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6 Steps To Grow A Funding Ready Start-up

A business owner funded in Shark Tank unpacks how you can become funding fit.

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The investor checklist

If you’re too busy looking for funding, you aren’t putting your time and energy into building a business that investors want to back. Don’t fall into this trap.


Last year we were fortunate enough to pitch our start-up, Plan My Wedding, to the Sharks in South Africa’s inaugural Shark Tank. Even more exciting, we were one of the few businesses that secured an investment.

What the entire experience has taught us is that as start-ups, we place too much emphasis on the importance of funding. Attracting an investor is exciting, and the growth that funding can bring is positive for the business if used correctly, but the reason we received funding in the first place is because we were already building a sustainable business. That’s the kind of business investors are attracted to.

Too many start-ups focus on finding funding to the detriment of actually building and bootstrapping their start-ups.

Sustainable growth

Here’s the reality: The way to get funded is to get started. Too many entrepreneurs spend their time pitching investors, planning and refining their business plan, rather than building a business that investors want to invest in.

Investors can bring immense value to your business, both in funding and mentorship. But, what they are really interested in is a return on their investment. Your investor won’t have the same amount of passion, drive and willingness to succeed as you do in the business you’ve created. That’s your job. They also might not be able to give you the time you need, at the time you need it.

Related: How This Power Couple Hooked 2 Shark Tank Investors

As the entrepreneur, it’s up to you to take action on what you know or need to know in order to work on your business. And here’s the key that so many start-ups miss: The ability to do that is one of the core reasons an investor will invest in you in the first place.

Before we secured our spot on Shark Tank, we were already pulling together the resources we could get our hands on. We were living the business, bootstrapping it and hustling every step of the way. We didn’t view finding an investor as the be-all and end-all of our business. We were making it happen. Of course, finance is important — even necessary — to business growth. But there are many ways to grow revenues; funding is just one option.

We’ve also learnt that if you really want to secure funding, you need to tick all these boxes anyway. Investors back entrepreneurs who are already out there, finding innovative ways to grow their start-ups.

Here’s what we’ve done to grow our business, and why we believe the Sharks wanted to back us.

1Get on the journey together

Entrepreneurship is lonely, but it doesn’t need to be. Find other start-ups who are on the same journey and help each other out with tips and advice in each of your areas of expertise.

Leverage each others’ knowledge bases and networks. We have two great contacts who recently started their own social media companies and who constantly give us tips on how to engage with people over social media. The key point here is ‘learn what you can from whoever you can.’

2Connect and join networks

Get out there and meet liked-minded people. There are various hubs and local incubators in every city (Google Start-up Grind is a great event held monthly in most cities). We constantly attend networking events that bring together seasoned entrepreneurs, speakers and the local start-up community.

These are a platform for knowledge exchange, with speakers from local incubators and venture capital firms sharing their own experiences and lessons in business planning and expansion.

Related: Plan My Wedding Share 5 Fantastic Tips To Win Over The Shark Tank

This way you can combine the best in local and international pitching with live streaming of international events, training workshops and guest speakers, all aimed at keeping entrepreneurs informed and equipped with the right tools.

We tap into every free webinar or talk on a subject we’re interested in that we can. We also formed a group with fellow entrepreneurs where we meet once a month and help each other talk through business challenges and connect each other with other entrepreneurs.

3Convince people to work for you for next to nothing

You’re not ready to hire a big team, but you also can’t do absolutely everything alone. So what are your options? We’ve started leveraging our contacts and forming barter agreements. If you need extra hands, interns are a great option and this creates a platform for them to learn and grow within your business. They are often hungry to learn and prove themselves, as well as gain experience, and will go beyond the call of duty to prove this.

In the beginning, keep costs low and make progress on as little capital as you can. Keep your costs to a minimum, even if you have to use some personal funds or funds from friends and family. There are two benefits to running a lean start-up.

It allows you to bootstrap your business, and if you decide to approach investors, you can prove that you can budget and stick to your budget. Investors aren’t there to pay flashy salaries and help you buy a BMW. They want to see that you can be frugal and use their cash to build the business.

4Focus on revenue

One of our investors has a good anecdote explaining the importance of revenue: Before you can go anywhere, you need to put petrol in your car. You can worry about your speed (profits) when you hit the freeway and start gaining more momentum. In other words, create a product or service that you can start selling.

