5 Important Lessons Learned At The AITEC Mobile Money Conference

About a month ago, I discovered a gold mine of information from a business blog; the best thing about this blog was that it was a Kenyan blog. Now it’s not that I didn’t exactly know about this site, I’ve heard of it and seen some links online about it – but I had never really checked it out. I’m always on the look out for information I can always share about business start-ups these days, so I decided to really see what information the site offers. I meant to spend about five minutes on the blog but I ended up reading different blog posts for almost an hour! The content was just amazing and insightful – both the blog posts and the videos. Which site you wonder? Kuza Biashara blog.

Fast forwarding to my main point; I was able to win VIP tickets to the AITEC Mobile Money conference from them and it was a very unbelievable opportunity that I am very grateful to have had thanks to the great team at Kuza Biashara. I met them and they are awesome! (yup – that’s the best word that can describe this team of amazing individuals that work there.) Their founder and chief mentor Mr. Sriram Bharatam is an amazing individual as well as a great speaker and listener. Mr. Karthi Raj, the vice president is easy to talk to and very engaging; it was an honor to meet them.

With the Kuza Biashara team at AITEC

With the Kuza Biashara team at AITEC

The theme of AITEC mobile money conference held at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Kenya this year was – ‘Finance SMEs and fire up the economy’. AITEC is the region’s leading banking forum and this is its eighth year in existence. Now you may wonder what a small business owner such as myself would benefit from attending such a conference; however, it was an invaluable experience that led to a lot of great insight on my part. I can honestly say that true to Kuza Biashara’s motto; I learned, connected and will grow after attending the conference. I want to share five very important lessons I learned at the conference and I hope it will give you insight into your business start-up as well.

1. Small businesses should start using mobile money payment platforms for their businesses if they don’t already
A major point of discussion in the conference was the adaptation and success of mobile money in Kenya. Banks in the region have realized the potential of the mobile money platform in the region and have started using the platform to offer more solutions for their customers. They are also continuing to discover ways in which they can start serving SMEs better using the same platforms in the near future. A very interesting way that one particular company, G-analytix based in Zimbabwe, is using mobile money usage & other small business analytics input to benefit small business owners is by creating a ratings programme or if you may – credit history. The point that Mr. Alan Goodrich the company’s MD was making, is to be able to build a credit history that can be used in lending money to small business owners based on their mobile money history and other small business operations inputs.
A perfect example of a company that is putting the mobile money credit history usage to great use is Kopo Kopo Inc who created the ‘Lipa na MPESA’ platform used by businesses in Kenya.

Lipa Na Mpesa by KopoKopo

Lipa Na Mpesa by KopoKopo

It’s a great platform especially for small business owners like myself; I can say that with great confidence since my bakery uses it to receive payments. Kopo Kopo has now introduced Grow, which is an alternative lending option for their already existing customers. They use the mobile money history in the business account to determine the amount of money they can lend to the business. Another great feature of their payment system is that they recently added a feature where an account holder can make payments to other accounts – bank or MPESA lines. This is a great feature because it gives a small business owner the convenience of being able to pay an employee or vendor directly from their Kopo Kopo account. This in time will build a history of business transactions in and out of the business – which is literally a more detailed credit history of the business.

Kopo Kopo is making mobile payment easy for SMEs

Kopo Kopo is making mobile payment easy for SMEs

Bottom line: If your small business does not already have a mobile money payment system; you need to get one right away. Not only is it convenient for your customers; but very useful to your business as well and possibly for future bank lending purposes.
2. You should have a strong and solid social media strategy in place for your business
An interesting point that was made in the conference by Mr. Amarnath Chowdary, CEO of ModeFinServer, India; was that social media banking is the next big thing after mobile money. Most banks have recognized the fact that a very high percentage of their customers are constantly on social media. Banks therefore want to provide even more convenience by tapping into social media just like most businesses have done and start providing banking services to their customers. I believe that this integration of banking into social media will benefit businesses as well; therefore, businesses should ensure they are also on social media. If your business has a strong social media presence; it will make it easy to benefit from the social media banking experience and in turn your customers as well. This may turn out to be another payment platform for businesses to take advantage of.

Ensure you have a great social media strategy

Ensure you have a great social media strategy

Bottom line: Make sure your small business has an effective social media strategy in place so that when banking hits the social media platform; you’re ready to integrate it into your payment systems efficiently.
3. Market research is very important for your small business
At the conference, Ms. Debbie Watkins – MD Africa and Asia Regions of Fern Software; shared her experience of doing market research in different parts of the world on how small business owners run their daily financial operations. Banks in the past believed that small business payment operations are simple; however, due to the nature of a small business, it has been discovered that their operations are even more complex than believed. As banks research the habits of small business owners even more, they discover that in order to survive; business owners have to apply complex strategies due to their limited financial resources. This kind of discovery through market research should apply to every small business out there. No matter how simple; small businesses should always conduct market research in their specific industries in order to find out what their customers really need and serve them better.
Bottom line: If you’re not constantly researching what your customer needs to better understand them and innovating your products & services to suite them; someone else will start solving their problems and you will lose your customers.
4. Small business start-ups don’t always need funding, they need capacity building.
A point that was made by Mr. Habil Olaka, CEO of the Kenya Bankers’ Association was that start-ups don’t always need debt finance which banks offer. Start-ups may actually be in need of capacity building instead of financing. They may also be in need of a different kind of funding instead of bank loans; funding such as angel or venture capital funding. It is necessary to point out that Kenya does not have a lot of options when it comes to angel or venture capital investors; most of the ones available are not even Kenyan-based but foreign investors.

