Ibrahim Phiri: “Always anticipate multiple variable costs”

I wish someone had told me to accept help from others in the beginning. That was something I did not do as much as I should have in order to avoid going through some of the mistakes I made. If I had been in touch with other entrepreneurs, I would not have sold at a […]

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I wish someone had told me to accept help from others in the beginning. That was something I did not do as much as I should have in order to avoid going through some of the mistakes I made. If I had been in touch with other entrepreneurs, I would not have sold at a lower profit margin off the basis that cost of marketing was my main cost. Always anticipate multiple variable costs.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ibrahim Phiri.

A 22-year-old E-commerce brand builder who uses content marketing as the blueprint to be running a successful business. Ibrahim is a founder in multiple E-commerce businesses where he searches to create brands that define individuality through pushing commercial and creative realities. A Zimbabwean native who moved to the United States at age 19 as a means of pursuing higher education. As well as being a tennis pro, he also studied at the New York Real Estate Institute where Ibrahim says he got an insight on everything real estate. One for climate change action, as a portion of profits from the businesses he runs goes to ocean conservancy. “People view it to be something inevitable however, if we all work together as a race, we can stop this from getting to that point of no return.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in the city of Harare, located in Zimbabwe which you find in Southern Africa. Grateful to have been raised by two very loving and caring parents. My mother worked as a caterer for a lodge in the city where she was also a chef thus, my cooking ability is close to none existent. My father was an entrepreneur, he ran an air conditioning company and a few other things. Zimbabwe is a young British Colony so our English leans towards England’s, so as much as we have our own local culture, we grow up listening to all the Billboard Chart 100s and watching Disney too. I grew up with my two little sisters and my half siblings. A very family oriented environment that really focused on us succeeding in our studies, so much so that if I found myself having placed second in a class… A lecture would surely be on the way, that was until high school where my parents became far more lenient. Education and high literacy are a big part of Zimbabwean culture. To the extent where your value as a person is lessened if you lack education. Soccer is another big part of our culture there so I grew up playing it and as I got older fell into other sports such as rugby, hockey, and eventually tennis. When you grow up playing team sports and you finally face the loss of a single person one. You’ll tend to stick with the one where you couldn’t comprehend the loss and had no one to blame, until you can prove a point. I grew up with friends from school and even neighbors however, as a teenager I started getting to take walks more often. This is when I made friends from all walks of life which led to me having a bigger worldly view. Random poor old men sharing their stories on life in the streets, and even kids my own age that didn’t have enough in their homes to eat a full meal. They were some of the happiest people I have ever met in my entire life. It was this happiness and constant joy they had that attracted me. Zimbabweans are funny people and boy did they make me laugh.

You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Pins by Phiri offers understated, yet distinctive heart shaped pins that integrate seamlessly into a contemporary wardrobe. The brooches go through an eco-friendly creation process where a portion of profits from their sales head to Oceana, an ocean conservancy trust that helps in cleaning up the toxicities off the coastlines and found in the oceans. This is all done in an effort to counter global warming. The bigger picture goal is to get a Gigafactory built in Zimbabwe where there is a problem of an inconsistent energy source so people go through times of no electricity and other basic human needs. One Gigafactory built here can then inclusively help many other neighboring countries, as one Gigafactory is capable of building up as an energy source for multiple countries. I want to increase the quality of life as a whole in Southern Africa, a lot of things we have here in New York and take for granted. I know names of people personally that sleep with no lights.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

My childhood consisted of me getting to know people from all walks of life. I grew a certain level of attachment to some of my less fortunate companions and felt saddened by their circumstances and my inability to be of any use in helping. These were some of the kindest and most happy people I have ever come across. Shocking, that the ones with less from a materialistic standpoint had more happiness in them than those I perceived to have it all. As much as my less fortunate friends did not have water, electricity, or even food at times. There millions of people just like them, the only reason why those millions may seem less significant to me or anyone else is simply because we haven’t exchanged names. Knowing ones’ name builds a certain level of empathy in all of us. Knowing that all it took for me to feel sorry for someone is just knowing their name made me make a promise to myself, that if I ever found myself having the ability to make a change then I would.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

At age 19 I came across a book titled the richest man in Babylon, it contained tales from the most successful men from the formerly most successful city. A concept titled, a part of all you earn is yours to keep. That is what led me to starting my first business. I had saved a 1/10th of all the money that came into my possession for an entire year. Then one day I was sitting at home, watching a show where the individual who was being interviewed was a successful entrepreneur. This guy was no more than three-years older than me, and as he sat there describing how life can change from simply just starting. I remember thinking to myself how I was just as capable as he was. All it takes is a little courage and staying with it through the hard times which tend to be inevitable. I lost all that money I had saved as the first business failed. What kept me going was how conscious I was of what it is I was trying to achieve.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

