8. Start-Up Challenges and How to Overcome Them
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it” — Michael Jordan.
University Student Culture. Your biggest challenge may be to engage university students who often come to check things out but then don’t stay committed long enough to do the work. Make sure you know what it is that attracts students at your university to information sessions, and which times and dates will be best suited to them. Be careful to distinguish YALDA from other societies and student organizations on campus. This is a unified student and youth movement solely for Africa that is taking place throughout the world. Be clear that this is a serious enterprise, and recruit people who are going to be committed to building a strong organization on your campus and in your country. You may also want to involve some recent graduates from your university.
Funding. During the set-up stages, depending on your student culture, you may not need excessive funding for the process. In the event that you incur costs for printing, copying, food and the launch event, we suggest that you contact your school administration to see whether they are willing to give you financial assistance for the set-up. It is also wise to look at other possible funding sources outside the school. You might consider asking your board and some members to contribute to what is known as “seed” money to help with these costs. Do not overlook family, friends and faculty as they also might be willing to offer some sort of financial assistance. Please see Chapter 3.16 for more ideas on Fundraising.
Long-Term Commitment. Every great thing is very difficult to start. To found a big and important organization requires big sacrifices in the beginning from its leaders and visionaries. It requires stamina, sustained dedication, and a firm commitment to stick with the organization until it succeeds, no matter how long it takes. This is not easy, but it is the only way to do anything truly important. This is sometimes known as the “giraffe” principle: The one who stretches a little higher, will get all the bananas. Commitment is your greatest asset – and it is better to have a team of three totally committed individuals than a group of ten people who are not equally sharing in the rewards and the responsibilities. Make sure that all of your team members actively demonstrate their commitment. If some members are not contributing productively and positively to the team at every meeting, look for new members who will.
Meetings. When starting the branch, you will need to get a team together, and this team will need to meet at least every week, if not several times a week. If meetings seem boring or inefficient, try rotating chairpersons and pooling your resources to include some food or refreshments. Be professional and keep time at your meeting. But, don’t be afraid of long meetings, they are not necessarily bad – there is a lot to discuss!!
Foreign organization Some people might ask you about YALDA, and why it is based in the USA. In fact, it was founded there and now its headquarters are in Botswana. It is an international organization that is run primarily by African students and youth, and was founded by students born and raised in Africa, but who were studying together at Harvard.
Conflicts. Conflicts and heated discussions within your team are inevitable – and that is a good sign. As long as you have trust and commitment, don’t be afraid to raise and discuss important issues for the sake of making the best possible decisions.
DO NOT GIVE UP!!!
It takes really strong, courageous people to stick with a vision in times of trouble. The most successful people in life have also faced some of the most tremendous challenges that you and I could never possibly imagine. Challenges not only make us stronger but also help us build character. Africa needs these kinds of people. When you are faced with obstacles and challenges, we encourage you to contact the YALDA Headquarters or other YALDA branches for comments and suggestions. When you are faced with a crisis situation do not let it overcome you…rise up to it, re-group, discuss, seek help (YALDA is here for that), re-strategize, make a plan and try again. Maybe neither plan (a) nor plan (b) will work, but the mistakes and knowledge we gain are what creates that ultimate plan that eventually succeeds!!!