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.

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 ^_^

5 Very Weird And Fun Business Ideas That Made Millionaires

When one decides to do business, getting a business idea that is unique is very difficult these days. It seems as if all great business ideas have been implemented. However, once in a while you will hear of an odd or weird business idea that is very unique and it does well. Today I want to feature five great examples of very unique ideas that made the entrepreneurs that started them very rich. Maybe this will inspire you to put that unique idea you’ve been thinking of into action.

1. Microwavable Pillows

This is a very simple idea that was started by a housewife in the U.S. named Kim Lavine. It’s a pillow that can be warmed in the microwave and used to warm a child or even an adult in their bed while sleeping. Kim patented the idea, a Wuvit pillow, and it sold $225,000 in sales in eight weeks. She now has a whole line of home lifestyle products and is currently a millionaire.

Wuvit Pillow (Courtesy: kimlavine.com)

Wuvit Pillow (Courtesy: kimlavine.com)

2. The Hangover Helpers

This is another unique idea in Colorado founded by two university graduates; Marc and Alex. It is a business that helps people, especially college students, deal with the morning after a hangover. They help you clean up the house, bring you a drink (Gatorade) and a snack (a Burritto) to help with the dehydration and hunger the next morning. The two are now making money from the unique idea.

Party Cleanup (helpinghangovers.com)

Party Cleanup (helpinghangovers.com)

3. I Do Now I Don’t

This is another unique business idea that offers people the platform to re-sell their engagement rings for a better price if they don’t use them. It was a business idea by Joshua Opperman and his sister; after Joshua’s fiancée had decided she didn’t want to get married and returned her engagement ring to him. They make annual sales of about $ 4.2 billion.

Engagement Ring Re-selling (idonowidont.com)

Engagement Ring Re-selling (idonowidont.com)

4. Yournovel.com

This is another unique business founded in the U.S. by a husband and wife; Kathy Newbern and J.S. Fletcher. They offer their customers the chance to be featured in novels that are written in their website and customize the story to fit you as a character in the book. You can even get the cover with your picture. They make money and travel the world together in search of setting for their novels.

5. Doggy Goggles

Doggles are sunglasses made to fit the shape of a dog’s head. The inventor of this idea is Roni Du Lullo who made the first pair for her dog when she realized he was squinting in the sun when they walked. Even the U.S. military uses them for their scout dogs in dessert areas. This unique invention made her a lot of money and continues to be used by even dog owners at home.

Doggy Goggles

Doggy Goggles

The above ideas just go to show you that anyone with a unique idea and good planning can become an entrepreneur.

Do you know of any weird or unique business ideas that surprise you? Share below ^_^

This post appeared originally on the Storymoja Hay Festival Blog

 

What They Don’t Tell You About Being An Entrepreneur

These days being an entrepreneur is all the rage. After hearing successful stories from market leaders such as Mark Zuckerburg – founder of Facebook, Steve Jobs – Cofounder of Apple, serial entrepreneur Richard Branson – Virgin Group of companies, Tabitha Karanja – Keroche Breweries and many more successful entrepreneurs. Most youth these days dream about being a great entrepreneur who will make it big in their chosen industry and gain riches. I think it is very achievable and I will admit, I am one of those who have that dream. So with that fire burning in my soul, I have embarked on a journey as an entrepreneur in Kenya, with that dream very strong in my heart – to be a successful and innovative female entrepreneur. We all hear about the dream life of a successful entrepreneur, however, nobody tells you how tough it is to get there.entrepreneur- dictionary word

Now you’ll hear entrepreneurs say that you need to stay motivated, some days are hard and the fact that you will sometimes be broke. However, these are not very popular topics so not many people expound on them. Most entrepreneurs will just say that you should keep motivated and ride through the rough times – no actual details involved. Well, as a start-up entrepreneur; I’m here to tell you that is just the tip of the iceberg my friends, it doesn’t even begin to describe the reality of a new or start-up entrepreneur.

