Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you do not always have to start your business from scratch. Your path to entrepreneurship could be an expansion strategy for an existing company. If this is a path that you would like to consider, take the time to identify the industry that you would like to make a difference in, and move forward from there. This is exactly what Roxsanne Dyssell did. While completing her graduate studies at NYU, Dyssell attended several networking events which led to meeting Nalla Brazil representatives.
She said, “compared to the very negative perceptions of the U.S. job market for recent graduates, the potential for success and the supportive environment of African networking events that I attended while completing my education at New York University convinced me to follow through on this business opportunity.”
Dyssell is also organizer of the African Women who Brunch roundtable. She started this initiative to challenge the trend of why many panels on investments and business in Africa were usually all-male. The brunch became a way to introduce and connect professional African women living in New York City with one another. The AWP Network met with Dyssell to learn about her new venture and why she chose to collaborate with and find a business partner in Brazil.
What is Nalla Brazil?
Nalla is an established brand in Brazil; I am working to expand its reach globally. My team and I develop the marketing materials for reaching international markets. Nalla Brazil provides network managed services to include spare parts management, field maintenance, technical warehousing, logistics management, integration and optimization with customized cloud-based reporting tools. The company is fully aligned to the telecommunications market – combining flexibility, competitive prices, and technical skills.
Nalla Brazil prioritizes the market according to trends and demands. The company also offers services directly and indirectly to major carriers and brokers around the world.
What inspired you to pursue this partnership?
Compared to the very negative perceptions of the U.S. job market for recent graduates, the potential for success and the supportive environment of African networking events in NYC convinced me to follow through on this opportunity.
Who is your target market?
We focus on servicing 2nd and 3rd tier telecoms operators in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. These types of operators are typically smaller, we are also looking for innovative companies that challenge incumbents in the market and work hard to win and maintain their market shares.
How have you financed the idea?
Our partners are committed to providing the funds needed to expand. The key benefit here is that we do not need to explain or justify the risks and rewards of working in emerging markets, coming from the second world; our investors are already familiar with the territory.
What is your competitive edge?
The level of service and attention to detail we offer our customers at any given time.
What is the long-term plan for your business?
We have a 3-year plan in place; we are focused on being sustainable. We want to retain a small contingent of repeat customers whose profiles we can define and to which we can adapt. Beyond that we would like to expand our product offerings to include technical services and in-country support.
What challenges do you face?
- Communication – this is our biggest challenge to date. Some of the companies we work with can be slow and opaque, hence making it difficult to analyze and define decision makers, timelines, and the seriousness of opportunities.
- Preparation– you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Currently, we have suffered a significant drop in business from our West African customers due to the Ebola epidemic. Although we continue to support their efforts, we have turned to our diversified customer base across the continent to ensure consistent revenues.
What key things have you learned since starting this business?
- Be Respectful: The value of respecting and connecting cultures has proven to be my biggest asset. You do not need to have a degree in UN diplomacy to know this, but getting to know your customers and suppliers on a personal level as well as understanding their cultures has helped to retain and build stronger long-term relationships. Our marketing materials go out to over 100 clients in various countries around the world therefore; we need to have a clear and consistent message that speaks to our customers on many levels.
- Be Confident: under-promise and over-deliver. This has helped us to build confidence in our investment partners and in our customers.
What 5 things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
(1) Have a plan and develop a thorough business proposal,
(2) First impressions matter – do not forget the importance of first impressions. Spend the time and money on a well-designed image for your proposal. Our proposal needs to stand out against presentations from Samsung and Ericsson. No matter how small you are, design and create as though you are competing against multinationals.
(3) Find an investor and partner (s) who inspire you.
(4) Select a workspace that promotes productivity, networking, and a strong business community – we chose WeWork, which specializes in linking start-ups with established companies.
(5) Plan for the worst and make sure that your business structure allows for things to go wrong.
(6) Last but not least and more importantly, get a dog for the office.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say “there is no money”?
Start looking at second world economies – newly developed countries, such as BRICS members – they have a very fresh memory of the risks and challenges emerging economies face. They themselves have reaped the rewards of fast growth in previous decades.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
Young Africans can start by celebrating one another. Also, remember that networking is not just about your own project, but about supporting and connecting others so that they too can attain their goals. I find great happiness in watching others succeed, and always do the most I can to support them.
How many jobs have you created so far?
Our business model is best described as “light.” We work with contractors in Somalia, China, Ivory Coast, and Brazil to help us develop the resources needed to reach the next level. Here in the USA we have created (2) jobs so far.
How has technology enhanced your business idea?
Technology is our business. In terms of administrative resources, we are able to build a world-class structure at very affordable and manageable overheads. Paid software tools such as Asana, Dropbox, and Zoho have proven to be invaluable to our global workspace.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
We can support and improve innovation in Africa by focusing our abilities and resources on helping African companies reduce costs and improve efficiencies. With more resources and higher profitability, innovation will find its incubators. The African diaspora should not be overlooked. In fact, the diaspora has played an important role in the recent successes of many other economies to include India, Korea, and China.