Kuza Biashara help SMEs be the best they can be

Kuza Biashara help SMEs be the best they can be

Bottom line: If your start-up is constantly having cash flow issues and you keep looking for different ways to get funding; you may not necessarily require debt financing since your small business may not be able to handle it. It may be a lack of information and a need for resources that will help you to run your small business better.
5. Small business owners in Kenya need to use capacity building resources available such as Kuza Biashara in order to learn.
In reference to the point made above; start-ups don’t always require funding, sometimes they need capacity building. This is true of a lot of small business owners in Kenya, including myself. Like the founder of Kuza Biashara, Mr. Sriram Bharatam, says: “A lot of small business owners don’t know what they don’t know.” That was true for me especially last year as my business went through a challenging time. I realized that I required knowledge in order to deal with the challenges the business was facing and not necessarily funding; since that was not really solving my problems. I have been learning since and have gained a lot of insight on how to focus and run my small business better through the methods that I have learned. I am continuously finding more resources that help me learn and grow as a business owner and Kuza Biashara is one of those resources that I believe will help in that journey.
Bottom line: If you are a small business owner in Kenya, you need to make sure you tap into the resources that Kuza Biashara offers and you will learn, connect and grow as an entrepreneur.

It was a privilege to be able to attend the AITEC mobile money conference and it was a great to meet the Kuza Biashara team; they should keep up the great work they are doing.

Keep learning, work hard and most importantly work smart.

4 Effective Ways to Ensure You Post on Your Business Blog Consistently

If you are a small business owner who uses inbound marketing in their marketing strategy, you know how important it is to have a business blog. However; at the same time, it can be hard to post on the blog consistently. As a start up entrepreneur, you may have so many responsibilities that you may neglect some important tasks such as blogging.
I used to feel overwhelmed with the amount of tasks I had to accomplish, especially since I write for two blogs. At one point, one blog was suffering since I could only manage to post for one blog and then I would find that I don’t have enough time to post on the other one. I realized that I had to find ways of posting on both blogs consistently and effectively or decide to shut one down and concentrate on the one I could manage. Since I didn’t want to give up any of them (I love sharing information about baking on my Bakery blog and I love sharing about business as well ^_^), I decided to find ways to solve my problem. I want to share four ways that I guarantee have helped me manage to post consistently on my blogs and still manage to run a small bakery business as well. I hope they help you out as well.

Amari Bakery Blog - a business blog is very important

Amari Bakery Blog – a business blog is very important

1. Create a content calendar for your blog every month
The same way you create a calendar of daily and monthly tasks to complete in your business or personal life; you can apply the same for all your social media and blogging activities. This is also very effective since you get a big picture of your blog posts for the month and therefore; you are able to create goals for the month for your inbound marketing strategies, come up with topics for your blog for the month and prepare to write them. I have found it’s best to create your monthly content calendar a week before the beginning of the month you’re planning for. Allocate at least two hours of your time to sit down and plan your blog. State your goals for the upcoming month for both social media pages and the blog, and then brainstorm on the post topics you will be writing about. Take it another step further, write bulletin points for your topics, and come up with a suitable headline for your blog post. Using your calendar, schedule the days when you’ll post each of the posts – at least twice a week or more. If you have extra time (or you can allocate another two hours the next day), write your blog posts out, ready for posting. At least get enough posts for two weeks ready to go, so that you’re always ahead of the game.

Have a content calendar to plan your posts (Image: amazon)

Have a content calendar to plan your posts (Image: amazon)

2. Create reminders on your phone calendar or daily planner about the blog posts
You might have your calendar well planned and even written out, but you’ll find that maybe you got busy and forgot to post on your blog. Since entrepreneurs can have very hectic days, it’s best to schedule alarms that will remind you to post the blog on a specific day and time. If you’re often online at specific times daily, like during the morning hours (maybe between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.), make sure you schedule a reminder for that time so as not to forget. That way, you’ll just take five minutes to post on your blog and move on to other tasks. I have found it quite effective to set reminders, they work.

