Black Entrepreneurs in South Africa: “Gettin My Say-in”

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go fast, go together.

–Old African Proverb

Words and quotes have so much power. And I never thought that those words would be my rise and downfall.

This blog is dedicated to my mentor who reminded me how important it is to “get your say-in” as an entrepreneur if he adamantly believes that he was the driving force behind the idea or catalyst behind the initiative that you’ve pushed forward. Even though I write this with a heavy heart, I feel that I must keep my integrity intact as an entrepreneur for those who wish to understand the true origins of Black entrepreneurs in South Africa. Two stories are better one.

Black Entrepreneurs in South Africa Facebook began as my initiative under What are Black people like? (TM) to promote black entrepreneurship in Africa through a series of Facebook groups (Black Entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, etc) using my logo.  I chose “Black entrepreneurs” versus “African entrepreneurs” because I wanted US Black entrepreneurs to recognize their roots in Africa and African Entrepreneurs that they have distant family outside of Africa with the same skin color as them.

This initiative was facilitated by a group of gentlemen who I met at two events which heard my idea and implemented it utilizing their connections in Africa. I was with them during this process. When I created these groups, I was not an affiliate nor employee of this organization, until later on when this group gained traction. Nor would I be aware that this group would be their initiative from Day 1 (as they put it); I saw it as a collaboration. What made this fall out possible were these factors:

  • no formal written agreement between myself and the organization about the first status of the group, our roles, and/or assets from growing this group.
  • law school which forced me to “ghost” for 3 months each year even though I led the  direction of the group in terms of group description and structure for moderators.
  • no written definition of an “affiliate”
  • no active and transparent communication to discuss the direction of the SA group even though I left viable options for open talks while I was away for school.
  • a path towards mediation or arbitration to settle disputes and ambiguities amicably.

It will be argued that a South African was the one who grew the group to its immense size, but sharing a Facebook group to an existing South African Facebook group does not give anyone ownership rights. The real reason it grew exponentially, as it does now, was the philosophy behind the name “Black entrepreneurs in South Africa” which stemmed from my blog/start-up “What are Black People Like?”. To be courageous to say that I’m a Black Entrepreneur in South Africa.  Even though I was given the term “affiliate”, I didn’t believe that an organization, or corp for that matter, should own a person’s creative work (published books, etc) unless you are an employee in assigned writing. 

My only two questions that are still left unanswered are:

What did I do wrong?

Why was my logo used for 2 years without any raised questions or concerns about it?

 

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I don’t know what would be said about me, nor what posts (that I’ve written) which would be used to contradict my position. But truth of the matter is: if I hadn’t step down from the organization, I would still fight for my blog/startup’s stake in the group (under my logo) because it was my creative work that started the Black trend in South Africa.

As I said before this fall out could have been resolved in one meeting, but when you have no formal writing or path for mediation, divisions will be drawn on wet cement.

Hopefully this blog will inspire entrepreneurs to protect their intellectual property assets and form written agreements between colleagues to not only protect themselves but others who could soon be your closest friends. And remember to always leave the door open for mediation when things go awry.

This has been “getting my say-in”

Thank you,

Prince Sefa-Boakye

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