Starting a new venture is not an easy feat. It is like embarking on an adventure, unclear about the path and with no guarantee of success. However, it is an extremely rewarding adventure – one that allows you to create a job for yourself and countless others – and also to transform industries and communities.

From my experiences as a social entrepreneur, who has started five ventures and helped others start over 20, I would like to suggest five critical steps to consider – which will not only ease the start-up phase, but also increase your chances of success.

First, test your motivation: Ensure that your motivations are aligned with and rooted in God’s plan for your life and that they clearly reflect Christian values of honesty and integrity. The reality is that if God has not sent you, He will not equip you, and you will struggle. Consider a few questions:

  1. What are you passionate about? What gets you excited? If you are still unclear about what you are most passionate about, make a list of the things in life that make you angry! Rank them in order of priority! What problem do you intend to solve? What value can you create? Enduring businesses must solve problems and create value in society! (In my case, the high rates of malnutrition and postharvest losses in Nigeria made me so angry that I decided to partner with my husband to start AACE Foods to produce nutritious food for Nigerians)
  2. When you pray about this opportunity, do you feel at peace? Of course, you have to walking closely enough with God, that you can distinguish His voice from all others.
  3. Is this the right time? Are there any signs from God that indicate that this is the right time to pursue the opportunity? Are there unexplained coincidences such as people popping into your life, open doors, and unsolicited advice that is surprising on-point
  4. Do your close friends and family members think that this is a good move? (Only talk to two or three close and consistent family members and friends who have always told you the truth, even when it hurts!) If you do not have a prayer partner, it may be wise to find one. Consistent spiritual support is critical to success.
  5. Are you prepared to remain committed to God and humble in spite of any success?

Second, write down your plan: The popular quote by Benjamin Franklin is so true – ““If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Take the time to outline the:

  • Mission of your venture – your purpose (For example: AACE’s Foods mission is to provide nutritious and tasty food products made from the best of West Africa’s fruits, herbs, cereals and vegetables.)
  • Vision for your venture – your desired end state (For example: AACE Foods’ vision is to be the preferred provider of food in West Africa, thereby contributing significantly to the improved nutritional status of our people, and better the livelihoods of our farmers.)
  • Values – your enduring principles (For example: AACE Foods’ values are Proudly West African, Quality Products, Cost & Time Efficiency, Continuous Improvement and Accountability)

In addition, develop a high-level business plan which outlines your product/service offerings, an assessment of the marketplace and competitive landscape, your operations, marketing and human resources strategies, your financial plan, risks and mitigation strategies and your growth strategy. This plan will not only serve as an excellent internal communication tool, but would also enable you to effectively engage Board members and investors. (Check out or for a step–by-step guide for developing a compelling business plan)

Third, carefully build a dream team: Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey, and there are so many hurdles, especially in challenging environments such as our own. As a result, every entrepreneur needs a committed Board, an outstanding team and a range of supporters inside and outside the industry.

Instituting a Board of Directors from inception always differentiates a one-woman-business from an enduring enterprise. A strong board enhances your credibility, provides advice and support and challenges you to aim high and achieve results. This group should consist of a respected lawyer, financing/accounting guru, branding/communications expert and a subject matter expert who understands the industry and can complement your skills. In AACE Foods’ case, we are blessed with exceptional Board members who have significant food technology and quality control experience, given that my husband and I do not have this background. (Get a copy of LEAP’s book – “Get on Board – A Practical Guide for Building a High Impact Board of Directors –

Beyond your Board, constitute your start-up team carefully. Institute a screening process to ensure that the first set of team members share your values of hard work and integrity. Invest in on the job training. Also carefully select your suppliers, distributors, and even your customers and clients.

Fourth, ensure financial discipline in all aspects of your operations:  Many entrepreneurs believe erroneously that money will solve all of their problems. The truth is that it is prudent to make mistakes with a little money – instead of taking a big bet with large amounts of money. Start small and grow organically. Pay yourself a salary from day 1, and separate your personal funds from your company’s funds. Keep your financial records diligently, as this lays the foundation for the inflow of significant capital when you are ready to absorb it.

AACE Foods commitment to financial discipline, our regular financial audits and our clear systems and structures for financial management and controls, enabled us to raise money from friends and investors early in our history and have positioned us to attract local and international support.

Fifth, proactively respond to change: As an entrepreneur operating in a dynamic environment, it is important to recognize that your market changes every day, and you have to be poised to respond appropriately. Becoming a proactive entrepreneur instead of reactive one, requires that you always have a plan A, B and C, to respond to shifts in the market dynamics.

For example, AACE Foods introduced jams as our first product line in the Nigerian retail space. We believed that Nigerians would enjoy pineapple, mango, guava and even papaya jam. Sadly, the price of sugar, which is a key ingredient in jam, doubled a few months into our venture, making our product uncompetitive relative to imports. We were compelled to swiftly shift to our plans for year 3, which consisted of producing spices sourced from local farmers for fast food chains, noodle companies, and for retail. Today, AACE Foods produces nine spices for the institutional and retail markets, and we have recently introduced a range of nutritious meals for the whole family.

As you embark on this adventure – I strongly believe that you will succeed if you follow these five simple steps: 1) check that you are motivated by a desire to solve a problem and create value, that is rooted in God’s plan for your life, 2) plan effectively – develop a mission, vision, values and a clear business plan 3) carefully build a dream team, composed of a strong board and committed employees 4) Institute effective financial management systems and structures and  finally 5) remain proactive, developing and implementing new and exciting strategies to respond to changes in the marketplace!

I wish you tremendous success and favor as you start this critical journey!!! Enjoy the ride!!!


Editor’s Note: This piece first appeared on Ndidi Nwuneli’s LinkedIn page.