4 Important Things that Start-Up Entrepreneurs need to always remember

I haven’t been posting consistently on this blog lately (I have decided to break the silence – and follow my own advice ^_^)

I was inspired to blog due to an interview I was invited to during the week of the GE Summit for a radio program called The Conversation for The BBC World Service. I was proud to be part of such an inspiring program and I met a lovely lady who was also guesting on the program; she is a co-founder of Closet 49, Serah Kanyua.

Our lovely hostess; Presenter Kim Chakanetsa, asked us several questions. One that really stood out for me and I thought was very important (enough to warrant a blog post ^_^) was: ” What do you think are the top tips for aspiring business women and men out there?” I will share my four top important tips for those who want to be or are starting out businesses.

1. Planning

Make sure before you start your business to plan ahead; make a business plan, including your start-up budget. Make an action list of what you need to do in order to get started properly. It’s also important to plan all other aspects of your life; if you’re an employee quitting a job to start a business, your personal life will change as well. Depending on what you were doing before starting your business, you need to adjust your life accordingly in order to focus completely on your business venture.

It's very important!

It’s very important!

2. Research

While you’re in the planning process for your business start-up, you also need to do a lot of research. It is imperative for your business’ success to conduct research on your business industry, your target customers, business location, whether your product or service is viable in the market and many other important aspects of your start-up. The reason it’s very important to conduct research is to reduce your business’ chance of failure. When you research thoroughly and plan properly; you have knowledge and insight that will increase your chance of success.

3. Mentorship

At any phase of starting up your business; whether it is during planning and research, after starting your business or during your entrepreneural journey – I think it’s important to have a mentor (or if you’re lucky, mentors). Mentors can be different types of people who help you gain insight into entrepreneurship. They can be individuals in your industry who guide you in the right direction while doing business; they can even be your customers or family members who also own businesses or among other individuals who offer insight and positive guidance to help improve your life. Mentors can help you “fail fast” as an entrepreneur – or at least help you avoid some business failures that slow down your business’ success. I can personally attest to the importance of having a mentor in your life as a start-up entrepreneur.

Get your own Yoda ^_^To guide you on the right path

Get your own Yoda ^_^To guide you on the right path

4. Self-Motivation

I said it on the interview and I will say it again – sometimes you don’t have someone to give you a pep talk; or to support you and inspire you daily. You have to wake up everyday and motivate yourself; you need to get up and tell yourself that you’re going to make it. You should be able to find various ways of getting inspiration to keep going; especially on those tough and challenging days. Whether it’s your favorite inspirational music, quotes that motivate you to do better or just an amazing pep talk to get you revved up for the day. Find your motivation daily, from within – then go out there and succeed!

Motivate yourself to succeed

Motivate yourself to succeed (Image Credit: BusinessDailyAfrica)

I hope those four business tips have helped you, especially if you’re planning on starting your own business soon. Make sure you are prepared before starting your venture (or as prepared as you can be).

Do you have any other important business tips to any aspiring start-up entrepreneurs you would love to share? Please do so below on the comment box – feedback is always appreciated ^_^

Don’t forget to share this awesome post with your friends – I bet they’ll thank you for it ^_^

