5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Starting A Small Business

These days starting a small business has become an acceptable alternative to getting a job and being employed. It almost seems like a trend – being a start-up entrepreneur. I’m personally glad to see that more individuals in Kenya are looking at other options of generating income in their lives, other than getting employed, not because it is a bad thing, but mainly because for some people – it’s very difficult to find a job. It is important to note though that starting a small business, especially in Kenya, is not for the faint-hearted. It is very good to be honest with yourself on whether you are ready to take on the challenge of being a start-up entrepreneur.

There are at least five questions that I think you should ask yourself before taking the step to starting a small business of your own. This will not only put the reality of owning a small business in Kenya in perspective for you, but it will also help you get very honest with yourself on the journey ahead.

Am I cut out to be a business owner?

Being a business owner means a lot of things and you need to be prepared for it. First, you have to be able to persevere tough times that may seem to last for a long period, this could be having cash shortages or cash flow issues – constantly. Can you be able to not only handle the stress of those issues, but also find solutions to your cash flow challenges in order to progress? The other thing you have to be aware of is a lifestyle change; you have to realize that as a small business owner, you will wear many hats. You will be an accountant, secretary, sales and marketing personnel, etc. This will mean sacrificing your social life in some way; if you’re friends go out every weekend – you won’t be able to do the same since you’ll be busy building your business. You will sleep late and wake up early more often. If you are married and/or have children; you have to look at your life and see what you can plan early and do; how to make time for your family, as well as time for your business.  You have to know that you will have to adjust your life drastically and be willing to be flexible as well. The other important thing to know is how to manage stress levels. You will encounter challenges often and you will be forced to make tough decisions as well; can you be able to handle that stress without breaking down? As a start-up entrepreneur; you have to find different ways of managing your stress levels in order to keep going.

Talking baking for business while eating cake

As a business owner: I’m not only doing the practical work, I’m also a marketer for my own business as well ^_^

Do I have the skills required to run the business?

This is a question that is very important for anyone about to start a small business. This will depend on the type of business you have decided to start. Most people start businesses based on the skills they have e.g. a baker will start a small baking business, an accountant will start an accounting firm, etc. Make sure to sit down and write all the skills required in the business for it to run well, then evaluate yourself and see if you have any of those skills required. For the skills you don’t have; you have to find a way to ensure they are available in order for your business to run properly. This means that you either have to outsource those skills, hire a person or even learn the skill yourself. In this day and age; you can also get software that can assist you in certain aspects of your business e.g. accounting and inventory management (e.g. Quickbooks Accounting Software), you can also visit other sites that can help you with the skills to run your business e.g. photo editing, marketing, customer service, etc. Just to mention a few skills that you might require for business; people skills (in order to persuade potential clients to buy your products or services, practical skills pertaining to your business (e.g. baking if starting a bakery, photography skills if you will start a photo studio, etc.), book-keeping and accounting skills (these are good to learn even if you don’t have them – it’s necessary to be aware of your financial position at all times), marketing skills – this is important to learn as well, even as you think of getting someone to assist with marketing your business. Learn how to also do it yourself since you will be the most passionate person about the business since it’s yours. You can find many resources and tips online on different skills you require that you can learn from.

Bakerette Faith garnishin black forrest cake - Amari Baking classes

If you want to start a bakery; make sure you have the baking skill, if not, take some baking classes

Do I have the funds to start my business and if not, can I be able to fund-raise?

You truly have to get very honest with yourself about this question; do you have enough money to get started? The best thing is to sit down and find out how much you will need to get started, you can do this while writing your business plan. In the financial part; have a detailed budget on all you need to actually set up your business and get started. You also need to know how much working capital you’ll need at least for the first 3 months – this is money that will be used for monthly expenses, etc. Once you find that out; you’ll have a clear picture of the total amount of money you require. Check your finances at that time and see if you have that amount; if you don’t, don’t worry – you can make a plan on how to get that money to get started. Come up with several ideas of how you can come up with the money and write them down; if they’re individuals you need to approach, write down their names, if you can be able to save for a period of time, etc. Once you have a list; make a plan on when to fund-raise from each source. For example; maybe you need a total of Kshs. 500,000 (Starting-250K & Working capital-250K) and you have found that you only have Kshs. 20,000, you can decide that within 6 months – you can save Kshs. 120,000.  You can choose to save per month and keep the money or once you get the money at the end of the month – you can purchase a particular item, equipment, etc – required in your business. That means that within 6 months; you’ll have Kshs. 140,000. You may have identified a family member who can lend you Kshs. 110,000 within those 6 months to get started. That means that you can actually start your business after those 6 months. For the working capital; you can also look for 2 or 3 sources to fund-raise from. Example; you can find a friend or another family member who can fund you the first month of operation with Kshs. 150,000 to get you some working capital and you can maybe get some grant or government funding of Kshs.50,000. You can then discover that within the first 3 months of operations, your business can have Kshs. 50,000 to use for working capital. This will ensure that you are at least set for the first 3 months of your business start-up.

Amari Biz plan template

A business plan is very important

Am I willing to do the research and be fully prepared before starting my business?

