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 ^_^

3 Signs You Need To Change Your Business Model

I hope your New Years was great, mine most definitely was. I have been reviewing my business plan and model to see if I needed to change it for this new year. I feel that this has been a long time coming due to certain results in business actions that I took and therefore; I decided to sit down and see how to make necessary changes.

I’m sure as a start-up entrepreneur or even if you are a seasoned entrepreneur, you’ve made certain changes in your business model over time. This happens especially if you realize that you’re not getting desired results in your business or for other reasons. Today I want to share three signs that show you need to change your business model for the better in this new year.

1. Your sales have reduced drastically

If you realize that your sales have reduced a lot and you’re still doing the same things you’ve been doing in your business then you have to change your business model. You may be trying very hard to market to the same customers and you still don’t get higher sales; if anything, they continue dropping. This is a very big sign that you need to change the direction of your business (like big flashing red light kind of sign ^_^). If you can’t sell, then your business can’t survive. Find a way to change your business for the better.

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If your sales keep going down – something’s gotta change

2. Your market industry has changed

Customers sometimes change their preferences and tastes; what used to be a trending product or service stops being popular. As an entrepreneur, you have to continually observe these trends in your industry and your business may have to adjust as they change. As a start-up entrepreneur, you may notice these changes late and that may affect your business. Start-up entrepreneurs have to learn to keep their ear to the ground when market trends shift or change so as not to get left out and start losing out in sales. This means you have to keep getting feedback from your customers, keep reading about your industry and any new changes or trends. Always stay informed and keep in touch with your customers by taking surveys and ensuring they are satisfied; as well as improving your products or services to suite their ever-changing needs.

Markets change often - keep an eye out

Markets change often – keep an eye out

3. You, as an entrepreneur, have changed

As an individual sometimes changes can occur in your life that change you in different ways. This can happen due to certain situations, environments or even changes within you as a person. These changes can affect you in a positive or a negative way. If you’re a start-up entrepreneur; if these changes affect you negatively, it can affect your start-up business negatively. This can manifest in different ways such as neglecting your employees or customers; which would result in lower productivity and sales. It’s best if you feel that you’ve changed as an entrepreneur; make the changes work for you in a positive way – even if it means changing your business model. This is especially necessary if your priorities have changed and they don’t go hand in hand with what your business is doing.

Image Credit: essentiallifeskills.net

Image Credit: essentiallifeskills.net

If you are experiencing any of the signs above or even all of them (yup, this can all happen at the same time ^_^), make sure you sit down and have a serious review of your current business model/plan and see what you have to change. Make changes that are necessary and positive to you and your business in the long run.

Have you ever had to change your business model as an entrepreneur? How did it go? Please feel free to share below.

If you found this post helpful, please share it with your network. Sharing is caring ^_^

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

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail Within The First Year

We hear many statistics about small businesses often, especially about their failure rate within the first three years. Those statistics have become very personal to me due to the fact that my small business struggled a lot last year and almost closed. I have also encountered at least three young entrepreneurs that I know, who have closed their businesses over the last year – and their businesses were less than a year old. Today I want to focus on seven main reasons why small businesses fail within the first year. I believe that knowing the reason why, will help small business owners avoid most of these pitfalls and keep their small businesses going, and it time, successful.Business closed sign

1.Underestimating capital requirements

A lot of small business start-ups don’t think that having a business plan is necessary, however; it’s imperative to write one, especially when starting your small business. A business plan not only helps you put down your business idea on paper and how it will be executed; it also helps you know the capital requirements required to start and run your business for at least six months. Some start-up owners get so excited about starting their small business that they don’t sit down to write the actual required cost of starting their business. They tend to find out when it’s too late and the business is failing already. Make sure you have a business plan for your small business if you don’t already have one or if you want to start your business.

Budget for your start-up accurately

Budget for your start-up accurately

2. Poor business store location

This is one reason I can testify to personally; especially when it comes to researching whether a specific location will match the products or services that you offer. It can be a great high traffic area, but your business may not do well because you do not offer what the customers in that area want or require. It’s necessary to always do product and market research in the area you want to start your business to see if your business has a fighting chance. If it does not, don’t start your business in that location; no matter how good the shop or area looks. Just be patient and keep looking for a better location for your business.

