By Daniel Mpala
Has the entrepreneurial bug bit? Looking to start a business? Melissa Bime, the 22-year-old Cameroonian health entrepreneur who won last year’s edition of the Anzisha Prize says young entrepreneurs should focus on an area they’re knowledgeable in if they’re to succeed in business.
In 2016, just two years after graduating from nursing school Bime founded Infiuss, a platform that helps deliver blood to hospitals.
Bime says her time as a nurse inspired her to found the business after losing a five-year-old patient who was unable to get a blood transfusion.
Today her firm helps supply blood to over 20 hospitals in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaoundé and employs 13 people.
What then are her words of advice for those youth looking to start a business?
“It’s really important that if you have had a little bit of prior education in something or that you have even taken a course in something that tickles your fancy. Focus on that.
“For example, if you have a medical background focus on starting a business with something medical, or as a geologist do something geological,” she advises.
She says being knowledgeable on a matter gives one the confidence to speak up about things. “It also gives you a founder-product fit which makes you look very attractive to investors. Of course everyone is different, but that is something I have come to learn,” she says.
It’s also important, she says, to look for people who run similar businesses so that you have something to benchmark yourself against and to learn what you can from them. “Never ever think you are too smart and think you can reinvent the wheel,” she adds.
Bime used the $25 000 grant she got from winning the Anzisha Prize to cover operational costs, hire two additional people and purchase new equipment, including two new motorcycles.
Currently Bime’s startup simply helps transport blood from existing blood banks to hospitals. But she now has plans to open her own in-house blood bank and is currently in talks with investors to secure funding to cover the necessary setup costs.
“This year, we want to focus on scaling into more hospitals and regions in Cameroon, in addition to closing our seed round, hopefully,” she says. Last year in November, Bime told Ventureburn she’d raised a total of $125 000 in funding from competitions like the Anzisha Prize and Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.
While at university Bime had her first foray as an entrepreneur, when she was able to generate a small income by charging business owners a fee to have her help search for funding opportunities online for them.
She then set up a business called Social Ventures, through which she charged clients. To this day she continues to run the organisation, which she refers to as her “first child”.
She says she owes much of her success to how the internet has made accessing information easier than before. “The internet is your friend and Google is your best friend. Make the most of it. It changed my life,” she says.
‘Find strategic partners’
When it has come to growing her business, Bime says finding “strategic partners”, has played an important role.
“I have come to realise the importance of finding people that are of a certain degree of influence, making them like you and then selling your vision to them,” she adds.
She also places emphasis on the importance of mentors. “I think mentors are very important and it is important to know that as you grow and evolve both personally and business wise, your mentors will also change.
“I have only been able to get this far because I have had people that have believed in me and made time to advise me on issues that I would have never had known how to explore on my own,” says Bime.