“Entrepreneurs should be prepared to face rejections, disappointments, lean seasons and most of all, a lot of work.”
That’s the view of Nana Prempeh, co-founder and CEO of Ghanaian start-up Asoriba, which has developed a unique web and mobile application that enables effective church administration and seamless engagement with members via mobile phones.
He says start-ups should be prepared for anything on the start-up journey. This has certainly proven the case for Asoriba, which is operating in a niche all on its own in the church administration space.
The app allows church members to make mobile donations, and looks to streamline the process of churches liaising with their membership and tracking attendance and financial contributions.
Yet it has all proven relatively plain sailing. Asoriba has acquired 5 000 church clients in Ghana, and is also operating in Nigeria and South Africa.
The start-up, which makes money via subscriptions to its service as well as in app payments and the resale of SMSs, has also signed high-level partnerships with Interswitch and Absa.
“We have a five-year strategic plan that will make us market leaders in Africa and Latin America. We also have an independent partner model that provides individuals and companies with the opportunity to be resellers and make commissions,” says Prempeh.
There have been challenges, however, most notably accessing finance.
“You have to deal with investors who may not clearly understand your market, so your numbers may not make sense, the fear of African start-ups failing, and doubt about the skillset of the founders, which is really high among investors,” Prempeh says.
These are issues for the majority of African start-ups, especially those operating in a space lacking in digital enablement such as church administration. Fortunately for Asoriba, however, help has been at hand.
The start-up was initially formed in September 2014, after Prempeh met his three co-founders at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Ghana.
“We found that the church had a number of challenges it faced that could be solved with technology, and the church market was also a big one worth addressing,” he says.
Certainly true, but access to market is another major challenge for small African businesses. In Asoriba’s case, however, they have continued to benefit from valuable support.
MEST continues to back the start-up with office space and mentorship, but it was being accepted onto last year’s Barclays Accelerator in Cape Town that really saw the company find its feet.
The learnings from the accelerator, which is powered by Techstars, have stood Prempeh and his team in good stead, and Asoriba has also benefitted from funding having previously been running on its sale. Prempeh, however, is taking his time over making a decision on further investment.
“We have been presented with a couple of offers, and have made a decision on a few of them, specifically Seeker Fund and Techstars. We are taking a closer look at the rest,” he says.
It has been a relatively long journey for Asoriba since its launch in a MEST classroom almost three years ago, but the hard work seems to be paying off as the company builds its client base and expands across the continent. Prempeh’s advice to other entrepreneurs? Work hard.
“Truth be told, the start-up journey is not an easy one, but eventually it pays off, if done right,” he says
“It is a worthwhile experience, full of learning and lessons. Have high hopes, don’t kill your dreams, fold up your sleeves, look into the future and build what’s missing.”