Reach out to the relevant companies that support your interests, you would be surprised by how quickly you can get a response. The world has become a very well-connected place and the hub for all information is right here, what you are reading this off of. I am grateful to have been born at such a time. There is an instructor for almost all that you wish to learn on things like YouTube. There are many ways to go about it but, this is the one I recommend. We cannot all go to the New York Real Estate Institute and get financially literate but, what we can do is sit down and watch a YouTube video on financial literacy.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I do not know if this will count for another person however. When I first started my business, I did not receive a sale until the third week. So, day after day, from when I first launched it I thought to myself ‘oh boy, this is it huh.’ My first try at something new and this is how I go out. While on the subway headed to see my now ex-girlfriend, my phone chimed and I could not even begin to describe the different emotions I went through. Relief and anxiety all at once. Relief from realizing I had started something that had actually succeeded, anxiety from not knowing if I would have to wait another 3 weeks to get another sale. I got my second sale 10 minutes later.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made in the beginning was, when I was marketing my first business online. I ran advertisements on social media but not very well. This was in the sense that they were targeted to people that visited the page instead of the audience I wanted to advertise to. So, I was spending money thinking I’m targeting a niche audience for a day or two. The only people seeing my ads were my friends, who I had just shown the website via having sent them a link. My advertisements were the only ads they were getting on their social media for 2 days. Picture 100 people seeing an ad on something they are not interested in back to back.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

As having been mentioned prior to being the person I was going to see when I got my first sale, I think it’s only fair to say at the beginning of it all my biggest cheerleader was my Ex-girlfriend. This is a crazy venture for a 20-year-old to have gone on but, if one person had nothing but faith in it succeeding it was her. No longer are we on good terms but I will forever be grateful for the support and encouragement she showed me. There were times where I wanted to quit as things got harder but, its tough to do so when someone has that much faith in your success.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

My cause does not help one single individual so if you were to ask me for one person’s name, I wouldn’t be able to give it to you. It is to help humanity in terms of dealing with climate change through ocean conservancy and Southern Africa, for what I intend on doing by getting a Gigafactory built in Zimbabwe.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes, there are many. In terms of what we are trying to do with Oceana, people just need to start being conscious of the fact, global warming can be stopped if we decrease the waste produced the services we provide. People understand this at the shallowest level and our leaders in charge should and can increase awareness. As for the Gigafactory mission for Southern Africa as a solution to energy source issues. It really shouldn’t be taking a 22 year old entrepreneur to know that our energy source issues can be solved by the Gigafactories. I see the cons to it as change like this leads to certain cooperations losing money and jobs becoming redundant. However, this is the price of growth and increasing the current quality of life. In the end it is all about the bigger picture. All one has to do to see it is to take a step away from the camera.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone had told me to accept help from others in the beginning. That was something I did not do as much as I should have in order to avoid going through some of the mistakes I made. If I had been in touch with other entrepreneurs, I would not have sold at a lower profit margin off the basis that cost of marketing was my main cost. Always anticipate multiple variable costs.

I wish someone had told me just how fast things can move once you get started. This does not always mean in a good way, just as quickly as things can get good, they can get bad when running a business. A good example from me is how COVID-19 shut down business when countries were on lockdown and I couldn’t get things where I needed them to go. If at all in good time. It’s tough to keep people happy when it’s taking forever for them to get their product.

I wish someone had told me to be patient when making business decisions. If someone tells you of a way to better ones’ business, it’s only natural that we rush to implement it. However, even though it may seem absolutely perfect always weigh the pros and cons. Do your research, people tend to lean towards telling us what we wish to hear.

I wish someone had told me to balance out my time most efficiently once running my business. There were days that went by where I wouldn’t eat simply because of how busy I was. This is no good as there is a time for everything, so always have your day pre-scheduled.

The last one is not something I had been told but something I wish for you to be told. If you have an interest in simply increasing your financial literacy, go and watch a video or two from this YouTube content creator — Graham Stephan.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

No one else is going to do it unless we do it. It’s easy and convenient to think someone else will do it but the truth is, no they won’t. We are the ones with the youth and years ahead of us, so who else is it supposed to be the one to do it if not us? I know it may seem impossible, everything does at first. Once you get that ball rolling, its way harder to get it to stop.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Breakfast or lunch with Elon Musk would lead to a big step in the right direction for the goals I have set. This is because Tesla builds the Gigafactories, no better person to get in touch with than the face of the company.

How can our readers follow you online?

They find me online via..

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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