If you can’t do this because you’re building an expensive prototype, use your professional skills to launch a side business to support your start-up until it generates revenue.

In our business, we didn’t have enough funds to complete a phase of our website. So we started focusing on other revenue avenues. For example, doing the planning of a client’s wedding ourselves instead of through the site where it was done for them. My business partner, Chelsea uses her website developer skills (which she taught herself through a free online training resource, EDX) and helps people design their websites. She offers this service to other entrepreneurs.

I’m doing coaching sessions with my certified training in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and ASE (Authentic Self-Empowerment), where I help entrepreneurs deal with the mental side of owning their own businesses and the various self-limiting beliefs and challenges entrepreneurs face.

Build additional finance streams to finance your future

With these additional income streams, we finance future product improvements and development.

But be careful; you don’t want to lose focus. As a start-up, consider these questions when approaching any new revenue stream: Will this ultimately distract you from your primary purpose? Can you adequately juggle multiple projects at once? Are you disciplined enough to ignore ‘paying work’ when necessary?

5Hustle (get busy)

This is the be-all and end-all of current entrepreneurial catch phrases, and it basically means: To proceed or work rapidly or energetically; to hustle about putting your business in order. If you need followers, likes or leads, go on any of the social media platforms and search, add and befriend those in your target market or people who you feel could be influencers.

This not only lets you see what they’re up to (and what they care about), but helps them to build a mental image of you and your business, which helps you build rapport before you offer them your service. You need to be out there. You never know which contact might lead you onto bigger deals. If you don’t try, you won’t succeed. 

Related: Need Growth Funding? Here’s How To Get It

6Be an expert

Whatever field you’re in, focus on becoming the expert in your field. Research your market, industry and best practice extensively. Understand your customers and their needs. Find or add key features or service offerings that will make you stand out from your competitors.

Explore ways to give your customers better value at a lower price than your competitors. Innovative technology (new entrants into the market) and services have a long, proven history of upsetting more established firms. Every day we find ways to do things faster, better and cheaper.

As start-ups, we have many advantages. We’re smaller and more adaptable to change and we can adjust our strategy and focus faster than more established businesses. With Plan My Wedding, we have designed extra features and resources to our site that will guide couples through their wedding planning journey.

Offer what your competition does, and more

While some businesses in our field are directories with tools to download, we offer this and more. Ours is now a ‘one stop shop,’ encompassing all the components of planning a wedding into a single platform. No site offers a guided process with all the extra features we can and will offer, and we’ve capitalised on that gap.

We also know that eventually another company will offer even more, and so we’re aware that service needs to play a major part in our business and our brand.  We have representatives in each area of the industry that manage and help vendors improve their businesses on our platform. This keeps us relevant and the go-to-choice for suppliers.

Pulling it all together

Don’t discount the role funding can play in your business. The right investors will help you grow your business. Just don’t view investment as your only growth tool. There is so much you can do, on your own. Focus on what you want, on where you want your business to be one year, five years and ten years from now. Fix it in your mind and create your own reality.

Don’t pay attention to the odds. They’re stacked against start-ups, and if we focused on them no-one would ever live their entrepreneurial dream. Get out there and make it happen.

And then the magic happens: Your business is fundable because all your basics are in place, and now you have the luxury of choosing whether you want that investment or not. You’re no longer chasing money; you’re strategically building your business.

Jason Newmark is the co-founder and CEO of Plan My Wedding and The CES Collection. As an active entrepreneur, Jason can always be seen building relationships and connections with his genuine love to learn, inspire and lead. Visit www.planmywedding.com or www.thecescollection.com

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SAB Transforms Supply Chains

Supplier Development Programmes grow black-owned suppliers and create jobs.

South African Breweries (SAB)

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The South African Breweries (SAB) has invested more than R200 million into creating an inclusive supply chain that incorporates black-owned and black women-owned SMEs through its supplier development programmes, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive. In addition, more than 100 jobs have been created through these efforts.

SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive aim to create a diversified and inclusive supply chain by supporting the growth of black-owned suppliers through business development support and funding. The programmes are two of four entrepreneurship development programmes run by SAB to help create 10 000 jobs in South Africa by 2022 — SAB KickStart, SAB Foundation, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive.

