South African entrepreneur and the founder of creative agency group MadWorld, Adelaide Potgieter, is very daring. In between rocky roads of the past, vulnerabilities, she’s over the years managed to turn a R1 500 investment into a R60-million company by daring to dream.
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This was the message that was left at Startup Grind Cape Town this month, with the ever so enchanting, Potgieter, as the honoured guest. As always, the event was buzzing with highly ambitious, excited entrepreneurs hungry for knowledge, and managed to live up to its hype as the South African entrepreneur revealed her secrets to success.
1. Drive Forward
When Potgieter decided to start her business, she moved to Cape Town, with nothing more than R15 00 rand in her bank account, a car that couldn’t reverse and a dream. This sounds a bit clichéd, but in this state of financial deprivation she found herself in what became the building block for her success.
When you find yourself in a state of financial deprivation you only have two options; you can either choose to complain about your current financial state or you can choose to actively do something to improve your situation. Potgieter chose the latter. In entrepreneurship — as in life — no one owes you anything. Unless you actively “get up and do it”, as the entrepreneur would say, you will not move beyond the stage you’re currently in.
The analogy of the car that cannot reverse exemplifies the mentality you have to adapt to succeed. The only path is forward, you cannot move backwards, as an entrepreneur you cannot let any excesses baggage from your past failures negatively affect your present day mentality. This is however, a nuanced point: reflect on your past failures and learn from them, but avoid being inhibited by those failures.
2. Don’t let your vulnerabilities overwhelm you
As a person who recovered from alcoholism, Potgieter wasn’t afraid to reveal her vulnerabilities to the audience. The stress of starting a business and raising a child was, according to Adelaide Potgieter, overwhelming. As a result of these stresses she resorted to relying on alcohol to escape the pressure.
You have to understand that the entrepreneurial journey is a hard S-curved road, there will always be “ups and downs” along your journey. While the downs will sometimes make you feel very vulnerable, you should not allow them to overwhelm you. Even when you’re in the depths of your “lowest of low”, emotional points find solace in inspirational icons: case in point being those figures like Potgieter.
Learn from their stories and understand that you’re not alone.
3. Take Chances. Be ambitious. Do not be normal
At one point in her life, Potgieter sent the CEO of Shoprite Checkers, Whitey Basson, one leg and one arm from a mannequin with the message “I will give an arm and a leg to get a response from you” attached to it.
After some time the South African billionaire’s personal driver, arrived at her doorstep in a Lexus carrying a mannequin’s torso. The message behind this gesture was the following: “You have proved you have the guts, but do you have the heart to pitch your proposal against other established marketers?”
To the entrepreneur this is the representation of the “go-getter” attitude one needs to adopt. Set yourself up for failure. You will not know the true extent of what you can achieve until you give it a shot, even if that means cold calling Afrikaans entertainer Nataniël le Roux to ask him to be the brand representative of a boerewors brand.
You may have limited resources and credibility, but at the end of the day you create your opportunities by putting up a sustained effort towards the actualisation of your dream.
4. Dare to Dream
When the billionaire CEO eventually gave her the opportunity to pitch her marketing proposal to him, Adelaide dared to travel to the meeting in an open-top bus, with her team. As soon as they arrived, they had a group of women dancing on the streets, welcoming her with placards in support of the pitch.
With the ability to be daring in the pursuit of your dreams comes the ability to think creatively. The presence of these two traits are what will distinguish you from the crowd. The world is a mad place. Embrace the madness. Or as Potgieter would say: “Dare to dream, and dare to fail.”
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