Kalifa M. Faal is a Software Engineer with experience in major programming languages and Network Technologies. As entrepreneur, he started a technology company with just $200 and is today one of the most popular tech companies in the country, and it’s still growing.
In this interview, Kalifa takes us on a tour of how his career and business started and how he made his brand, among other issues.
What inspired your idea/concept for this business?
In 2009, when I returned from the US after my studies, I couldn’t find a job in my field Computer Science. At the time, there was less demand for Software Engineers or positions that required Computer Scientists. Thus, the inspiration to start my business stemmed from the lack of jobs in my field in The Gambia at the time.
How did it move from idea/concept to reality?
Starting KMF Technologies came directly out of desperation and that pushed me to start my business. I was forced to create a small business plan to identify what areas of the Gambian ICT market KMF could add value and become a profitable business in. In the end, I went straight into the reality of things.
Did you face any major challenges along the way that could have put your business or any business off the track?
As a young entrepreneur with no track record of delivery of quality products and services, it was tough to gain clients confidence that we could deliver. We had to devise a strategy of delivering our services until client is satisfied before we demanded any payment. We did not have the luxury of asking for advance payments for projects. This stretched us a lot as we had to use little resources we had in order to meet our clients’ demands. In the end, this helped us gain the confidence of our clients and now we have a credible reputation in the market.
Give us an idea of your day-to-day activities/life as an entrepreneur?
My day is typically filled with informal meetings with my team and formal meetings with clients. As CEO, my responsibility is to create products or services, negotiate contracts with clients. With my job, no two days are ever the same. That is exciting bit for me as an entrepreneur.
What’s your motivation?
I am motivated by so many things. I want to succeed in everything that I do. I also understand that success is never guaranteed. It comes with putting in the work and having the right team to guide the process. So, I am motivated by success and team work.
How do you brand your business?
My businesses as an entrepreneur are branded by excellence, integrity and known for service delivery. These are the pillars of my success.
What’s your entrepreneurial mindset/spirit?
I am a high-risk taker, though the risks are always calculated. Sometimes it leads to tough situations but that is always exciting for me to come up with solutions that work.
What’s your definition of a successful entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is someone who starts a business and takes the financial risk to fund the business. Being a successful entrepreneur means more than starting new businesses every other day. In my opinion, it means the right attitude towards a business and the determination and grit to achieve success. A successful entrepreneur must have the following characteristics;
- Goal Oriented
- Open Minded in adopting change. Etc.
When you recruit, what qualities do you look for in your potential/ideal employees?
I look for self-starters, ones that can work with little supervision and are team players. This is key to a successful recruitment.
What’s unique about your business?
KMF is a strong brand in the ICT industry. We are known for offering high quality products and known for service delivery. Our strength lies in after sales service. I have a strong team of Gambian Technicians and our products are always backed by warranty of our suppliers.
If you’re to start this business all over again, what would you do differently?
With my experience of starting KMF, it was done in the most informal ways but that helped me understand that if you want to scale your business and be more profitable, you have to formalize your business. In 2016 I started XOOM Wireless (An Internet Service Provider) and I am proud to say that the business was started in a very formal way. This has helped opened up investment opportunities for the business.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
We want to continue to cement our position as a reliable and innovative Technology Solutions Provider. We also want to grow our services and possibly expand into other countries in our sub region.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
As an entrepreneur, you have to understand your business and be able to run the business profitably. Formalize your business so that you can have access to financing through the banks and other financial institutions. And always believe in your ideas and work hard to make it a success.