Advice from Jamaican Entrepreneurs: Tishauna Mullings

Name: Tishauna Mullings

Age: 26

Your job title: Chief Success Officer

Name of Business: NexxStepp Personal Development Services

Age at which started business: 21

What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful entrepreneur?

A successful entrepreneur must be innovative to survive in this age. When the barriers to entry are low, it often correlates with high competition. So a successful entrepreneur must be highly ingenious and flexible as it relates to inventing solutions that keeps them ahead of the game. Additionally, based on the speed of innovation, businesses must possess the ability to think ahead and adjust accordingly to remain relevant because disruptive innovation is a major shifter in the world of entrepreneurship today. Therefore, skills in future forecasting and rapid prototyping is the order of the day for the 21st-century entrepreneur. It is my hope to see Jamaicans championing the global entrepreneurship space in this regard. Innovation also requires confidence, which is a key trait to develop a sustainable business. When you get to the point of confidence, customers trust you and you often start making more money and inspiring others.

Identify one hardship that you experienced while building your business and how you overcame that.

Overwhelming influence of naysayers and people who have not yet gotten beyond the fault lines of their own ego-based bases of thinking made it challenging at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. Many I expected to help me make my vision ‘fly’ were still pointing me to dead-end options or giving me all the reasons my business wouldn’t work. Many see even potential as a threat; so what people believe you can attain maybe over the next few years they want to thwart now, and so, they discourage you.  Learning to be committed to your vision and assigning yourself dream builders is the ultimate strategy to succeed in the face of pessimism. I have proven my favorite personal quote right on this journey:

“Fear does not like eye contact: when you face your fear, it loses its grip”. Therefore, I am looking for board members who are with solid years of experience in business and education to provide the stick-to-itiveness I am developing now.

I also struggled with merging altruistic pursuits and making money. The cause of molding an empowered youth citizenry in my region – beginning in my own small corner through literacy, life coaching and skills training – is one that I have believed in strongly since teenage years. I thought making money from a venture that aligned with this cause was impossible, but I was wrong. I have learnt that business is about service to others. Therefore, impact investment to increase literacy and instill positive values and attitudes would be a dream come true for NexxStepp.

Describe one moment in which you felt immense pride in your accomplishment as entrepreneur.

My business started on a positive leg as an entrepreneurial project for a class that was eventually entered in Northern Caribbean University’s inaugural entrepreneurship competition. I had a team of five extraordinarily talented people, including a lecturer and four students. We won that competition and that was validation that the business concept could work. After freelancing a few months after graduating, I started a 9 -5 job working as Agriculture Value Chain administrator on an internationally funded project which was slated to be a two-year project. So I opened a physical door to NexxStepp to build my business with the intention to transition to being a full-time entrepreneur when the project ended. Operations ran with one full-time staff employee, teachers paid by commission, and volunteers from The National Youth Service and high-school volunteers completing community service. After running business for almost three years from this location with over 150 students and clients annually while balancing a 9-5 job (that I still maintained beyond the 2 years as initially planned) where I had gotten a promotion, I decided to take a break from my entrepreneurial venture, recalibrate, build a team and restart bigger and stronger while just taking only private clients. Right there and then came Barack Obama’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative: a welcome next step for NexxStepp. Following hurricane Matthew’s tail, among a team of eight highly ingenious Jamaican entrepreneurs, I ventured on a mission that would shift my perspectives positively and create the record of my life for the most I have ever learnt in a month. From Texas to California to Washington, then to Peru to meet Commander in Chief of the USA President Barack Obama on his very last international business trip, I learnt the nuts and bolts of running an effective business. Selection for this programme was also welcome validation.

How important were family/connections/relationships to your work’s success?

Connections are the pieces of the puzzle the makes up my success picture to date. Mentors have been key in driving my personal development and have transformed my way of thinking and served as accountability partners to ensure I stick to my business and personal objectives. The Governor General’s Office of Jamaica has been essential in providing credibility to our programmes. Career writer for the Gleaner introduced me to the Governor General’s programme and this symbiotic relationship has led to the recent official endorsement of the Programme by the Governor General. My life coach Hopelyn Brown, my aunt Valine Williams and my mother Shirley Mullings, who paid my way through college debt-free, are major cornerstones to my success, not to mention the few teachers in school that stood out because they took extra care to ensure I overcame my self-esteem issues and achieved greatness.

Family is key in this journey as they are most familiar with your insecurities and weaknesses. They get to see not just the powerful entrepreneurs in the streets but the tired, burnt-out entrepreneur that comes home after a day of solving problems and serving others. Family serves to refuel an entrepreneur to continue a roller-coaster of taking risks, making money and changing lives.

What advice would you give to youth considering starting entrepreneurial ventures in Jamaica?

There is glory in daring to begin. To be a winner, you have to be in the game. I believe the start is what stops most people. That is why I like Nike’s slogan: “Just do it”. So work on developing your idea, study the industry, make a note of what potential competitors are doing and decide how you will innovate to better serve the needs of real people. Without innovation, there is no reason for a customer to choose you over a competitor. Don’t just be another player in the market that you are heading into: dominate, aim at growth and disruptive innovation. You can be smaller than a competitor and still win because it is not by size that you win or fail; it is when you are exceptional at what you do. Know that it is better to take risks rather than later regret. Entrepreneurship has become a ‘sexy thing but it has to be pursued with great tenacity because it is a lot of work. One has to wake up knowing that if you don’t run your days, they will run you. It is also important to make your commitment stronger than people’s rejection. Follow your passions and know that social good doesn’t have to be separated from making profit.

For the picture: Why did you choose this pic and what does it say about you?

The picture shows [Tishauna] after the Town Hall Meeting with President Obama in Lima, Peru. Just as Paul Bogle made that memorable journey from Stony Gut to Spanish Town to represent the hopes and aspirations of St. Thomas; so Tishauna journeyed from Morant Bay to Washington to articulate the voices, dreams and aspirations of Jamaican youth.  In so doing, she further cemented the respectable position that Jamaica holds in the global family of nations.

Be sure to leave your comments below. See responses from other Jamaican entrepreneurs here.