The journey into self-employment is often frustrated by rejection and start-up entrepreneurs have to prepare themselves to handle its surprises to sustain their enthusiasm and entrepreneurial momentum.

Near-success syndrome

Marina was happy when she got the certificate of incorporation for her start-up venture from the Corporate Affairs Commission and happier when she got a phone call after three months from her first client that she had been awarded a contract.

She approached her bankers to raise local purchase order for the contract. The manager assured her that she should be done within one week. Weeks crawled into months.

After waiting for four months, she decided to ask her family members for help. The feedback she got was not only discouraging but sexist. They advised her to go and get a paid employment because women should not work so hard. Shell-shocked and heart-broken, Marina quit the start-up.

Philip had spent six months working hard for the inauguration of the maiden edition of his youth empowerment magazine. Everything had worked according to plan until he met the event's venue manager on the eve of the programme.

The manager was caustic in attitude and dismissed his reservation without remorse. Their meeting ended abruptly and Philip was bullied into getting a refund for his aborted reservation in favour of a high fee-paying customer.

Philip was shaken by this experience. He was not prepared for the surprise. The investment in invitation cards and logistics was doomed and twenty-four hours were practically impossible to reschedule or arrange another venue.

Psychology of rejection

Nine out of 10 start-up entrepreneurs encounter rejection. Their ideas, plans, proposals, products or services are turned down and dismissed as inadequate and unacceptable. More often than not, this experience embarrasses, destabilises and knocks them out of balance from which some never fully recover.

The Publisher of Peak Pathway magazine, Peter Odofin, said rejection is part of the experiences that new businesses will face.

When asked to describe his experience, a start-up fashion entrepreneur, Ladesope Ladelokun, said "I simply knock on 10 doors for every one door shut against me."

The storyline is universal and the script is commonplace. Rejection comes when start-up entrepreneurs attempt to push their ideas, raise funds, convince good hires to join their team, generate new clienteles or sell their products.

People often greet new ventures and entrepreneurial enthusiasm with doubts, hesitations, disbelief and scepticism. Every start-up entrepreneur in emerging and developed markets in different climes will experience rejection.

Rejection may create illusion and doubt in the mind of start-up entrepreneurs. They begin to question their capabilities to the extent that some quit their ventures. However, they should not take rejection personal. They should not feel bad when they are rejected. It is normal for the market to react with caution to new market entrants. But, once they are persuaded about the value propositions, they warm up and embrace the new entrants.

In start-ups, rejection does not mean finality of patronage refusal. It is market's initial rejection to new market entrants. When a start-up entrepreneur is rejected by the target market, investors, bankers, customers, friends or associates, despondency is not the best response.

Rejection could mean 'we do not know or trust your product yet, try again', 'we are not convinced your product can offer what you promise, show us more proof' or 'we can't see value in your presentation, go back and do your homework.'

It is the possibility of rejection to proposals that makes the entrepreneurs to possess tenacity, perseverance and patience as attributes for start-ups. Everything in the market grows, and every good enterprise needs time to prove its value proposition in the market.

Handling rejection well

The Executive Secretary of Knowledge Exchange Centre in Lekki, Maria Glover, advised start-up entrepreneurs not to get discouraged because they have been rejected. Rather, they should know why they are in business and focus on it.

He said, "They must understand that rejection is to be expected. It is okay to feel hurt and bad from a rejection. If they need to cry, they should because it brings healing. After mourning period is over, they should write down lessons and move to the next project.

"As young entrepreneurs, they would need to earn the respect and trust of others. It comes at a price and they must be willing to pay. Till then, they must have a positive attitude towards rejection."

Odofin said start-up entrepreneurs should learn to free their minds by not holding anything against anybody. They should avoid blaming anybody when people keep rejecting them. They should go back to review their business plans and make adjustments where necessary.

He said they should get mentors to help them navigate the deep waters of doing business. They should cultivate reading habits, particularly autobiographies and biographies of successful people.
The Chief Executive Officer of Edible Pen Training and Development, Fola-Daniel Adelesi, advised start-up entrepreneurs to remain committed to their business ideals and shun compromise in service offerings. He cautioned against the pressure to cut corners but insist on quality until they make a breakthrough in the market.