Starting Over

Starting Over

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Start-up Challenge

An entrepreneur moved his event management and wedding planner business to a new province where no one knows his business. He needs to attract new clients, but isn’t sure where to begin. He has been distributing pamphlets, but so far no one has gotten back to him.

Start-up Solution

This entrepreneur had a thriving business doing wedding planning, parties and corporate event management and then he moved to a different province. When he started operations in his new location he realised just how much personal reputation and word of mouth had meant. In the new location he is unknown and potential clients are wary of entrusting important events to him. The business must be started again in the new location. As before, he has to build a client base and a solid reputation to provide a platform for growth. He has the advantage of experience, so he does not start quite as ‘cold’ as he did originally. Against this are a number of part-time wedding planners and event managers who are established and compete with him for business.

Strengths and resources

For all such challenges a good starting point is to identify strengths and resources compared to competitors, and examine how these can be used to advantage. For example, he runs a full-time business in competition with part-timers, so he has the advantage of being able to visit prospects and potential allies during working hours to canvass for opportunities. His company can bid for business meetings and training events run on weekdays — a big advantage over the part-timers.

Another strength is his experience in event management; this could be turned to an advantage by deliberately seeking out the most demanding clients and weddings where the family wants much more than others offer. By running these difficult events with confidence, the company will develop a reputation for excellence, while his part-time competitors are seen to be hesitant.

Generating sales leads

This entrepreneur discovered that broad- based advertising, like pamphlets in mailboxes does little to generate sales leads. To be effective, advertising must be focused where target customers are likely to see the adverts. Where could he find brides-to-be? Perhaps at colleges, sporting clubs, gyms or places of worship?  Posters or brochures at such venues could generate enquiries.

Forming alliances with interested parties is likely to be even more productive. For weddings these include photographers, wedding boutiques, florists, jewellers, wedding venues and similar service providers. For business events, conference centres, training providers and public relations practitioners are the targets. Alliances only work if they are mutually beneficial, so the entrepreneur needs to devise methods by which the ally gains an advantage if they introduce him to prospective clients.

A great way to develop a reputation would be to run free events for worthy causes like schools or charities. Their only cost would be materials. If the events are successful his company’s reputation will spread, and while running the event the entrepreneur will meet many businesspeople and families, and gain their goodwill. Building a network is a requirement for all entrepreneurs developing new businesses, so he could add to his charity work by networking via community forums, sports clubs and associations. All offer good opportunities to meet potential clients.

His target market for weddings and parties is a young group, and very much a part of the wired generation. This means an Internet presence is an absolute requirement – without this his company is invisible to large sections of this target market. An interesting website optimised for search engines and directories should be complemented by an effective presence in community and business networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Being different

Like all entrepreneurs, our questioner should continually look for ways to add more value for his clients, to be different and make his services stand out. The difference does not have to be in gimmicks, it can be in the financial package, or little extras in the services offered. It could simply be absolute reliability and integrity, but to be a differentiator it needs to be more than the competitors offer. Entrepreneurship is too demanding and too much fun to allow the business to be just another ‘me too’ supplier.

Google invests in SA ideas

Google is giving South African IT entrepreneurs a jump-start with the launch of its Umbono technology incubator programme in Cape Town.

How it works

  • The programme lasts for six months, at the end of which entrepreneurs should be pitch-ready and have a business plan in place for the next round of funding.
  • Teams will receive between
    $25 000 and $50 000. The capital from angel investors will be exchanged for equity (10%).
  • Furnished office space and bandwidth is provided for the duration of the programme.
  • Umbono teams have access to Bandwidth Barn’s VeloCITI programmes covering all topics relevant to an emerging business.
  • Teams will have regular access to Google’s extensive network of business and technology experts. Each team is paired with a Google Power Mentor for weekly interactions.
  • Applications
  • While applications officially closed at the end of April, the process remains open year-round depending on quantity and quality of applicants.

More information

Email: umbonoza@gmail.com

Visit: www.google.co.za/intl/en/umbono

Ed Hatton
Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.