Q&A: Juliana Taylor, CEO, Start Smart Ghana

In addition to challenges of funding, startups and entrepreneurs in Africa have to deal with issues including skill acquisition, training, choice of tools and how to use them. This is where Start Smart Ghana comes in. Founded by Juliana Taylor, it sets out to change the way Africans think about entrepreneurship by encouraging them to learn and understand the best practices to adopt to be successful. Taylor spoke to HumanIPO on these goals and entrepreneurship in Africa, starting with the genesis of the startup for startups.

HumanIPO: Why Ghana and not elsewhere?

Taylor: Ghana is where I’m from so it was a pretty familiar environment to me

How did the project take off?

I started out with just the bookkeeping tool, so in the early days I built out an Excel model and would take it around to friends who were business owners to get feedback from them. I used this feedback and worked with a developer to build out a solution. After we built the solution and we began to get a few more early adopters we realised that people still needed quite a bit of handholding and this is what led me to branch into consulting, the books and the training course

What impacts do you see Start Smart making in the short and long terms?

Short term I see us changing the way people think about entrepreneurship by encouraging them to learn and understand the best practices to adopt to be successful.

In the long term I see us becoming a trusted adviser for businesses both in Ghana and across the continent.

What have you achieved so far?

So far we have a pretty strong following on our weekly blog, we’ve held a number of training sessions, done guest lectures. The big targets for the year are getting 100 active users on the portal by the end of 2014 and being able to have an average of one new subscriber to the trainings/books by the end of the year.

How far have you gone with these goals?

We’ve just set them as we’ve spent the last few months post launch finalising our strategy and making adjustment so we hope to begin pushing towards them by the beginning of May.

The launch has given us the visibility that we need though to begin building relationships.

What support and services do you offer?

We have a cloud and SMS-based bookkeeping tool so for those with a limited background in financial management we simplify the process. There is also consulting work mainly focusing on data and analytics/strategy and then training which is made up of an online course and three books that we’ve written.

What categories of entrepreneurs are you attending to currently?

We’re focusing on SMEs primarily, really looking at business owners with some level of formal education and access to/familiarity with mobile and the internet.

How are they responding?

So far so good, people are beginning to hear about us from others which is always encouraging. The hope is that in the next few months we’ll be able to garner enough steam to convert the interest into subscriptions to hit our targets.

Do you have strong competitors?

There are people out there who do one part or the other of what we have, but nobody does both cloud and SMS-based bookkeeping and also combines the other two service lines

Is Ghana ready for cloud services?

It’s a learning process of course, people are now getting used to it and as the internet becomes more stable and the prices begin to decline people are shifting more towards the cloud and online solutions in general.

Tell us about your forthcoming training event in June.

We’ll have people sign up for one of the four modules in our training course to be taught live and they’ll receive a discount for the remaining online modules.

We’re doing a bit of fundraising as well to help our expansion, information is available here.

The campaign, which is hosted on Indiegogo, will help us raise the funds to achieve this goal. Our fundraising target is US$5,000 and the campaign will run for the next 30 days.

What is the nexus between entrepreneurship and the African people?

I think it’s important for people to realise that entrepreneurship is a core part of the African DNA so doing businesses isn’t new to us. What we’re trying to promote though is doing business the right way so that we can encourage the growth and sustainability of today’s businesses

What strategies are you deploying?
We know that a big part of moving from the pilot phase and having impact in Ghana and across Africa is building awareness and sensitising people about what we’re doing. The route we’ve chosen is a mix of online marketing and offline face to face interactions as we’re such a relationship based society.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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