Mamba Mentors Finalists: A Sports Venture in Africa
Last week, LSBF announced the five finalists of Mamba Mentors, an entrepreneurial initiative that aims to help self-starters to get their businesses off the ground. We invited Tom Simmonds, one of the finalists, to write about his company, Auderes Sport.
After a record number of entries, five finalists have been shortlisted and will have their businesses considered for investment by a group of international investors. They will also get a free online course from LSBF’s online executive portfolio, offered in partnership with the e-learning platform InterActive Pro. In this piece, Tom outlines details about his commercial venture whilst helping to create sustainable sports facilities in Zambia.
Audere(s) : (verb,noun) ‘to dare, to venture, to risk’ / (poetic) ‘to be eager for battle’
Anyone who as ever tried to create a business built on their own passions will know how that managing the emotional rollercoaster is a prequisite for seeing the job through. That does not relate to success or failure, winning or losing, but merely the ability to keep working through problems, issues and the inevitably unknown.
I have worked on Auderes Sport for the past three years, and we are building an outdoor advertising company that increases brand awareness through engaging with grassroots sports particpants in Africa. Auderes Sport will build and install bespoke, multi-sport facilities with a robust yet modern design. The addition of a unique sports facility within any community increases sport participation and footfall in the immediate area. This can provide an opportunity for Auderes Sport to collaborate with advertisers and showcase powerful and creative campaigns at these vibrant, public social spaces.
Creation and execution of this idea has tested the limits of my every emotion. From disappointment to elation, there have been moments where the towel has been a tempting, and much easier, option. However every day I remain driven by the thought of helping provide communities in areas I grew up in with a positive environment to play sport. It is something that can often be taken for granted. An addition that can help bring communities together through shared interests and positive healthy activities. The kind of environment I spent so much of my early life in, where I learnt about passion, teamwork, winning, and how to respond when you lose.
It’s a numbers game
I have worked in the corporate sector for 15 years, specifically in IT, and have been fortunate to gain in-depth experience of this fast-paced and dynamic industry. I typically spend many hours each week talking to businesses across the UK about their strategies in reducing cost and increasing efficiency. I enjoy my job, and as a husband and father or two school age children, appreciate the opportunity to provide a decent lifestyle for my family.
Juggling my career along with my passion for Auderes Sport is tough and leaves me red-eyed and fuzzy headed from time to time. I look forward to the day that I travel across the communities I grew up in, collaborating with similar businesses, on relevant topics; formulating strategies to reduce cost and increase efficiency. I know it will be rewarding, whether it is something I get to do, or a role that I pass onto my children, only time will tell. Perhaps I am being naïvely optimistic. But in a world where so many have little hope of dreaming, I am fortunate to be able to dream. And even more fortunate to have an opportunity to work towards my dream and remain optimistic.
As we all know, the corporate world is primarily driven by a single metric ; profit margin. After 15 years I fully appreciate that if we don’t offer something to these corporates to help achieve their goals, then we may as well pack up now. Fortunately for us, Africa’s commercial growth prospects are bright. We hope to create a new platform that offers forward thinking brands an opportunity to boost brand exposure through positive community initiatives. We want to make sure they understand that businesses can change the landscape of Africa, through sport, and commerce, whilst also positively impacting the bottom line!
We do not stand alone
After years of researching the financial viability, social-economic benefits and long term sustainability of the project we’re confident we have the right measures in place to make Auderes Sport a self-sustainable success. For too long we have had to rely on external forces for land to install our first site. It’s held us back, and been painful. We have already overcome the massive logistical challenge of shipping a 40ft container to a landlocked sub-Saharan country. The raw materials required are now in place but reliance on others for land has stalled progress. We now understand that as a business, we must stand on our own two feet and remove any reliance on third parties.
We are fortunate to have a large and diverse group of advisors in Zambia, mostly family member s and immediate friends or business associates. This means we all understand the importance of our social objectives, and have a shared desire to impact and improve a country close to all our hearts. Within this team we have experience from the African development sector, African financial markets and direct relationships with some of Zambia’s largest businesses.
In addition to the immediate team we have also built links with some of the most active sport development organisations in the region; Sport in Action impact more young people’s lives in Zambia than most; positively impacting young people through sport, whilst teaching core life skills along the way. Sport in Action provide us with the experience, in depth community links, and complement our essential financial objectives perfectly. We hope that through this initiative, and with the help of the Mamba Mentors and LSBF, Sport in Action can start moving established training programs to our sites in the not too distant future.
Where do we go from here
We’ve had some real hurdles over the last few years; yet to be fulfilled promises of land, changes in the political landscape and, as with most startup ventures, funding shortages. We’ve done so much of the hard work but the next corner we turn could bring more complex challenges. Fortunately, the teams we have in place are used to problem solving. We are used to losing from time to time, but know that we will respond by remaining optimistic as we continue to pursue our passions and dreams.
Tom Simmonds is one of the finalists of Mamba Mentors 2013.