Impact Chronicles

African Stories of Social Impact, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Lean Start-Up and Social Enterprises: Lessons from Tendayi Viki

The Lean Start-Up and Social Enterprises: Lessons from Tendayi Viki

Pivoting; Value Proposition; Iteration; and Innovation. These are only a few of the buzzwords that have become a permanent feature in the start-up sphere, and with good reason. One cannot discuss entrepreneurship in its many forms without alluding to the importance of lean processes and principles as well as the Business Model Canvas. These tools play a crucial role in articulating a company’s vision, goals, plans, and activities. Strategyzer has managed to develop a system that empowers entrepreneurs and enables them to create, visualize and ultimately test their business models in a simple manner. I spoke to Innovation Consultant and renowned author, Tendayi Viki who is also an Associate Partner at Strategyzer and he demystified the Lean Startup methodology and its role in building successful businesses. Here’s what I learned:

Lean startup is an approach to building new businesses based on the belief that entrepreneurs must investigate, experiment, test, and iterate as they develop products”

The Value
Proposition is the Cornerstone

When you’re creating something, whether its a business or your career, the cornerstone of it is the value you’re creating so your Value Proposition is the heart of everything. If you look at the Business Model Canvas, The Value Proposition is the central block and everything else is organized around it. Regardless of what you’re doing, you have to be really thinking about the value that you’re creating for customers, society, family, etc.

Utilise the Business Model Canvas

Think about the customer first, who are they and what value are you creating for them? So do the Customer Segment block followed by the Value Proposition block. Once the two central blocks are in place, you can move on to Channels and Customer Relationships which all come into play when you ask yourself: how do we reach our customers and what relationships do we want to have with them? How do we create value? What activities do we want to do? Who are the partners that are going to help us create value? What resources do we need? How much will it cost? And how much will the customer pay?

Test your ideas

The goal is to find out whether you have a business early. Test your ideas, validate your business model with customers, and then scale. The Build-Measure-Learn-Feedback loop helps you scale in a systematic way that helps you learn. So if you’re thinking customers are going to pay $12.99. Instead of ordering 10,000 products, you order 10 products and then you test whether a customer will pay $12.99. When you have validated that they pay $12.99, you can then order 50 products and then you test again. Its a rhythm for building a business. The goal is not to find out that you don’t have a business after you’ve spent too much money.

Context is key

You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole

The Lean Start-Up is based on the notion that you can’t assume that something that has worked for somebody else will work for you. You have to figure out what works in whatever context your business operates. You have to go to the context, start small and test your hypothesis in order to build a model suitable for your context. 

The magic usually lies in the pivot

If you look at the history of most of the successful companies in the world, all of them did not become successful at the thing they started out working on. They have an idea in their head and then they go out in the world and figure out what works around that idea.

Tendayi’s parting advice to social entrepreneurs is invaluable,

“The fact that your business is social doesn’t mean it won’t fail. It feels good to say you have a social enterprise and you’re doing something to help people, but if your business side is not solid, you’re not going to be able to help anyone. So it really matters that social entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs and not just social.”

At the core, a social enterprise is a business and it needs to focus on the bottom-line. It is really important for entrepreneurs to operate and formulate strategies with sustainability, impact and scaling in mind.

To find out more about Tendayi’s work and purchase his material visit I also suggest you read Eric Reis’ insightful Book The Lean StartUp as well as Business Model Generation and Business Model You by Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur and Tim Clark.

Be sure to listen to my full interview with Tendayi below for more nuggets on the Lean Startup principles:


Jocelyn is a Digital Storyteller who believes that the fusion of Social Impact Storytelling and Business Development is the key to the growth and sustainability of the social enterprise sector in Africa. Through her organization, Impact Chronicles, Jocelyn empowers African social enterprises and amplifies the message of Impact and Innovation to audiences the world over. She envisions the continent’s Changemakers thriving through collaboration and opportunities facilitated by Impact Chronicles

21 thoughts on “The Lean Start-Up and Social Enterprises: Lessons from Tendayi Viki

  1. Insightful post. I think what trumps a lot of business ideas is the lack of patience to craft value proposition design, to begin with. if we do then we expect someone else’s story to be ours. No context for sure, so great point you guys shared. Vanity metrics are making money for some social entrepreneurs though, especially when dealing with large corporates. Do you agree?

    1. Amazing feedback there Innocent. Once we understand that our journies are different and stories too, Entrepreneurs will certainly experience more success. Relying on vanity metrics undermines the success of any social enterprise because inflated numbers and exaggerated insights will ultimately expose the lack of impact one is actually making which I think really defeats the purpose of being a social business in the first place. Reality will eventually hit you like a ton of bricks!

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