Claudia Kwarteng-Lumor (Glitz Africa Magazine), Safoa Amoako-Gyimah (Sa4a Designs), Linda Abena Annan (Obaasema Media Limited) and Kuorkor Dzani (Twists & Locks) brought their startup highs and lows to our first Young, Fabulous, & Savvy event. They shared their experiences and wisdom accumulated over their years of being in business and discussed some common challenges facing women entrepreneurs. Here are some of the lessons we took home:
You Can Start Your Business Right Where You Are:
Indeed you can! When starting your business, it is vital to start small. Don’t get ahead of yourself by investing in a long list of infrastructure such as office space, furniture, equipment or even a warehouse, before you start. In spite of the common misconceptions of getting these things in place in order to appear professional in business, our panelists recommended starting your business from right where you are. That it is essential to work with whatever is available to you from the very onset since you cannot wait for perfectly favorable conditions under which to start your business.
They stated that the dot com era has made the process of getting your business off the ground so easy that sometimes, all you really require are your business idea, your computer and internet access, period! It is therefore rather unnecessary as a start-up to concentrate your efforts on acquiring infrastructure first before your business operation actually begins. It was a unanimous fact that all the panelists began their businesses at home, and worked on them until they were able to rent their own offices in various parts of the city. Abena, for instance, shared how she started her business from her mother’s dining room table, and then found a small space which she turned into a temporary office later. Kuorkor also mentioned how she borrowed supplies from her home until she was able to invest in purchasing her own equipment.
Think Smart Financially:
The unfortunate lack of financial capital was identified as a major factor in preventing most potential entrepreneurs from starting their own businesses. For the many audience members who were concerned about their ability to make that financial leap, the panel encouraged that entrepreneurs not resort to acquiring huge amounts of debt before starting out. Different businesses require different capital. Some businesses do not require any money at all to start. Some, on the other hand, do. It is essential to think of smart ways to lease equipment or partner with other people who are capable of providing what you’re looking for in exchange for a small stake in your business, instead of diving headlong into debt before your business even takes off.
They emphasized that debt was not the right way to start a business and very often, businesses that start on such note fail miserably shortly after acquiring that debt. They encouraged the option of rather seeking financial help from family, close friends and angel investors to back your own savings to use as business capital.
However, should you decide to take loans from banks or financial institutions, it is prudent to have a short-term repayment plan that allows you to pay back your debts quickly to avoid accumulating high interests that may eventually kill your business.
Test The Waters First Before You Take The Plunge:
This was a highly recommended exercise by the panel. From their personal experiences, they learned that getting to know and understand the industry or market that you’re entering beforehand is vital to the success of your business. They suggested talking to as many industry people as possible, i.e. business owners, suppliers, investors, employees, customers, etc. to learn from their experiences and find out the loopholes within the industry in order create a niche for yourself with your own product or service offering. This, they said, will save you a lot of headache once you start your own business.
Learn Everything You Need To Know About Your Business Very Well:
To survive in business, you must learn to not be dependent on others for the things you need. Safoa reiterated that, “Your business is your baby and nobody can take care of it better than you!” You also cannot hope for the excellence you want in your business by totally entrusting it to another person. To be able to succeed, you have to really know your business from start to finish, how it operates and how it relates to your consumers. For example, if you are a designer, in addition to simply designing your stuff, you have to learn the skill of creating your products, marketing and distributing them, including all the details in between. This will ensure your survival against many of the numerous uncertainties that surrounds start-ups such as fickle employee attitudes and occasionally unreliable suppliers. Knowledge and skill about your own business will also help increase your credibility in the marketplace.
The night ended with an interactive session where audience members were given the opportunity to mingle with these industry professionals over refreshments. It was a fun, insightful and educational event that left attendees eager to sign up for membership to take advantage of more of such opportunities. Watch out and sign up for The Savvy Madam’s next exclusive event, you do not want to miss it!
Photo Credit: ITake Photos Est 1985
About the Author: Francesca Andoh is a style and career writer for The Savvy Madam. You can read more from her at http://francescaandoh.blogspot.com.