This is a question that a lot of individuals, especially youth, are not asking themselves before starting a small business – it’s also a major cause of business failure for those who start without doing so. I think it’s a very important question because in order to set your business up for success, you really have to do some research on the industry you want to do business in, the location and also on what you actually need to get started. A lot of people feel too lazy to do the research themselves and want to get answers without doing their due diligence. Choose to either do the research in order to be fully prepared i.e. visit and talk to business owners in that industry, research on equipment, legal requirements, labor requirements you’ll need to start – you can get this information in industry blogs, talking to people in the business, online government portals, you can even inquire at your county council office on legal requirements. If you’re not willing to do all the work; hire a consultant who will let you know all you require to get started. If you don’t have the money to hire a consultant and you don’t want to do the research; then don’t bother starting a business in the first place.

ResearchKey

Do your due diligence – make sure to research every aspect of your business idea

Am I willing to keep learning and not be afraid to fail?

As a business owner; you have to be willing and open to learn, at all times. This is what helps you grow as an entrepreneur and in turn, it helps your business to grow and progress with time. In business, you also have to be aware that you will fail at times; sometimes you’ll lose your money in failed projects, but this should not stop you from getting started. Starting and running a business is taking a risk, but it may have great rewards as well. Part of learning in this journey and growing wiser involves failing at times; I believe that you should look at those failures as learning moments instead of just pure failure. The challenges you encounter will teach you to be a better entrepreneur and will also help you learn faster and therefore be wiser and make better business decisions. You have to have the courage to take that risk, be willing to meet challenges head on and learn from them in order to be successful.

learn-on concrete

Every challenge you encounter should be a learning moment

I hope that you will ask yourself these questions before starting your small business and you’ll answer them as honestly as possible.

If you have any questions on starting a business that you have or you think one should also ask oneself – feel free to share below ^_^

If you liked this post and found it helpful, make sure to ‘like’ it below and also share to your networks – it’ll help someone else.

6 Simple Answers Your Business Plan Should Provide

As I finish the editing on my upcoming book – How to Successfully Startup a Small Bakery Business, I cannot help but realize the importance of planning before starting any business venture. Here in Kenya, there is a particularly disturbing belief or perhaps I should say a kind of ignorance on the importance of a business plan. As I meet startup entrepreneurs and train individuals on starting up small bakery businesses; I continue to stress the importance of a business plan – even a basic one just to get you started.
Now you might wonder why I stress this point and I’ve decided to share it in a different way today. I want to give you six questions that your basic business plan can and should have answers to regarding your small startup. These answers will provide clarity and direction to your business as you start and continue growing. As I always point out, your business plan will change as your business grows and adapts; however, it’s important to have a basic plan as you start. You can then go changing it and adapting it to any business model or market changes you encounter as you progress.

It's very important!

It’s very important!

What?
The first question your basic business plan should answer is ‘what is your business?’ This is the part where you write your business name and the products and/or services it offers. Today I will use an example of a service business start-up that provides food delivery services. The ‘what’ of this business would be: Fresh Delivery Services provides food delivery services to its clients in Nairobi County.

What are you selling?

What are you selling?

Why?
The second question your plan answers is ‘Why your business offers the products and/or services?’ This is a very important question for your business since it should highlight what sets your business apart from any other businesses in that industry. To give an example of the ‘why’ using Fresh Delivery Services.
We realized that most delivery or errand service companies in the market offer delivery for many items but not for food. Those that do are not always effective or careful with the food contents and do not ensure customer satisfaction. Our errand services are targeted to only food and baked goods deliveries and we are well-equipped to assist in packaging, transporting and effective delivery of those goods.
Who?
Another important aspect of your business is who you’re selling to; your target customers. It is very important to know the types of customers you want to sell to in order to ensure the products and/or services are well suited to their needs as well as your marketing strategy. An example:
We offer our delivery services to home-based bakeries and catering businesses who deliver their food and baked products to their clients. We also make deliveries for restaurants and bakery shops who offer home or office delivery options to their clients as well.

Who is your target customer?

Who is your target customer?

Where?
Your basic business plan should state the location of your business as well as the location of your target customers who you are serving. This applies for both types of businesses who have brick and mortar locations such as shops, stores or warehouses. As well as any home-based businesses who deliver to their target customers. As we stated above, an example of our featured business is:
Fresh Delivery Services provides food delivery services to its clients anywhere in the Nairobi County area.
When?
This refers to the daily operations of your startup business. State the time schedules for both your in-house operational hours for employees; as well as for your clients’ delivery times.
Fresh Delivery Services is open from Monday to Saturday. Delivery hours are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are closed on Sundays.
Employee hours are as follows: Monday to Saturday 6.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
How?
Your business plan should state how you will sell products and/or services and how you will execute your daily operations. For your daily operations; it is important to have a simple system setup on daily tasks to be completed by your employees and yourself as well. You can create a basic operations manual based on the nature of your business. You should also have a marketing plan section in your business plan that describes the various marketing activities you will execute to attract your customers and therefore lead to sales for your business.
I hope these simple questions will help you while writing your basic business plan and answering them while doing so ^_^!
If you would like to get a free Basic Business Plan template, click on this link to get one.
Any questions on writing a basic business plan for your small business startup? Stuck on a specific section in your basic business plan writing? Feel free to ask below.
Please share this post if you found it helpful, help someone else who might need this information as well ^_^

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!
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