentor in entrepreneurship. This was important. Without this I was just an ambitious teenager with an idea and passion. Problem is, in the business world this does not mean much and I think that’s why people with good ideas fail,” he said.

Ganje’s business venture started almost unexpectedly when he signed up his first client with nothing but an idea and refusing to take no for an answer.

“I went to Shoprite and asked to meet the chief executive. At first, the receptionist thought I was crazy because I didn’t have an appointment and didn’t even look like the kind of person the chief executive often meets with.

“The receptionist turned me away but I kept going back. Over time, we became friends. She admired my determination. But still it was hard to get me in a room with the boss.

“One day I was at their offices and the chief executive was also there. The receptionist told him about me and the chief executive called me in. It was time for me to state my case,” he said.

Apparently, the meeting went well and the Shoprite big shot was impressed with Ganje’s well-polished business pitch.

“My pitch had lies. I had no registered company and I didn’t know anyone from that station. Eager to make my lie a truth, it was time to get to work. I immediately went to a radio station and told them that ‘my client’ Shoprite wanted to advertise with them on condition the rates are lowered significantly.

“It was also another lie because Shoprite wasn’t really my client, or at least not yet. The station agreed because a big client like Shoprite would bring them more money over years. I was in business,” he said.

Today, H&G Advertising, operates in Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The company, currently has 80 permanent employees and 600 temporary staff and turns over $38 million a year.

“Because I got my dream to start this company didn’t meant I should stop there. I am now a serial entrepreneur that counts H&G OutDoor, H&G Activations, Zonke Ignition and H&G Express among my businesses. If you can dream it, you can live it. It all begins with a thought,” Ganje said.

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