How does one go from booking Janet Jackson to appear at the Grand Prix in Dubai to selling brake pads in Ghana? As an entrepreneur working in the entertainment industry in Dubai, Genera Moore was working with top artists and brands to make a splash in a major new market. Despite working in an exciting field, Moore said, “I saw how as an event organizer or as a booking agent you will be the first to be cut from a budget. If a company is trying to launch but runs out of money, naturally they’re going to cut all the frivolous things.” The current COVID-19 pandemic showed us all what types of spending is deemed essential and what spending will be the first to be cut. Ahead of her time, Moore decided, “I want to be in an industry where you can’t cut my budget.”
Looking around and seeing how wealth was made in the UAE, Moore decided to get into trade. She thought to herself “buy from a manufacturer at a low price and sell it to you at a higher price…sounds simple enough.” She chose the automotive industry because she knew that it was a large market, made a big pivot in her career and MotorParts Nation was born.
Motorparts Nation is a parts distributor focused on providing quality parts from the United States to West African markets such as Ghana and Nigeria. The company seeks to do more. It aims to be “a company where we transform the lives of auto mechanics in West Africa,” said Moore.
Making a pivot from entertainment to auto parts is not easy, but Moore was able to do it by following these 5 principles.
1) Lean on the expertise of others
In the beginning, Moore didn’t know anything about auto parts so she leaned on her suppliers for help. “If I’m buying from you, you are going to give me all the tools needed in order to be successful,” she said. It’s in the suppliers best interest to help their distributors. Beyond her suppliers, Moore attended conferences, read industry blogs, studied different business models and never hesitated to ask questions. “Ask all the questions because people love to answer them for you,” she said.
2) Seek government support
There are many programs in the United States and around the world initiated by governments to help small businesses. President Obama’s Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) Campaign committed $33B to support economic development in Africa including support to promote U.S. exports to Africa. Moore had read about this program, but by 2017 with a new administration in office, she couldn’t find anything about it online. Even if these programs are hard to access, don’t give up. By luck, a friend was working for the program and introduced Moore to the director. The DBIA office was able to connect her to her first clients in Ghana before she set a foot on the ground.
3) Make every moment count
The first time that Moore went to Ghana was on a trade mission with the National Black MBA Association. They were hosted by the Mayor of Accra and had a full week-long schedule of activities. Moore didn’t just stick with the group. She had more than a dozen side meetings and she would ask at each meeting to be connected to someone else. “I got clients from those meetings and I gained insight on the market to know how I can fix their problems,” she said.
4) Get scrappy with your startup funding
Moore got a few “No’s” when she started fundraising for Motor Parts Nation. Instead of continuing to pitch her business to investors, she found other ways to cover her costs. At the start up phase, her biggest expense was trips to Ghana. She found ways to get other work in the country so that someone else was covering her airfare, hotel, and living expenses. Any time that she had outside of the work that she was contracted to do, she used to build Motor Parts Nation. Because of this approach, Moore still owns 100% of her company.
5) Turn around and give more than you got
Moore was able to go from idea to business because she knows how to make the most out of the resources she has at her disposal, but this is not enough to go from a business to a success. “What really took off for me in the market was when I was doing training for mechanics,” she said. She realized that outside of a few luxury dealerships, most mechanics did not have access to nor knowledge on how to use diagnostic scanners. This leads them to fix cars by guesswork and is one of the contributing factors to high levels of road accident fatalities across Africa. The needs of auto-mechanics have been overlooked because they are not treated with respect. Moore was told, “They are crooks. They just want to take your money or they’re dirty or they’re illiterate.” What she found instead was a group of people hungry to increase their capacities and skills. And so training and diagnostic scanners became her way in to sell auto parts.
Business is all about relationships. The most effective entrepreneurs do not just find ways to get as much as they can out of relationships with other entrepreneurs, government programs, and their customers. The most effective entrepreneurs know that to be successful in the long run, they have to give as much, if not more, than they get.