"You really don't need to wait to get started. You don't need to wait until you have all your resources nicely lined up. Just start with whatever you have in front of you, even if it's messy or scrappy or it's rough around the edges-quite literally. Just start and you can build something pretty amazing," Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley has said.

Which sounds like a nice sentiment, but one that maybe to some ears, seems a little overly optimistic. Sure, you don't need millions of dollars or an MBA to start a business, but you do need some valuable raw materials, a little capital, a bit of know-how, right?

If you think you lack these essential basic ingredients, then a recent TED talk from Nigerian entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba might be the perfect remedy for your pessimism. In the seven-minute talk the computer scientist-turned-entrepreneur tells the tale of how she built a business out of something that at first appeared utterly useless -- a noxious, invasive weed.

Turning dandelions into dollars

Water hyacinth, she explains, is a species of aquatic plant with violet flowers. It looks attractive, but this invasive weed is actually horribly destructive to the communities along the rivers where it grows in thick mats. The plant keeps fisherman from reaching the fish and students and others from traveling on weed-choked waterways. It may look pretty, but it's actually devastating to a whole way of life.

Water hyacinth at first appears to be an utterly worthless invader, something that just needs to be ripped out and thrown away. But Idachaba had others ideas. Typifying Jackley's advice, she started her entrepreneurial journey with what she had at hand, and in her case that was piles and piles of this nasty weed.

Where others saw a pest, Idachaba saw an opportunity. Traveling to the northern part of the country she found experts who could teach her to turn dried water hyacinth stems into long, tough rope. Armed with this material, she traveled back to the riverside communities hurting from the plant's spread and taught local crafts people how to weave water hyacinth rope into everything from baskets to tissue box holders.

What was once these communities' biggest problem became a valuable resource and the basis for a thriving business. It's a cheerful story of vision and persistence, but also a perfect illustration of Jackley's dictum that would-be entrepreneurs should just start with whatever they have on hand -- even if it's a giant pile of weeds.

Check out the complete video below for more details -- and more inspiration.

 

Are you waiting for the right raw materials when you should really just get started with what you have to hand now?

Published on: Feb 5, 2016