7 Important Lessons My Mentor Has Taught Me In Four Months

I recently agreed to take up a consulting job for an upcoming conference center. One of the main reasons why I decided to do so; is that there is a business lady I wanted to work with. She is a business woman based in Nyeri; however she does business all over Kenya – her name is Irene.
I am humbled to have her as my mentor-ess (^_^). It’s amazing how much you can learn from someone who has a vast amount of knowledge and wisdom in a short period of time. I’m constantly learning a lot from her and I’m glad I chose this opportunity to do so. I never knew how important it is to have a mentor, especially if you’re a start-up entrepreneur.
Here are a few important things I’ve learned from her in such a short time; that will help any entrepreneur(s) out there.
1. Create more than one stream of revenue.
When you work on your start-up and it stabilizes; create another income generating project and if possible, another. This will guarantee when you have lows in the economy – especially in some industries, you’ll have a kind of cushion when it comes to the revenue you’re collecting. If possible, ensure that the income generating projects are in different industries. An example of how my mentor does that is by having a business in the hotel industry, one in the road construction industry and another as a wholesale distributor of goods to institutions and large organizations.
2. Be tough and authoritative
If you are a start-up entrepreneur; you will wear many hats, especially the one of a manager. You will have to make tough decisions especially when it comes to your employees. As important as it is to work with your employees and get to know them; you are still the boss. If there are difficult issues to be addressed; no matter how hard it is, you should address them. If you have employees who are likable but are not working well, make sure to address the issues at hand. They may not like it; and you may not either, but you have to do it. If you are a manager in an organization; some changes may be necessary to make, they may not please everyone – but you are the boss, so they will have to follow suit. Don’t be timid in your directions, be authoritative.
3. Have your own unique personal style
Don’t be afraid to dress the part as a start-up entrepreneur; dress accordingly. If you’re in a corporate setting; dress professionally and according to the industry setting. You can dress more casually if you’re industry calls for it; or if you are in the fashion industry – ‘dress to kill.’ Make sure you dress comfortably and appropriately. Select outfits that give you confidence and make the right impression. If you’re as brave and confident as my mentor, feel free to dress in bold colors such as yellow and red ^_^. They make a statement and your look exudes confidence as well.

Even Beyonce knows how to rock a pant suit ^_^

Even Beyonce knows how to rock a pant suit ^_^

4. Be generous: give and you shall receive
Most start-up entrepreneurs I’ve met and even heard about have big hearts; therefore it’s not hard for most of them to follow this advice. Give in any way that you can, it doesn’t have to be money, give your time to people in different ways. You can teach people a skill you know and want to help them empower themselves. You can share information about a certain topic that will help many people who have similar passion or interests but don’t know as much as you do (a great way to do this is starting a blog that offers information on a certain topic e.g. baking, saving energy using jikos, etc.). You can join a group of people who help others e.g. a church, youth or common interest group. You can volunteer your time or services to an NGO that helps people. There are many ways to give back to the community. Choose one way and start giving; you’ll be blessed in return.

Be Generous

Be Generous

5. Network – network like a fiend!
One thing I’ve noticed with Irene is that she knows a lot of people in many different industries and walks of life. She is a great connector and is always meeting different people as well as introducing me to different people as well. At first it seemed to me like a talent you have to be born with due to how easy it was for her. She has however taught me to be constantly on the look-out for experts in different fields, entrepreneurs who can help by offering great products and/or services. As well as just meeting people in order to enrich your life; spiritually, mentally or business-wise. I have realized you can gain insight on many topics and industries from certain people even at one sitting. I have gotten better at networking and even though I have a long way to go; with more practice it will come naturally to me in time. Ensure you do the same everywhere you go. If you identify great entrepreneurs and individuals who seem to have insight into specific things, get to know them. Connect with them, ask questions and if possible; keep in touch. You will grow exponentially when you learn how to network.