Set reminders for when you'll post on your blog

Set reminders for when you’ll post on your blog

3. Choose one person to hold you accountable
You may plan your calendar and posts very well, but find that you are so busy that you’re not able to post on your business blog. You might even postpone your posts every time telling yourself that you’re too tired, you’ll post tomorrow – tomorrow never actually comes. I know how it feels like; trust me I’ve been there. I found that when I asked someone to hold me accountable, I was making sure to post weekly without fail. The person who holds me accountable is my sister (even to this day), she’s my business partner and she blogs as well; therefore I found that she was up to the task. If a week goes by and she doesn’t see more than one post on a blog, she asks me what’s happening. You should make sure you do the same; find one person who you either work with, or live with; maybe your significant other or any family member who fits the bill. This will motivate you to post weekly for sure.

4. Make sure you write down monthly marketing goals to achieve for your business
If you don’t do this for your business, you should start doing it. Some entrepreneurs write down monthly goals they want to achieve for their businesses in respect to sales or income. You should also write down marketing goals, they are just as important. This is because effective marketing leads to sales in your business, therefore; if you make effective marketing goals and achieve them, your sales will increase. It also comes in handy if you don’t achieve your monthly goals since you will be able to sit down and find out where the problem lies and solve it before it grows into a crisis. This is one way to prevent closing your business if it’s suffering and finding a way out or a solution. I can personally attest to this method having almost closed my business, but I re-strategized and found a solution before having to close my bakery. When you have clear marketing goals every month, you realize that you have to post on your blog and social media pages to assist you in reaching your sales goals. Therefore, when you see your reminder to post on your blog, you are more likely to do it since it ties to your sales goals and with that, achieving success.

Write down your marketing goals

Write down your marketing goals

Those are a few effective ways that I’ve found to assist me in posting on my blog consistently. Do you have any other ways you would like to share?
Please feel free to do so below.

Remember keep on the hustle, keep grinding and you’ll get there for sure ^_^

5 Important Reasons Your Business Start Up Needs A Blog

As part of your inbound marketing strategy, it’s very important to have a business blog. A blog enables you to provide helpful information to your target audience and therefore, attract them to your brand or business. A lot of small businesses in Kenya have social media pages, some even have websites but have not started business blogs – they have the opinion that they don’t necessarily require a business blog. Some business owners are not sure what to discuss in their blogs; therefore, they do not start one. It is important to know that you NEED a blog for your small business, especially if you are online. I have found that it is not only helpful but necessary in my business. I love to share information about baking with people who bake in Kenya so I do enjoy writing in my bakery blog. I have also found that I attract people who want to learn how to bake, especially with charcoal ovens – which we use in our bakery. Since we offer baking classes now, I am able to attract and engage with potential customers who end up signing up to learn how to bake.

A business blog is important

A business blog is important

1. Your target customers these days are mostly informed buyers who search for information before making purchases for products or services
When you want to buy something or learn about a service you would like to hire someone for, what do you do? You most likely ‘Google’ it right? Well, so does everyone else who goes online. It makes logical sense then, that if you want your target market to find you; you should show up on the search results. They should find you in the first two pages when they search for your particular niche or product/service you offer. Therefore; you should create your blog and share information about your particular industry that will attract the kind of customers you are targeting.

Your target customer is already online

Your target customer is already online

2. It’s an effective inbound marketing method of attracting your target customers
As a small business that uses inbound marketing, having a blog is one of the most effective method of attracting your target customers. When done right, blogging can account for fifty percent and above, of your sales – it does for my baking classes. To succeed, ensure you offer helpful content and use effective blogging strategies e.g. keywords.

Blogging is a big part of inbound marketing (Courtesy: hubspot.com)

Blogging is a big part of inbound marketing (Courtesy: hubspot.com)

3. It’s a way of keeping your customers updated on your business events, news or updates in your products or services.
If you have a new service or product you have introduced in your business; blogging about it is a great and effective idea. You can explain the new product or service more to your customers and how it works. This can even attract potential leads, those who have never really purchased but follow your brand or business, to actual purchase a product or service from your small business.

It's a way to update your customers

It’s a way to update your customers

4. Improves your chances of being ‘found’ online by your target audience, especially if you have good, helpful content
A blog is not usually effective the first few months; you have to post constantly and consistently in order for your business blog to be effective. Therefore, the more you post, the more you increase the chances of your brand or business being found online. It should therefore make sense to get started now on creating your business blog.

Increase your 'findability' online

Increase your ‘findability’ online

5. Creates content you can share on your social networks e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.
If you have social media pages for your business but don’t have a business blog; you will find that you have an issue finding content to share on your social media pages. Blog content is perfect for that purpose. As much as having your blog found on search is a great way of attracting your target audience, sharing your content on social media is also as effective. It’s a great way of sharing new or previous content that your fans and followers may not be aware of. This will also help you be able to engage with your brand followers and get feedback on more information they might want or on the provided content. It also ensures that the more you post on your blog, the more content you will have to share on your social media pages.

Create content you'll share on social media

Create content you’ll share on social media

Those are a few of the top most important reasons you should create a blog for your small business in Kenya. They should be enough to convince you to create that blog as soon as possible if you don’t have one.
If you have more to share on small business blogging especially in Kenya, feel free to comment below.

If you found this post to be helpful, please share below so it can be helpful to someone else, spread the love ^_^