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How I confronted ‘black tax’ as a young entrepreneur

By Daniel Mpala

Every month black professionals must deal with the stress of taking care of the financial needs of not only their immediate but also extended family, in what’s come to be termed the “black tax”.

How does a young entrepreneur who is trying to build a company deal with this?

Signature Rising Technologies founder Heather Mavunga (pictured above) is financially responsible for six people, including her grandmother and other extended family. As in most families around the continent, as someone who earns an income she is expected to contribute to her family’s upkeep.

Sometimes, after buying her family groceries, she would get unexpected requests from her family in the middle of the month.

“I wanted to impress them, show them their daughter was doing great. But I wasn’t doing it right because I was stressed I would not reach this level every month.” she points out.

That is, until a friend stepped in to help.

“A friend in Accra gave me invaluable advice when it comes to black tax. When you set aside a salary for yourself, set aside a set amount that is specifically for requests that would need you to step in.

“Once that amount is exhausted for the month do not dip into your finances again that month so as to meet a request,” says Mavunga.

Discipline around this, she adds, means that an entrepreneur can give without worrying the next month.

In addition, she believes this system can allow young entrepreneurs to carefully measure and consider future requests that may be “more deserving” of their time and attention.

“For example a request for a new pair of sneakers from your niece today versus your aunt who suffers from high blood pressure who might give you a call month end in need of assistance,” she points out.

As part of the new system, Mavunga says she’s figured out the basics and now buys from wholesale shops where groceries are cheaper. She also makes use of a monthly budget that she says she doesn’t go over “no matter what”.

Collaborates with legal firm

A MEST Africa alumnus, Mavunga founded Signature Rising Technologies in Accra in 2017.

The marketing and product advisory startup helps other startups and corporates identify product market fit, prepare pitch decks as well as with digital marketing strategies.

“We help our clients to utilise the latest marketing and product strategy methodologies that save time, inspire wonder and purpose, unite teams, and drive action,” she explains.

Mavunga started off by offering boutique services to startups and individuals. She now works in collaboration with a legal firm in Accra as well as with a financial advisory firm in Harare.

“At first I ran workshops on organisational processes like design thinking, growth hacking and storytelling. The company has evolved to offer marketing and product advisory now,” she adds.

In addition, Mavunga’s firm also helps connect high-growth or early-stage startups to its network of investors in West and Southern Africa.

Mavunga also has more tips on how young entrepreneurs can deal with cashflow and financial planning.

Save some of the money you earn

When it comes to cashflow, she says it is imperative that young entrepreneurs find a business advisor who can be “completely open” about finances.

She also advises entrepreneurs to save as much as they can.

“Once you earn some money, save some of it. If you receive unexpected money, save at least half of it.

“Ultimately recording and being aware of where your money goes means you can take on intelligent debt if you need to grow or scale a product that is doing well,” she says.

Read more, get a mentor

Entrepreneurs, Mavunga points out, are often tempted to cut corners and end up reading “hundreds of articles” on how to plan financially.

“Reading is great because you get to know a bit more about what you are up against in terms of taxes and simple things like paying for annual returns,” she explains.

She also advises young entrepreneurs to work with a mentor if need be, particularly one who believes in and is willing to take a chance on the entrepreneurs.

“Offer your services in exchange for their expertise,” she adds.

Featured images: Signature Rising Technologies founder Heather Mavunga

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