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!
If you found this post helpful, make sure to spread the love by sharing with your friends ^_^

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 ^_^

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 ^_^