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 Easy & Economical Ways To Do Market Research For Your Product in Kenya

If you want to start a new business in Kenya or you already have a small start-up business in Kenya, it is important to always do market research. If you want to introduce your new product or service to the Kenyan market; you should do some local market research to establish whether your product or service is in demand and whether people will be satisfied with it or they don’t particularly like it.
As a small business start-up in Kenya, you most probably have a small marketing budget to work with; however, that does not mean that you should ignore market research entirely. The trick is to find an easier, more budget-friendly way of doing it. It is not wise to ignore market research in any aspect of your product or service; I have personally learned this the hard way. When I started my bakery business two years ago; I actually tested my baked products many months before I opened it officially. I would bake using my recipes and give my work colleagues, friends and family my baked products to taste and give me their honest feedback on what my products tasted like. When I opened officially, I didn’t stop testing and getting feedback from all my new customers. I even gave incentives for some free items for feedback on social media and other platforms. I was able to actually perfect my recipes through the feedback that I got from my online customers in Nairobi who were my target market.
On the negative side; when I expanded my bakery to an outside location (I’m currently home-based, we deliver to our customers), I focused on set up and stocking, but didn’t do any research for my products in the area where I was starting the shop. I just assumed that the same products would work for that local area. I however found out the hard way that it wasn’t the case. I had to adjust my menu and meet local demand as I was struggling to balance the new store and get it running profitably. I managed to meet half the demand to those local customers; but I wish that I had been more prepared and done some research before starting. So as a person who has suffered failure by not doing any market research; I urge you not to make the same mistake. If you want to start up a small business or want to launch a new product or service for your small business in Kenya; please ensure you do market research – no matter how simple. I have four easy and economical ways that you can do it to start with, if your budget is small. I guarantee they will be of great help to you and your small business in Kenya.

1. Test your product or service on your family, friends and neighbors

Whether your business will be offering a product or service; it’s best to start testing with people close to you. Create your product and then offer your family, friends and neighbors the product; you can start by giving it for free as a sample to try out then offer it at a price the next time. Depending on whether you are still in the creation stage of the product, you can offer the price at a discounted rate or you can offer at market price. This will give you a good idea of the product or service quality and whether you should improve it or not.

Test your products with family and friends

Test your products with family and friends

2. Test it at Trade shows or Field Exhibition Days in your target location
Most areas in Kenya have agricultural field days and various trade shows that occur in different industries. Some are new kinds of exhibitions looking for all types of small businesses to display their products or services and some actually target small business in specific industries. Even the local city council hosts some of the small exhibitions that run for two to five days where they invite local small businesses. Ensure that you are active in your area or know someone who has information on such fairs or trade shows. They are especially helpful if you are in the agri-business or value addition industry. You can also contact your local MCA (County Rep or Member of County Assembly) for information on such activities. You can either give free samples or sell your products and give incentives for people to either give feedback at a later date for a free or discounted item. You can also ask for the customers to sample your products there and give instant feedback as well. I personally found these avenues great for feedback when I first started my bakery.

Giving samples at the Cake Festival (Image: Cookswell Jikos)

Giving samples at the Cake Festival (Image: Cookswell Jikos)

3. Run contests or online giveaways and request for feedback from contest winners
This is another easy way of either testing your existing product or a new product you would like to introduce in your menu. You can run contests on social media platforms or your business location and give away a product or service as a prize. After the contest winners receives their prizes, request for honest and extensive feedback on the product or service. This is another method I have found effective not only for feedback but for attracting potential customers in the future.

4. Get honest feedback from your new customers the first three months of starting your new business
After starting your new business officially, make sure you request feedback from every new customer; record and review it weekly for any product or service adjustments. You will be able to track the response on your new products and business for those three months and make any adjustments necessary. You will also find that your customers will be happy to know you’re interested in their satisfaction and you’ll build brand loyalty from them.

