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.

3 Helpful Tips on Saving Money as a Start-Up Entrepreneur in Kenya

The first few year as a start-up entrepreneur are the toughest, not only have I heard this advice from many successful entrepreneurs in Kenya and read it from international entrepreneurs; I have experienced it (and continue to ^_^). Most successful entrepreneurs actually state that the first three to six years are the toughest for any new start-up venture and the entrepreneur behind it. I call them the ‘make it or break it’ years, that’s the time when you are constantly under pressure, stress and many other challenges; both financial and personal. These years not only test your true character but your strength and endurance through very tough challenges and failures that you face. One major challenge that most start-up entrepreneurs face is financial; in both aspects of your personal life and your business. For your personal life; it’s very important to find ways of reducing your expenses to a bare minimum because they can interfere with your business cash flow, especially if that is where you get your money from. I have started up a business twice; I failed the first time I tried for one year and personal finances played a major role in that failure. This time around I have been going for two years and I am applying the lessons I learned from the first time around on saving money as much as I can. There are numerous ways of making sure you save money, but I want to share three easy and very helpful tips of doing so that will guarantee the safety of your business cash flow for the first two years.

1. Reduce all your personal expenses and eliminate all unnecessary ones
If you wish to be successful, you have to be disciplined and start having great control of your spending habits. If you were employed before you became a start-up entrepreneur, such as I was; it can be a great challenge to change your spending habits, however, it is necessary for your success. Reduce any personal expenses such as eating out, going for nights out with your friends, impulsive retail purchases, over-spending on personal items or expenses such as personal phone calls, if you rent your apartment or house – find a more economical, budget-friendly place to stay. You should actually eliminate any expense you feel you can do without or that is a luxury. If you can run your business from home; do that. I moved back home with my mum since there was space to build a bakery workshop in the compound and at the time, the bakery was delivery based, it can run from home to start. Make sure you have very few personal expenses that will need cash; this will stop you from dipping into the business cash flow to fund personal matters.

Reduce your personal costs

Reduce your personal costs

2. Buy in Bulk
This applies to both your personal and business aspects. Most products or services that are offered in bulk are usually at a lower rate than the ones that don’t. Examples are phone credit (distributors of phone credit sell to shops at wholesale prices for larger amounts, you can do the same as well) and internet bundles (or if you can manage the expense and your area permits it – sign up for monthly internet service e.g. from Zuku or Faiba). If your phone usage is quite high per month, you can also sign up for post paid service; all major phone service providers have post paid bundles and plans – you can even try the business bundles if your phone credit and internet usage is very high. Do the same for your business stock; production, print material (e.g. business cards and brochures), packaging materials and any other purchases you make often. This can apply even to your personal purchases such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc. Visit your local wholesale shop and you will be surprised at how you can save bu buying in bulk.

Buy phone credit in bulk (Image: kateskikapu.com)

Buy phone credit in bulk (Image: kateskikapu.com)

3. Negotiate deals and discounts with vendors or suppliers
If you make purchases often from specific vendors e.g. print material, production ingredients, etc; you can negotiate certain discounts or deals with that supplier. If you have built a relationship with the vendor; you can discuss different ways in which he/she can discount your purchases because of your loyal service. If you have a supplier who is also a customer as well; you can also discuss a way to trade between the two businesses. Make sure all the details are discussed and if necessary written down, both businesses can benefit from trading items and saving costs in the respective businesses as well.

Get discounts on purchases (Image: juniorwatch.com)

Get discounts on purchases (Image: juniorwatch.com)

Those are just a few simple and highly effective ways of saving money as a start-up entrepreneur in Kenya. If you are an entrepreneur who would like to suggest any other ways you have found to save money in your life, please feel free to comment below and share.

Remember to work hard, keep the faith, be strong and work smart!