3. Poor Management of Business

This is a major cause of small business closure in Kenya; a small business owner may be very motivated and have qualities of an entrepreneur; however, you also need to have management skills to run your business as well. The day to day operations of a small business require knowledge on how to manage different aspects of your business e.g. cash flow management, how to hire employees, how to choose vendors, etc. It’s necessary for small business owners to either acquire basic management skills or to either partner or hire a  person who has the management skills required. This might not seem necessary to a start-up owner at the beginning; but trust me, it’s very necessary for your business to stay open in the long run. A great website for resources on running your small business is Kuza Biashara, they have blog posts and ‘How-To’ videos that assist small business owners in Kenya.

4. Lack of Creativity and Innovation

Whatever product or service your business offers, make sure you’re always innovating it. Every successful company has gotten there because they are constantly being creative and innovating in their business. A great example of innovation and creativity is a Kenyan company that manufactures energy saving jikos – Cookswell. They originally just sold jikos and charcoal ovens; but in time, they added barbeques to their product list. They then started creating barbeques in animal shapes such as boars or ostriches. This kind of creativity and innovation keeps your customers coming back and loyal to your brand since they’re curious as to what you will do next.

The Cookswell Animal BBQs - Great creativity & innovation!

The Cookswell Animal BBQs – Great creativity & innovation!

5. Poor Control of Expenditure

This is another major reason for small business closure, especially in Kenya. A small business could be bringing in revenue but if the owner does not have control over the expenditure of the business cash; the business could close in time. A major problem for the small businesses is also the mixing up of personal and business finances. It’s good to ensure that as a small business owner you separate your personal finances from your business finances. It’s also necessary for a small business owner to ensure that they are tracking all their business expenditures by keeping all the necessary accounting records necessary.

6. Theft, Fraud, Fire and Natural Disasters

Unfortunately for a small business other factors that may be beyond your control can lead to the closure of your business. The best way to avoid such factors or at least to survive them is by getting small business insurance. Insurance can cover you when either theft, fraud, fire and natural disaster strikes. Make sure you understand your small business insurance policy very well, get the insurance agent to explain to you what it really covers and what it doesn’t to avoid any misunderstanding. Small business owners tend to think that they don’t need insurance since they have small business; however, since there are things you cannot have control over; it’s better to be prepared instead.

Theft can occur in your small busines (Image: uca.org)

Theft can occur in your small business (Image: uca.org)

7. Poor or no marketing plan

This may seem obvious but I have noticed some small business owners seem to ignore this aspect of their business. Marketing is an activity that never stops as long as your business is open – I mean, look at Coca Cola, they have never stopped marketing and they are such a large international company. Marketing is what brings in sales into your small business; therefore, you should always ensure you have a marketing plan in place. Other small businesses also have a marketing plan, but it’s either very weak or not effective. In this day and age of social media and online search; you need to make sure that your business’ presence is felt. It is a very competitive business market out there in any industry and your competitor is probably still marketing to your target market whether you are or not.

Baking Class Poster - Never stop marketing your biz

Baking Class Poster – Never stop marketing your biz

I hope this seven points have helped you, as a small business owner, realize where your problem points could be and avoid business closure or failure in the future. If you have any other points you would like to share that can also cause business failure; please feel free to comment below.

If you like this post and found it helpful, please share it to your social networks below so you can help someone else. Sharing is caring ^_^

5 Reasons Why it’s Alright to Fail in Business in Kenya

This is a topic that is very close to my heart, I say that because as an entrepreneur anywhere, you will encounter failure in business in one way or another. Being a female entrepreneur in Kenya makes it a bit harder and therefore, failure is more likely to happen more than once.Going out of business sign

As for me, I have failed a few times and every time is quite humbling and I won’t lie, quite painful. The first time I failed in business was when I started a baking business that didn’t take off, it lasted 6 months. However, I learned my lesson and realized my very many mistakes – I had not planned for anything at all, I had no business plan. The second round I started, I have been going for two years now, however, I have failed in other ways. One of the ways being my recent setback of expanding too fast in a  slow-growth location; it didn’t go very well. However, I realized my mistake and relocated back to a home-based business for now. This was in order to keep the business going while I re-strategized. As an entrepreneur, one makes big and small mistakes alike and one just has to  keep learning and making sure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes. Don’t give up, just keep progressing and getting smarter. That is why today I want to share why I think it’s alright to fail in your business, however small or big way that it happens. It’s always an eye-opener and quite a lesson to be learned.

