9 Tips for Entrepreneurs with Aspirations in Emerging Markets
If you ever walk through the Olin cafeteria at Babson College, you will immediately notice the rich cultural diversity through the multi-lingual conversations spoken in the room. In fact, 74% of the 2-year MBA student population are international. With 46 countries and 37 languages represented at Babson College, it is safe to assume that a considerable percentage of the student population would have entrepreneurial aspirations in emerging markets. I am one of those students.
As a Haitian American MBA student at Babson College, I recently had the pleasure of attending the National Alliance for the Advancement of Haitian Professionals conference (NAAHP) in Washington, DC. The conference’s theme was “Leveraging the Diaspora’s Political & Economic Power for the Good of The Homeland”, with a strong focus on encouraging the Haitian diaspora living abroad to invest in Haiti.
During the 2.5 days of the NAAHP conference, industry experts and successful entrepreneurs lead in-depth panels, workshops and discussions diving into the complex yet highly rewarding undertaking of doing business in Haiti. It is no surprise that getting an entrepreneurial venture off the ground in a developing country will propose many challenges. There are no written instructions on how to get started, the economic and governmental state is generally unstable and bureaucratic obstacles seem to lurk behind every corner. If you aren’t well-connected or already established in Haiti, you are sure to run into problems while trying to get started.
With that in mind, one can easily get discouraged from taking the plunge. This is even more apparent for Haitian American’s living abroad who are unfamiliar with the “status quo” of doing business in Haiti and are dealing with the “culture gap” of being an American.
But entrepreneurs who want to do business in the risk prone emerging markets are in it for more than just the return on investment. We understand the impact of creating long-term economic development in our home countries. Though Haiti has its unique set of challenges, I get the sense that we share similar struggles with other developing countries. If you are the highly motivated entrepreneur who is willing to jump in with both feet despite the insurmountable risk, I’ve summarized 9 key takeaways I learned from the NAAHP conference for you.
- Spend some time in the market – Before you even think about starting a business in a developing country, you need to go there often. Visit different parts of the country, spend time observing how things are done and look for areas where you can create value.
- Go in with an open mind – Don’t assume that your way is the best way. You’ll be operating in a business environment unlike the developed world so there is plenty of room to learn new things.
- Develop relationships with people you trust – There is no way to achieve success without cultivating relationships with mentors and partners that are both on the ground as well as experienced with doing business in your desired market. You can meet them at conferences, through mutual relationships or through other networking initiatives. They will be an essential resource to advising you on the process as well as connecting you with other valuable sources.
- Use Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought & Action methodology – Like most entrepreneurial ventures, failure is inevitable; especially in a high risk market. But if you are going to fail, do it fast and smart. Leverage both quantitative and qualitative market data, pilot your venture on small scale and closely monitor performance data to look for signs where it’s time to pull the plug on an opportunity. Alternatively, keep a close eye for opportunities to capitalize and grow your venture.
- Familiarize yourself with local business laws – Doing business in developing markets mean new laws and regulations that you should familiarize yourself with as much as possible. Get to know the business registration rules, tax systems, trade rules as well as any other laws that may impact your venture.
- Always have a plan – A detailed plan of action as well as a backup plan is essential to doing business in a developing market. Be as detailed as possible and continuously update your plan to align with the ever-changing landscape of emerging markets.
- Conduct a risk assessment and mitigation strategies – In addition to your business plan, identify all of the potential risks (there will be many) and create contingency plans to mitigate or reduce those risks. A good tip is to assign a probability of occurrence score to each risk and severity of the impact if it were to happen. Be detailed, creative and realistic.
- Establish yourself in the market – If you want to be taken seriously, you need to establish yourself in your desired market. It’s difficult for partners to take you seriously if you’re always abroad; this is especially the case in Haiti. This does not mean that you need to relocate or get an apartment there, but you need to have a local address or location that you can identify as your base in the country.
- Leverage resources from organizations that support your business – There are a number of organizations both here and abroad that are available to help with finding and connecting you with resources to get your business off the ground. Be sure to conduct your research and find out who they are and how to qualify.
Being an entrepreneur is a challenging endeavor, so success is even more difficult to obtain when working in emerging markets. One can expect intense fru
stration, disappointment, failure and unpredictability throughout this journey. Therefore, a heightened level of dedication, passion, patience and impeccable execution is necessary to effectively launch a business in the developing world. Those of us who are still encouraged to embark on this journey are indeed a unique breed of entrepreneur. We want to create innovative solutions to everyday challenges, give jobs to our people and build sustainable opportunities that will improve the overall well-being of our homeland. These factors enable us to harness super-human entrepreneurial strength to keep going. Keep these 9 tips handy and understand that anything worth pursuing never comes easy.
This post was written by Jennifer Nelson, an evening MBA student at Babson College F.W. Olin School of Business. She works full-time as a Product Manager for Digital Implant Solutions at DENTSPLY Sirona in Waltham, MA.