I started fiddling with the idea of running my own business when I was in my second year of university. Whilst studying, I embarked on a football coaching journey, and after my Level 1 and 2 qualifications in coaching football, I found it difficult to get a casual coaching role within a football club and it was also challenging fitting any such job around my studies.
So I decided to create a football team using my friends in university. I signed the team up as part of the university’s football league, primarily to develop myself as a coach and gain relevant experience. I was doing this by holding training sessions twice a week and playing a competitive match once a week.
As time went on, the team grew in numbers (over 40 players), and they became too much to handle as a single team, so I decided to break the team up to create a 7-a-side league.
This was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey in the space of football business as I ran this 7-a-side league during my time in university which returned a decent weekly earning.
In its current state, the 7-a-side football league has now evolved to become a Sports Media company with its flagship product being a digital sports broadcast and streaming platform with a focus on broadcasting sports content originating out of Africa. There are bigger and well established sports media companies such as SKY and BT sports who broadcast global sports (mainly European and American sports), so we’ve decided not to compete with them but rather, offer unique and exclusive content from the amazing continent of Africa.
We are currently developing the platform primarily for Africans in Diaspora, but also for the world at large as the go-to place when you want to watch sports content (live and pre-recorded) happening in Africa or relating to Africans wherever in the world they may be.
Alongside the broadcasting platform are other business activities we conduct such as consulting for African Football Federations and Associations on media matters, managing philanthropic and charity projects for ex sports professionals (especially in Africa), trainings, workshops and events on sports media amongst many others.
Some of the challenges I faced when starting out which will resonate with pretty much every start up is “finance”. But one thing I’ll recommend to any founder is to not focus on the finance, but to focus on what you need the finance for, as there are several other ways the achieve that goal that is dependent on finance.
For example, every business at some point needs a working premises, and the first thought to most founders is “I need money to hire an office space”. The real challenge here is the office space and not the money. So therefore, solutions such as incubators, accelerators, public libraries and even your bedroom are potential solutions to the challenge of a “working space”.
Some of the other challenges I faced was balancing work with my entrepreneurial business pursuit, and it is by no means easy, but one will have to push through, burn the night candles and deprive one’s self of a robust social life of pleasure whilst still maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Once you’re settled on an idea and have secured preliminary validation from a target audience, there are generic hurdles to cross such as building knowledge within the sector or segment you are targeting, building a brand and a story around that brand, legal, accounting, and so on.
The beauty of the UH Incubation is that it not only provides you with a professional working environment to carry out your business, it also opens up its network of university professionals and external experts to help in the challenging areas of starting and running a business successfully.
Sheriff’s Business Tip
My advice to anyone looking to start a business is “Do it now”. They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is NOW”. There are so many resources to help start up a business and these resources are more accessible than ever before and in some cases like the UH Incubation, they are accessible for FREE!
Founder: Sheriff Tajudeen
Photo: Jörg Bittner Unna