Lessons Learned Out of Africa: Supporting the Entrepreneur’s Journey — Lisa Spadafora Thompson

Point of View
4 min readFeb 6, 2024

Many people in the corporate world are leaving behind salaried jobs and the 9 to 5 lifestyle to pursue an entrepreneurial path. With ongoing advancements in technology, the prospect of becoming an entrepreneur seems more attainable than ever before. What does it take to succeed?

We’re in conversation with Lisa Spadafora Thompson — growth architect and advocate for entrepreneurs worldwide — to gauge the forecast for today’s aspiring entrepreneurs.

Lisa, you have a robust history of supporting entrepreneurs in the U.S. and abroad. What sparked your interest in helping start-up businesses?

My passion for helping entrepreneurs springs from a desire early in my life to start my own business. That goal led me in the mid-‘90s to pursue an MBA at a college in the Boston area, Babson — for three decades, ranked no. 1 in the country for entrepreneurship. At the midway point of my studies, I wasn’t sure what kind of business I wanted to launch or what world problem I wanted to solve, so I did the next best thing. I found an entrepreneurial consulting firm, Strategic Pricing Group, where I could work with clients across industries on pricing and competitive strategies to help grow their businesses. I leveraged that experience into 13 years of service with global consulting leader Deloitte before starting my own company, Sturbridge Growth Partners, in 2017.

As my business grew, so did my insights about growth, and I was inspired to pass them on to others with a similar entrepreneurial passion. Along with the clients I advise through my firm, I’ve provided pro bono guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs on everything from strategy to pricing and getting funding.

Your quest led you to expand your entrepreneurial audience from the U.S. to Africa. How did you end up bridging to another continent? What have you learned from this experience?

In 2022, a friend with whom I was serving on a nonprofit board asked me if I wanted to attend a conference in South Africa with a group called Harambe (www.harambeans.com). Harambe is an ecosystem of 300+ entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors across the continent of Africa. It supports leaders who are seeking to solve some of the most pressing problems the continent faces — from addressing youth unemployment and building job skills to ensuring access to credit for all people.

Harambe has been the perfect opportunity to help more entrepreneurs and to contribute to the growth of the African economy. It’s taught me so much about how different governments work and about the challenges of growing a business in Africa versus growing one in the U.S. Despite incredible odds, these amazing African entrepreneurs are thriving in ways that those of us in more industrialized nations couldn’t even fathom. They call me an advisor but truly, they are my teachers.

Can you offer us an example of some of the African entrepreneurs you’ve worked with?

Sure. One entrepreneurial venture is Zindi. Based in South Africa, it’s a social enterprise platform of more than 50,000 data scientists from all over the African continent. Funded by private investors, Zindi connects professionals with organizations looking for top-tier data science talent and solutions. It works with international leaders, like IBM and Microsoft, as well as government organizations, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, and serves as a model for leveraging talent in emerging economies around the world.

Another entrepreneurial company that’s making a significant difference is Lipa Later. It’s a Kenya-based “buy now, pay later” fintech platform that offers consumer credit, working capital, and e-commerce solutions for merchants. Using the platform, people can do the simple things we take for granted in the U.S. The average Kenyan or Nigerian, for example, doesn’t have the cash or a credit card to buy an iPhone. Lipa helps them get access to credit to buy items they need for everyday use — and extends credit to merchants to grow their businesses.

What does the future hold for your entrepreneurial endeavors?

One of my greatest passions is to help end poverty and homelessness. I plan to start a business, most likely a benefit corporation, designed to eradicate homelessness in my home state, Massachusetts. The premise is helping people who live at the poverty level or just above it to own their own home — the key to providing stability and enabling lives to change for the better. I think, too, the benefit corporation model, as opposed to a nonprofit structure, can reinforce that business can earn a profit and make a positive impact on society. When the plan for this new business takes off, I hope it can eventually serve as a model for use in communities nationwide.

Your story is an inspiring one, Lisa. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Lisa Spadafora Thompson is a pricing and profitable growth expert with an entrepreneurial mindset. Through her company, Sturbridge Growth Partners, she delivers highly customized, actionable solutions, helping companies break down self-created barriers that keep them from growing profitably. The result is viable pricing strategies and win-win deals that consistently exceed revenue and profit goals.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

--

--

Point of View

A point of view is the angle of considering things. It’s a platform for people with a vision and a story to tell.