1. It shows you that you were doing something wrong in your business

A great example is what I just shared above. I realized that for my Bakery, I had expanded too fast and so decided to go back and re-think my expansion strategy. The location which I had chosen as well, was not too ideal for my products. Once I realized my mistake and that I was heading in the wrong direction; I corrected the situation immediately. Sometimes failure shows you that you need to step back and plan again. I now have a new business model and direction for my baking business that is working well since I make good decisions due to the lessons I learned from my previous mistakes.

2. It Humbles you and gives you a reserve of strenth

Failure is a very humbling thing, it shows you that you and your business are not invincible. It can also take you to a very low point of almost giving up. If you are a true entrepreneur, you bounce back by; stepping back, finding your motivation and reason why you started your journey. They you plan again, re-strategize and get moving in the right direction. The action of actually NOT giving up and getting back into the game requires a large amount of inner strength. If you can get past a failure and learn from it, especially more than once, then I believe that you have the makings of being a great entrepreneur. With that reserve of strength, you’ll definitely get through the ups and downs of business for sure.

Inner strength pic - Huffpost

Failure gives you inner strength when you choose to learn from your mistakes                       (Image Courtesy: Huffington Post) 

3. Failure Tests your dedication to your cause and whether you’ll stick to it

Failing in any way in your business is a true test. It tests your dedication to your mission and your business idea. Do you truly believe in it? Do you have real passion for your business? This is a true test of dedication because most people who don’t truly believe in their business or have a passion for it, usually give up on it. For an entrepreneur who truly believes in their business, they will not give up on it. As an entrepreneur, you will think hard and try your best to find a solution to your challenges and you will solve them. You will stick to your beliefs and to your business idea and your passion will keep  you going through the hard times.

Dedication

You will encounter challenges that test your dedication. Are you going to give up? Or find a way to keep on going?

4. Sometimes the business idea you had was not a good one and you need to innovate it or get a new one

There are a few times when an idea fails due to the fact that it is not a sustainable one. It needs evaluation or innovation to make it a solid, sustainable idea. You may also have to discard an idea and get a new one if it truly does not work. In this instances, an entrepreneur has to be honest with him/herself and face the reality of the situation. Giving up on the idea, does not make you a failure, it makes you stronger and wiser. A great example would be from the serial entrepreneur Richard Branson; he has had some crazy ideas that he has had to discard e.g. Virgin Cola, Virgin Brides etc. This makes him wise enough to realize when an idea is not working, it does not make him a failure – it’s just a learning moment ( I mean, he is one of the most versatile & richest entrepreneurs in the world).

5. Failure serves as a stepping stone to your success

A lot of great entrepreneurs in our time have failed and their failures have resulted into major success stories. This is because when they failed, they didn’t give up, they went back to the drawing board and found other ways to get through their challenges after learning from their mistakes. Get back on the board, re-strategize, change your business model, innovate, review your product and/or service, strengthen your systems and then execute in the best way possible.

Moving-on-Up-stepping up stairs pic

Let failure serve as a stepping stone for your business success

Great examples are; Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Richard Branson, Tabitha Keroche and many more. So don’t think that failing is the end of the road for you and your business. Change your thinking, turn those failures into the fuel you need to take your business to the next level and achieve greatness.failure-in-business-Henry Ford Quote

I hope that these five reasons have inspired you not to give up, they certainly helped me rally and find ways to turn my business around. It is a tough journey ahead but I believe in myself and my business; I know I will succeed. You will too if you choose to learn and take the challenges positively. I hope you feel motivated to keep going as well, especially if you are having a difficult time with your start-up. If you have any other reasons you would like to share, please feel free to share below please. If you’re going through a business challenge or failure you would like to share as well, feel free to post below.

Share this post on your networks; it might help out someone going through some business challenges as well ^_^

Thanks for reading and remember – Never give up!