You may hear that a lot of entrepreneurs sometimes don’t get a lot of sleep. That’s an under-statement, you can go a week or two, with just 2 hours of sleep each day. This happens especially when you’re launching a new product or store location. There are so many things to do, and many relying on your attention, that you feel that there are not enough hours in your day. You also get to wear a lot of hats in the beginning, as a start-up saving money, you can’t afford to hire an accountant, a receptionist, a social media strategist etc. So you constantly have to do a myriad of things for your business, before you get to the point where your business can afford to hire more people. That means, you’re posting on social media & blogging for your business – as well as checking if all your marketing efforts are effective and how to keep up with the ever changing market. You’re doing the accounting yourself, budgeting and controlling your expenses and deciding where to put your financial resources. If customers/clients or vendors call or want to meet, you’re the one to talk to them and deal with their needs. You will also be a sales person for your business, you are the one to market online, design and distribute your print material (e.g. catalogues  & brochures) for your business. You will visit those trade shows or any other field events available to market your products or services.

Persistence Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

This is an important part of being an entrepreneur

Have I mentioned that as an entrepreneur you have periods of time when you are completely broke. Now I don’t mean the kind of broke where you know at the end of the month you’re getting some cash from somewhere. I mean the kind of broke where, you’re making sales daily, but you still don’t have enough money to handle all your expenses. The kind of broke where your choice is either getting your hair done (you haven’t had it fixed for 2 months) or paying for the product packaging materials or production materials required to manufacture your product. This “state of broke”, can last more than a week, it can even go on for up to a month or two.

Ah yes – staying motivated. It may sound like entrepreneurs have lots of reserve of inspiration and great quotes describing how you should keep going and believing in your dream. It’s a daily effort – I kid you not, sometimes an hourly effort on really bad days. In the daily “grind” you find that you are so focused on the daily activities that sometimes you loose focus on what was driving you in the beginning. You find that with many negative things happening e.g. low sales, not enough funds; it’s harder to find the inspiration – this is where most start-up entrepreneurs give up. If you can’t stay motivated day in day out, I will be honest with you – you will give up. You have to find inspiration daily, you have to wake up motivated and remind yourself daily why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have to keep thinking positive because if you don’t, your dream will be lost and all you will have is stress and defeat in its place.

giving-up

Don’t loose your focus & give up

The journey of an entrepreneur is hard and full of many obstacles; if you think of starting and you hear other entrepreneurs telling you that it’s tough – believe me it’s ten times tougher than you think it is. However, I don’t think that this should scare you off or discourage you if you truly want to be an entrepreneur. I think that this knowledge should inspire you to be as prepared as you can be; financially, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically. You should know yourself and be prepared to get through very difficult times and in doing so, become a better person, not a bitter person. You should make sure that you surround yourself with helpful and motivating people, who will offer you strength and support. Most of all, I believe that you should be able to find motivation from within especially through your most difficult times, because I guarantee that you will encounter those and nobody will be around to offer advice and motivation. You will have to find it in yourself and keep moving.

"YES you can" on chalkboard

Stay motivated!

As a start-up entrepreneur, you also need to be aware that it’s going to be a journey to success, there is no quick success or get-rich-fast formula. Success takes time, experience, preparedness and patience. You will encounter failure and how you recover and adapt to the situation will define how successful your business will become. Facebook took about 5 years to become a profitable venture. Keroche breweries had to innovate and change their products in the first 5 years because the market changed and their products were no longer profitable. Richard Branson has build companies and had business ideas that he had to give up on e.g. Virgin Cola, or sell e.g. Virgin Records.

I believe that if you are well aware of what is ahead of you, you can begin your journey as an entrepreneur ready to take on all the challenges and hurdles that come with that choice. You can weather the bad times, stay motivated and be able to recognize and seize opportunities that will lead you to success. Success as an entrepreneur is not an impossible thing, just a highly improbable one. Be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.