Get honest feedback on your business from customers

Get honest feedback on your business from customers

Those are a few easy ways of conducting market research for your small business in Kenya. They are helpful and effective; any start-up entrepreneur in Kenya should never ignore the importance of market research, it could be detrimental for you small business.
If you have any other suggestions on other ways to conduct market research on a budget, please feel free to comment below, thanks ^_^

Remember to work hard and work smart.

4 Easy Ways to Start Using Inbound Marketing for Your Start-Up in Kenya

As an entrepreneur who has started a small business in Kenya, I know that small businesses have a very small marketing budget. Therefore, a small business in Kenya has to find the most effective ways to attract customers. The conclusion is obvious, running a small business in Kenya in this day and age, requires the use of inbound marketing which focuses on attracting your customers instead of going out to find them (which requires quite a budget). If you have recently been introduced to inbound marketing, you may wonder how to get started on using inbound in your small business.

Here are four easy ways to get started.

1. Research

Research is necessary in any business marketing strategy, especially inbound marketing. If you’re not sure how to start using inbound marketing, it is necessary to research on the basics of what it is and how it is implemented. You should also make sure you find out if other businesses in your industry are using inbound marketing and how. A great way to start is by visiting Hubspot’s website, they are leaders in inbound marketing strategies and very helpful on how to get started.

Hubspot provides advice on Inbound marketing

Hubspot provides advice on Inbound marketing

Before I first started my business, I found out what inbound marketing was, then I read about it and collected as many resources as I could on how to implement inbound in my business (I download Hubspot e-books and templates almost everyday ^_^). I also make sure that to this day I never stop learning and researching on inbound marketing as it evolves. Make sure you keep up with the necessary practices and effective inbound marketing activities.

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

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

2. Get a website

The first step towards inbound is setting up a website for your small business and making sure it’s search engine optimized (SEO) to attract your target customers. In Kenya there are many companies to choose as domain providers to host your website. For a simple start, you can visit kbo.co.ke, they give you options of companies to host your website, but most importantly you can get started on your website for free at first (your website name will however have a .kbo tag on it). After you set up and get cash, you can then pay for your own domain name. Safaricom also offers a domain provider based on size you can choose to start up. There are many options on getting your website up and running. I started my website using kbo to set-up, since it’s a Google site builder website, this is preferable if you cannot afford a website designer when starting. With this kind of website, you can set up the website yourself and design it as you wish. 

Google Business Sitebuilder is easy to use to set-up your website

Google Business Sitebuilder is easy to use to set-up your website

3. Start at least two social media pages

A second step towards an effective inbound marketing strategy in Kenya is social media. After you attract your target customers or leads (potential customers), you should engage with them; to get feedback, keep in touch with them, among many other things. Most people these days are on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn, to name a few. It’s best to start with the two most popular networks, Facebook and Twitter; this will be simpler for you as you decide if you want to add pages on other networks. It’s also simpler to start with two networks that you can observe, keep track of and analyze your progress as you’re starting. When you can manage it, you can extend your brand to other networks as well. 

Amari Facebook Page

Amari Facebook Page

I started with Facebook and Twitter for my business as well since I can use Facebook insights and Hootsuite for Twitter analytics to keep track of my progress and reach.

Amari Twitter Page

Amari Twitter Page

4. Start a business blog

It is imperative for a successful inbound marketing strategy to start a business blog. A blog allows you to create content that will attract the right kind of leads for your business. By creating content on a weekly (or even daily) basis, you stay relevant on search engines and have a higher chance of getting more customers – which leads to higher sales for your small business. You can use blogging platforms such as WordPress or Google Blogger to get started on your blog. However, if possible; if you can get a blogging platform on your website when it’s being designed, it’s a better option. It means that you will be getting direct traffic to your website because of your blog. 

Amari Bakery Blog

Amari Bakery Blog

For my bakery business, I used Google blogger to get my bakery blog started and to this day at least 50% of my monthly sales are from leads through the business blog. 

I hope the above steps are helpful on your journey to effective inbound marketing for your small business in Kenya. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to state them below.

Remember to work hard and work smart ^_^