‘After mine failed, I didn’t want to see SMEs collapse due to funding’
Many business ideas come from a challenge someone experienced and his/her quest to address it. Some, after going through certain challenges, do not want to see others experience the same; hence evincing the energy and willpower to come up with an innovation that will bring relief to people. This week’s Inspiring Startups features a young man, Wisdom Anku, who has decided to address a challenge common to all small businesses – access to capital, after his own failed for the same reason.
Read on as he narrates how it all started in a quest to bridge the funding gap for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Wisdom is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Propartners Exchange Limited. He studied Civil Engineering at Cape Coast Polytechnic and continued to do a top-up degree in Construction Technology and Management at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
He worked for various companies in the position of technician engineer and civil engineer for about fifteen years before taking the bold step to build this business.
According to Wisdom, even before working with those organisations he had been very enthused about entrepreneurship, and to that end put some of his ideas into real businesses. However, like many startups he recounted that inadequate capital resulted in collapse of the business.
For this reason, he thought through with like-minded friends what could be done to rescue many startups and local businesses in general, especially those with great potential, from collapsing.
With this urge, they started by financing projects of people who had been awarded contracts but did not have enough money to embark on them.
“I associate with most start-ups, and that is where I had the urge from. So we started pulling resources out of goodwill and like-minded people to help those we trusted. It’s a gap we saw, and worked toward providing a solution,” he said.
This act of kindness, according to Wisdom, benefitted many people. As a result, he saw the need of extending it to local firms and mobilising resources through investors to spur their growth. That necessitated the launching of Propartners Exchange Limited in 2019.
“We started Equity Partnership in 2014, but Propartners was registered in 2016. However, we launched major operations in 2019 at our current office premises near Nungua Senior High School.
“Three things drove me into this business. Firstly, I have been engaged in several startups – some of which failed because of capital. Secondly, I have come to develop a passion for partnership; because in developed economies, businesses are not built with the typical ‘one-man’ mentality we have in Ghana. Also, I found it greatly rewarding when a group of us started mobilising funds to invest in some profitable local ventures,” he said.
What Propartners Exchange Limited Does
Propartners operates mainly as an intermediary to connect profitable businesses with capital partners. Its service channels include equity partnership and crowdfunding.
“We focus on making equity capital available to startups and small businesses. Propartners injects equity capital into existing or start-up businesses through equity partnership or equity crowdfunding investments. We work with entrepreneurs and small businesses on one hand, and dormant or active equity capital investors on the other. We organise, regularise or formalise small businesses to transform them from high to low risk, thereby making them attractive to local and foreign investors. We work largely with informal sector businesses and small businesses in the formal sector,” Wisdom said.
Propartners also provides various solutions to build the capacity of businesses and entrepreneurs. Its business model brings together persons already in business, those who want to start and those who want to grow their wealth actively or passively with direct investments in profitable ventures.
“There are similar solutions in the ecosystem, but we are the only company that builds and manages partnerships to grow local businesses. Our equity partners become part-owners (shareholders) of the business they invest in. Our mission, therefore, is to discover and nurture entrepreneurs, organise small businesses, pull investors, manage partnerships and build wealth,” he said.
It is Proparteners Exchange’s vision to become a primary point of call for startup and existing businesses to find equity capital from dormant and active investors across Ghana and beyond.
In the next five years, it wants to increase its equity partners to at least 100,000 and be able to provide a capital of GHȻ100,000,000 to businesses.
Wisdom bemoans how poorly some start-ups and local businesses position themselves, lacking the crucial information needed to secure investment or draw in investors.
“I would also cite bureaucratic delays from state institutions as an impediment to growth-oriented businesses like us,” he said.
How government can support
When asked how government can help startups in their endeavours, he said: “Government should focus on creating an environment that is friendly to entrepreneurs, especially concerning laws, administrative procedures and enforcement”.
Advice for prospective entrepreneurs
Wisdom believes that to succeed as an entrepreneur, one must be a lifelong learner and capable of developing strong qualities like integrity, courage, patience and resilience.
“First of all, you must be willing to learn and to keep learning for the rest of your life as an entrepreneur. I would also say that one needs to build strong values such as integrity, boldness, patience, resilience and the like. Lastly, I wish to caution that if you are not willing to sacrifice, do not attempt to become an entrepreneur,” he said.
Location: J202 A/6 Venees House, Nungua (near Nungua SHS).
Written by Juliet Etefe & Obed Yeboah (www.thebftonline.com)