7 Lessons from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

7 Essential Entrepreneurship Lessons from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge


A greater number of people have turned to self-employment or informal trade in Zimbabwe due to unavailability of employment. In a bid to empower these informal businesses, several entrepreneurship competitions and programs have been introduced. For open minded entrepreneurs, there are numerous entrepreneurship lessons that one can learn from participating in these competitions and programs.

One such competition is the Total Startupper of the Year Challenge.

I am sure the main objective of most of us when we enter such competitions is to win the prize right?

Is there anything else that you can walk away with from these competitions besides the prize?

Well, as one of the participants of the Total Startupper of the Year Challenge, with our 7 Wonders Market project, I can safely say that there is more to these competitions than just winning the prize. These are competitions where everyone has something to walk away with.


Well, let me walk you through lessons that one could walk away with from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge as an example.

But before we dig into the lessons, let’s start by talking about what the Total Startupper of the Year challenge is all about.

What is Total Startupper of the Year Challenge?

From their own words and I quote how they defined the Spirit of the Challenge,

“We aim to support good ideas and projects that help address a widespread problem affecting communities in your country. It could be about providing educational opportunities, reducing child mortality, improving public health, developing access to electricity in rural areas, improving road safety on the roads or building houses with eco-friendly materials — in fact, anything that could make life better in your country.

Tell us how your project will help more and more people over time, at home or even abroad. Tell us how it empowers people, improves living conditions, and contributes to overall economic well-being.”

Now that we are on the same page with regards to what the challenge was and is all about, let’s dive right into the lessons.

The best part?

At the end of the lessons I will tell you what you need to do if you want to know more about competitions and programs like these. So, stick around.

The following lessons were embedded in the questionnaire that had to be completed by the participants.

Lesson 1 – Document your business

Lesson 1 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

You should document your business idea. When a business idea is not documented you will think that you have all the details thought out. Try and put it on the paper and you will be surprised to see how many things you would have overlooked.

Do you just take a pen and paper and start describing the business idea?

That would not be fun doing it right?

Well, despair not! There are tools that you can use to document your business idea. Business Model Canvas is one such tool you can use document a brief overview of your business.

Furthermore, documenting your business idea forces you to scrutinize the idea from different angles and to cover the most important stuff in your business’ framework.

Lesson 2 – Know your business and its objectives

Lesson 2 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

The second lesson that one could walk away with from the challenge, was the need to know your business, its goals and objectives.

Most businesses that succeed exist to solve a certain problem or need in the community that it exists in. In return people pay you for helping them meet their needs or solving their problem.

An entrepreneur should therefore be able to answer the following questions:

  • What problem or need does my business exist to solve or meet?
  • How does my solution impact the lives of people in my society?

Lesson 3 – Have a vision for your business for the coming 5 – 10 years

Lesson 3 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

In addition to knowing what problem or need your business stands to address, you need to have a vision of how you are going to impact your customers or market in the next 5 – 10 years.

This is called forward looking. Every successful entrepreneur should be able to see into the future and have goals to aim towards.

Lesson 4 – Understand your market

Lesson 4 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

Another lesson to take home from the Total Startupper of the Year Challenge, is that you need to know your market. As an entrepreneur you need to really know your market and not make assumptions about them.

What does this really mean?

Well, here is the deal.

You need to do market research so that you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are their behaviour and preferences?
  • How big is your market?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What products are they offering and at what price?

Lesson 5 – Understand and map your customer journey

Lesson 5 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

According to Survey Monkey, “The customer journey involves every interaction with your company, product, or service. When a customer buys your product or service, that transaction is merely the tip of the iceberg in what is essentially a journey created by all the moments leading up to and following the purchase. You could have great products, a nice website, speedy delivery and a dedicated customer service team, but any weak link (in what turns out to be a very long chain) could send potential customers elsewhere.”

It is therefore important for you to step into the shoes of your customer and imagine how you would want to feel at every point you encounter the brand as a customer.

Lesson 6 – Importance of SWOT analysis

Lesson 6 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

The sixth lesson that one could learn from the Total Startupper of the Year Challenge is the need to do a SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis is when an entrepreneur evaluates his or business idea for competitive advantage by looking at the following:


The entrepreneur should assess to see what he or she has to her advantage. This is where you assess things like the skills, expertise and technology that you have to your advantage which may give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.

What is it that you can do best?


Under weaknesses the entrepreneur assesses areas that need improvement. These are areas you know you do not do best in or areas where you know you are lacking.

The beginning of winning over weaknesses is being honest with oneself and admitting that you are lacking in that area and start identifying or looking for ways to improve.


In addition to assessing your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur, you need to also identify opportunities that are open for your business.

Here you identify, to mention but a few

  • areas that present room for growth for your business or
  • opportunities that you can exploit to help you cut costs or
  • technologies that can help your processes to be more effective and efficient


Under threats, an entrepreneur should identify risks that are faced by his or her business. This is a very important exercise because it helps you come up with mitigating measures that either prevent or reduce the risks.

These can include

  • Political
  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Technological or
  • Legal

Lesson 7 – Understand your team

Lesson 7 from Total Startupper of the Year Challenge

The need to understand your team is another lesson that an entrepreneur could walk away with from the challenge.

Most successful business people like Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, reiterate the importance of employees in an organisation. You are as good as your team.

This is not limited to employees only but also to your partners.

  • Who do you choose to be your partners?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Who does what in your team?
  • What plans do you have in place for continuous development of your team’s skills?

Time to act

There is a common saying which says, “Ambition without knowledge is like a boat on dry ground.”

Contrary to what many people believe that most startups fail because of lack of capital, I would like to differ. From this challenge and research, I have realised that most startups fail because of lack of entrepreneurship knowledge by the owners.

We dive straight into business without doing proper planning and without a deep understanding of our own businesses.

Download Business Model Canvas

Success favours people of action! Download a template of a business model canvas HERE. Take a pen and note book and document the overview of your business.

Before you leave this page!

I think you will concur with me that entrepreneurship competitions are a good eye opener for entrepreneurs who are willing to learn, whether you win the competition or not.

In addition, would you not want to know about the reasons which make startups fail so that you can avoid these pitfalls?

We are going to publish an article about the entrepreneurship competitions and programs that you can participate in. In addition, we are going to share with our subscribers an infographic showing the reasons why most startups fail early in Zimbabwe.

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