Connect with insightful individuals

Connect with insightful individuals

6. Have faith; in God and in yourself
I am a Christian and I have a very strong faith. Whatever religion you are, make sure you have a strong belief in your faith; it will keep you strong especially through the tough times (and they are many!) You should also make sure you believe in yourself and abilities. As start-up entrepreneurs; sometimes we often feel overwhelmed by some projects and we can start doubting our skills and abilities at times. It’s necessary to be self-motivated as an entrepreneur. Believe in your idea or passion in the same way you take breath every moment of your life. Have faith in your skills and ability to grow and keep learning. My mentor is the kind of person who encounters challenges in life and doesn’t seem affected by them at all. She always finds a way out or around any issue and believes they is always a solution. She has the utmost confidence in herself and her ability as a business woman; to me that is truly inspirational.
7. You can be a successful entrepreneuress and have a happy family life
In this day and age; many marriages don’t last and families are constantly breaking apart. A large reason is mainly due to the spouses being too busy to nourish their family life and work on their relationships in order for the marriages to work. A lot of start-up entrepreneurs (especially women) find it difficult to run a business and have a successful family life. It is not an impossible thing; one just has to work hard at the relationship and work as partners with your spouse. Many great business women have shown great examples of how it’s possible; my mentor is no different. She has a successful family life and maintains a good balance of business and family most of the time. She shares that it’s not a perfect life but she knows when to give her time to her family and when to focus on business – that is the key. Create time to nurture and grow your personal and family relationships even as you do business. It’s very important in life and especially when you need moral support. It’s very inspiring for me to see up-close how achievable it is (I won’t lie, I was skeptic before ^_^).
I hope these bits of advice will help you out as an entrepreneur; I know they’ve helped me a lot. You don’t necessarily have to go out and find a mentor; but it’s advisable to have one. You can even choose someone who inspires you and read about them; learn from their actions (and even mistakes) and if possible – connect with them.
Do you have a mentor, or just someone who inspires you, challenges you to be better and gives you guidance? Feel free to share any piece of advice you’ve learned from him/her below. Thanks!
If you found this post helpful, make sure to spread the love by sharing with your friends ^_^

Interview with Pauline Twala of Affordable Eats, Kisumu

I’ve recently been meeting great people and also connecting with amazing people online. I’ve decided to start a segment where I’ll be sharing some interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs who have built a successful business or are in the process of doing so. I will have them share their insight on what they do and a bit of entrepreneurial advice for all of us start up entrepreneurs out there.

Pauline Twala of Affordable Eats

Pauline Twala of Affordable Eats

I recently connected online with an amazing lady (we bakers gravitate towards each other ^_^) called Pauline Twala; she’s the owner of Affordable Eats – Kisumu’s Boutique Catering. Affordable Eats is a catering business that serves events as well as a bakery that makes cakes for occasions and weddings. Pauline is also a baking instructor who teaches students how to bake and decorate amazing cake creations in Kisumu. Pauline is not originally a pastry chef or culinary artist; she has a background of political science and public administration. She is however a self-taught baker and cake decorator who followed her passion and started her own business about two years ago in Kisumu. To learn more about her story, please click on this link.

Pauline in the Daily Nation - she's the next big thing!

Pauline in the Daily Nation – she’s the next big thing!

Here is our online interview; very insightful responses.

1.) Why did you start a business? Why in this industry?

My passion for baking and cooking developed when I was very young. I remember I was a member of the cooking club back when I was in St.Georges’ Primary School – Nairobi at the age of 9 and I’d always go back home to try out recipes we had learnt. Then life took over I did a degree in Political Science and Public Administration at Moi University. I have worked as a market researcher and an office administrator with a number of organizations but I just couldn’t settle and felt so unfulfilled. After my contract ended with Italian Embassy – development co-operation in December 2011, I thought it was about time I change careers and do something that I enjoyed doing.Initially when I started in 2012, my main focus was outside catering but the demand for catering services tends to fluctuate primarily because catering services reach peak demand for special occasions i.e. wedding and end year corporate parties. I later added the cake section in the same year in response to market demands and after a lot of research. You don’t need an occasion to celebrate cake and it was the best decision I made. I have fallen in love more with cakes as I really love the creative elements of cake designing.

 2.) What’s your niche in your business? What problem do you solve?

A niche is basically “find a hole and fill it” So the hole I fill is creating a cake that tells a story as well as push limits with cake and create things that look so real that someone may have to ask “is that cake”

3.) How do you market your business? Is it effective?

I figured early online the importance of having an online presence and took a DIY approach to build my website as well as a Facebook page to grow the business and drive customer growth and this has greatly opened doors for us not only with clients but with media coverage as well.

 4.) What is your motivation? How do you get inspired?

Cakes make people smile. I get delighted when I make others excited with unbelievable cakes and it keeps me motivated to get better at what am doing.