If you found this post helpful, please share below – it will be helpful to someone else. Spread the love ^_^

Blog of the Month for July 2014

As a female entrepreneur in Kenya, I find that time management, efficiency and effectiveness are necessary in my life. Running a start-up in any industry or country is not an easy task. Therefore; start-up entrepreneurs such as myself have to find ways in which one has to be very productive in everyday life in order to run a successful business and have a well-rounded life ( or at least as well-rounded as you can manage ^_^). To do this, I’m constantly looking for apps, websites, blogs e-books and other resources that can help me be better and more efficient at what I do. This is in every aspect of my life as well as my bakery business

Topics that I research and work on vary from being a better blogger, more effective marketing strategies, creating great visual content, being a better baker among other things. When I find good content and resources, I love to share so that many other entrepreneurs, especially in Kenya, can benefit just as I do. I have therefore decided I will start a ‘Blog of the month feature’ to share and highlight the blogs that offer effective resources on different topics and are very helpful to fellow entrepreneurs. Suggestions and comments are very welcome as well ^_^.

For the month of July my feature blog is the Hubspot Blog. I can say that a lot of what I know and implement in inbound marketing is based on what I have learned while reading the Hubspot blog. Not only do they have great content, they are very helpful and share up to date and effective advice on inbound marketing. They also offer numerous e-books you can download in different topics and templates to help you with content planning for your business. If you’re an entrepreneur in Kenya, you need to subscribe to this blog and start reading it at least five times a week (and that’s my minimum recommendation – I read their content daily!)

Hubspot provides advice on Inbound marketing

Hubspot provides advice on Inbound marketing

6 Important Steps to Take Before Starting a Business in Kenya

Becoming an entrepreneur in Kenya, especially a female entrepreneur in Kenya is never an easy decision to make. When one makes the decision however, it’s important not to rush into a business without taking a few steps in preparation. Business plans don’t always work as planned, but they are a great guideline to follow. Make sure to take these six steps when starting your small business in Kenya.

1. Research the industry well

Whatever industry you’re in, you should ensure to research it thoroughly. This is so that you find out who your future competitors are and what they are doing specifically, in terms of marketing and what products or services they are offering. You should find out how the market is doing whether it’s profitable or declining; is it a fad that has run its course? It’s also good to find out if it’s too saturated a market; if everyone is doing it. Before starting my bakery, I read many bakery blogs for recipes to try our for my menu, I researched what cake and bread products were being sold at the time, the bakeries that were popular in Nairobi and what they were selling in their menus as well. I checked the price lists of about ten bakeries and their websites to see the kind of online marketing they were utilizing.

Research is necessary in your business (Courtesy: iserotope.com)

Research is necessary in your business (Courtesy: iserotope.com)

2. Decide what your niche in the industry will be for your business

Every successful business in Kenya has a certain need it addresses in its industry. Finding a niche in an industry is important since it helps a business focus on solving that particular problem. An example; Citizen TV in Kenya focuses on regional shows and audiences. Therefore their shows are mainly African show such as Afrosinema and many other Kenyan shows that local Kenyans relate to. Another example is my baking business; one service we’re offering is teaching people how to bake with a charcoal oven. Many people offer baking classes; but since more individuals who want to start small baking businesses are baking with charcoal ovens because they are economical, our focus is on those who want to learn how to bake with it. Choose a niche in which you are certain you will solve a specific problem and that will set you apart from your competition.

3. Find out the necessary requirements to run your business legally in your location

After you’ve decided what your business will be, you need to find out all the legal requirements to run that kind of business in Kenya. Whether it’s registering the business name or a company; to city council permits and certificates for the business premise. Find out all the necessary documents and start working towards getting them before starting the business. When I started my bakery, I first started by registering a business name for the business, then I went to the nearest city council office in my location and inquired on the necessary permits and health certificates needed to get started. If you’re able to, you can approach a person who has a business in your industry and inquire about the requirements. Get started on it.

Visit your local city council office to inquire about requirements

Visit your local city council office to inquire about requirements

4. Find out the equipment required in your business

It’s necessary to know the basic resources required in your business to get started with. For example if you’re starting a cyber cafe business; you should know the least number of computers you’ll need to get started, printers, chairs and tables and any shelves required. You should also have money for expenses for at least three months; however if you can get money to cover expenses for six months – it’s preferred. If you’ll need to hire anyone to help you run your business, decide the kind of skills you require them to have and then start looking for someone to hire. Find out what all your operational requirements will be and plan accordingly.

5. Write a business plan

This is a must for any entrepreneur in Kenya who wants to start a business. Make sure you write a business plan; this will not only help set down your plan in paper in an organized manner; it will give you a guideline for the direction of your business in the future. I will be writing a post soon on how to write a business plan for you to use. To get a free business plan template, sign up via email by clicking on this link.

Start writing a business plan

Start writing a business plan

6. Get the capital required to start up your business

After you have written down a business plan, you will be able to know the exact amount you require to start your business. You need to get that capital; maybe start with the amount you have saved, then find out how much you need to fund-raise to get started.

Get start-up capital

Get start-up capital

if you follow the above steps to getting your business started in Kenya, you will be more prepared as an entrepreneur.

If you have any other suggestions on steps to take before starting a business, please feel free to comment below.

 Make sure to share this post on your networks, it might help a friend ^_^

How to Market your small business in Kenya on a small budget

When starting or running a small business in Kenya, one of the major challenges that youth entrepreneurs face is marketing their products and services.

And we all know that marketing is an essential part of a small business because if you can’t market your product or service then nobody will know you are selling it and therefore sales are not possible.Image

That is one of the challenges that I had to face, and still face, when starting a home-based online bakery, how to market my business (and with a small budget no less). So I will share some tips I have learned on marketing a small business in Kenya and I hope that it will help you in marketing your small business as well.

  1. Inbound Marketing

    A basic and very easy explanation for inbound marketing is measurable permission based marketing, it’s mainly done online. There are different ways of inbound marketing such as:

  • Image

    Get a Facebook Page

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    Get a Twitter account

    Social Media: Using social media pages to share information and show case your products. Pages such as; Twitter, Pinterest & Facebook.

  • Blog: Blogging is also another way of sharing information with your followers. This will help your potential customer gain more information on your products and might become an actual future customer. You can use blogging platforms such as this one – wordpress or blogspot.

  • Website: It’s also necessary to get a website to display your products and services, state prices, pictures and descriptions. It’s a great place for your customers to get a picture of what your business offers, like an online store.

  • Online Ads: You can also use online paid ads to promote your products and services. You can use Facebook Ads or Google Ads to sell or promote your business products.

  • E-mail: Another form of inbound marketing is e-mail marketing. You can get people from your website to sign up to get e-mail newsletters weekly or monthly from your business. You can use this platform to inform them of any new products and services you offer, any information on events or other updates.

  1. Outbound Marketing

    Outbound marketing is the traditional form of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience.

Outbound marketing examples: Tradeshows, TV commercials, radio commercials, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogs, etc.). Outbound marketing is harder to track and less profitable than inbound marketing

  • Brochures/ Catalogues: You can design (or have someone design for you) and print brochures that have products, descriptions, prices and your business contacts. You can then distribute them to your friends, family members and any other prospective customers.

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    Get some professional business cards

    Business Cards: It is good to have business cards with you at all times for networking purposes or for potential customers. Make sure the business card has your business name, your name, contacts such as mobile phone number, e-mail, website and social media pages.

  1. Word of Mouth

    Another budget-friendly way of spreading the word about your business is word of mouth – literally. Just spreading the word about your business to people around you, your friends and family members, so they tell their friends, who tell their friends and families…and so on, you get where I’m going with this ^_^. You can tell people in your church, local groups, hang-outs or even your local pub etc.

  2. Trade Fairs/ Field Days

    You can get stands, paid or free depending on your industry, in business and/or industry trade fairs and in Agri-business; field days are a good place to display your products. Make sure you have brochures and business cards as well as products on display with labels to properly market your products and describe your services to potential customers. Just make sure you keep track of trade fairs being hosted in your area monthly to be well prepared.

  3. SWAG

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    Get T-shirts with your logo, business name & website

    This is a popular name for branding items with your business name such as: T-shirts, mugs, jackets, gift bags, hats/visors, pens, bags, umbrellas etc. You can give this to your customers, and you can also wear them yourself to promote your business. This however would be advisable to a business with a medium budget or if you can be able to do so at an economical price and if you ascertain that your business can handle the cost.

  4. Partner with another business 

    If possible, you can partner with another small business that offers a product or service that works with your product or service, or a business in your industry. An example would be a bakery owner partnering with a jam or peanut butter business owner. They can agree to promote each other’s businesses while selling to their customers.

These are just a few ways of marketing your small business on a small budget, I hope they are helpful to you and your small budget.

If you have any other suggestions on marketing your small business please feel free to share ^_^