5.) Favorite inspirational quote?

My favourite quote and one that I also live by is “Never give up” This quote has kept me going. I am where I am right now because I believe in my dreams and I am inspired to make them a reality. God has blessed me with a talent so I will be acting ungrateful if I didn’t use it. So sometimes when things get hard and I want to stop, I remind myself that He would not have given it to me if I could not bear it so “never give up”

6.) What is your morning routine? When do you wake up?

Every day is different and since I’m a “night owl” my mornings do not all begin at the same time. However currently am in between routines, trying to come up with something I could fit in an hour or less that still has all the elements that nourish me on the physical, mental and emotional level.

7.) How do you de-stress? Relieve business stress?

In no apparent order: I take deep breaths, take a walk, listen to my favourite music and sing it out loud, laugh out loud, watch a movie, call a friend or family to vent out if need be

8.) Top 3 favorite websites? and why?

I bookmark any site that has great decorating advice and tutorials as well as forums to connect with others to talk about baking and decorating

9.) Any advice for any youth who have started a business in Kenya & facing challenges?

I would just say this – if you have the desire and inspiration and eagerness then do it and never despair the rest will happen along the way. There are many people out there who will tell you that you can’t. What you’ve got to do is turn around and say ‘Watch me.’”  It is also so important that you have fun and treat it as a joyful experience. Also make sure you have a good support system around you, whether it be a spouse, family or friends.

10.) Your current favorite song?

I have loved still love and will always love “so close I believe” by Hillsong this song is so inspirational and will get me into tears just being amazed at God’s faithfulness.

11.) What’s the best part of your business? Worst/Annoying part?

My highlights: Firstly it’s finding myself through this journey of cakes. Now I can’t imagine my life without Affordable Eats. I live it, talk about it and most times bake and decorate cakes in my dreams. Secondly without a doubt, seeing the smiles on my client’s face, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. When they take the time to write feedback and say thank you for the inspiration or for a great cake. That for me is the most rewarding feeling. The same applies to my students whom I teach cake baking and decorating it’s so nice to see a student’s face when they realize they can and giving them skills at a shot at making it a career…Lastly I have made so many virtual friends through Affordable Eats although I’ve never met them in real life, I do consider them friends, bound by a common interest. It’s Amazing the kind of support I have received from fellow “cakers”! Who knew cake could do that?!

For challenges: Firstly there’s no universal cake language – you can refrigerate fondant covered cake/you cannot refrigerate fondant covered cake, fondant should be used up immediately it’s made/fondant should rest at least 8 hours or overnight before use, you should use straws to dowel/only use wooden dowels………….it’s a long list of this is the way/that is not the way. Secondly the time investment can be pretty tough and I mean REALLY TOUGH. Most of the cakes take 20 to 30 hours each.  I’ve had some that took more than 50 hours and all this in between meeting clients, making deliveries, book keeping, social media marketing and advertising, answering calls and emails, classes etc. It’s physically demanding. Cake decorators are really a special breed – to make cakes we can stay up until wee hours of the morning and then still manage to function during the day, as if we were sleeping well all night long.

12.) Who are your key influences/ role models?

You can learn so many things from so many people around you but my favourite role model has to be my late mother. No word can encompass her but she was simply the best

13.) Five words that describe you?

Determined, Fighter,Spontaneous,Generous,Reliable

14.) How do you deal with financial crisis in your business? or any other crisis?

By taking actions that will cut on spending as much as possible and focusing on increasing cash flow or generating more income and saving that income even if it means extra hours.

Amazing cake by Affordable Eats.

Amazing cake by Affordable Eats.

Great interview! Amazing Kenyan female entrepreneur to watch out for, I wish her all the best!

Make sure you check out her business website as well as her Facebook page for Affordable Eats – Kisumu’s Boutique Catering. If you’re in Kisumu please order some cake for any occasion as well as catering services ^_^

The Secret to winning..

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.

Wilma Rudolph