SAB’s agriculture programmes also contribute towards the aim to create jobs by growing emerging farmers.     

Related: SAB-Commissioned Research Shows SA Poised To Reap Entrepreneurship Rewards

“From rural entrepreneurs to big business, SAB has laid the foundation to support entrepreneurs and to contribute towards government’s efforts to grow the economy and reduce unemployment in the country,” says Ricardo Tadeu, Zone President, SAB and AB InBev Africa.

“We recognise that one of the major hurdles for SMEs in South Africa is the ability to gain entry into big business and form part of their supply chains. This requires a symbiotic relationship with big business working alongside smaller suppliers.”

SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive cohesively solve the challenges of creating a healthy pipeline of suppliers that represent the demographics of the country. SAB Accelerator has piloted ten businesses that have created 29 permanent and 79 part-time jobs in a period of just six months, and is currently incubating 24 businesses as part of the official post-pilot intake. SAB Thrive has invested R100 million in seven businesses, which have created 46 new jobs. In addition, the programme has contributed R140 million in new B-BBEE preferential spend.

The SAB Accelerator is an in-house programme dedicated to developing black-owned and black women-owned suppliers. Geared towards fast-tracking participants’ growth, the programme employs ten highly experienced business coaches and ten engineers, offering both tailored business and deep technical coaching to the participants.

It has a three-phased approach consisting of:

  1. Diagnostic: Screening the business’s current situation and systematically identifying gaps and opportunities for growth.
  2. Catalyst: Proposing an intensive three-month coaching intervention addressing key business functional and technical areas of improvement or growth.
  3. Amplify: Providing additional business development to support graduates of the Catalyst Programme.

The SAB Accelerator strongly focuses on enhancing market visibility and access of its participants.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Existing black-owned or black woman-owned suppliers currently servicing SAB’s supply chain at the time of application.
  • Existing black-owned or black women-owned businesses that have potential to join the SAB supply chain based on their product or service.

The SAB Thrive fund is an enterprise and supplier development (E&SD) fund set up to transform the company’s supplier base. The fund was established in partnership with the Awethu Project, a black private equity fund manager and SME investment company. The aim is to invest in and transform SAB suppliers to represent our country’s demographics. SAB Thrive investees benefit from 100% black equity capital and business support.

Related: 6 SAB Entreprenurship Programmes That Provide Business Management And Support

The fund invests growth equity capital into SAB’s existing high-growth black-owned suppliers, furthering their profitable expansion into the SAB supply chain without diluting the black-ownership of these businesses.

Existing white-owned suppliers are provided equity capital to support the enhancement of their black ownership, while facilitating the introduction of black entrepreneurs to their business. The intention is to apprentice the individual to take over the business in the near future.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Black-owned suppliers in the SAB supply chain that want to grow their business through access to black-owned growth equity capital.
  • Existing white-owned suppliers in the SAB supply chain that want to transform their B-BBEE ownership.

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Alternative Finance – Filling The Gap

Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding.

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Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding. It does not replace traditional finance but rather functions as a complementary and additional form of funding.

Alternative financers are specialists – they focus on a particular need and on a specific audience. As a result their ‘how’ is customised to deal with their chosen target market and for this targets unique needs. This applies to the funder’s processes and to their level of flexibility around things such as collateral. An example of this is that a SME may have an existing R1 million overdraft (their traditional finance) secured by R 1.5 million collateral but suddenly they need R5 million for some kind of contract or bridging finance – they need it fast and don’t have that extent of collateral.

The traditional funder cannot provide what they need, their process is too long and their flexibility is too low. An alternative financier providing bridging finance and specialising in SMEs is ideally positioned to fill this gap.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

One of the most significant differences between a traditional funder and an alternative financier is in their process. In the case of the alternative financier, they have often chosen to deal exclusively with a particular customer base, for example SMEs. As a result, this funder has both an affinity and contextually relevant empathy in working with SMEs.

Not only do they speak the same language the funder also has an appreciation for the time and material constraints of the SME and has developed their processes to cater to this market. This applies most notably to the turnaround time of the funding need and to the assessment aspect – where flexibility around things such as collateral is vital in making the finance happen for the SME.

A traditional funder is unable to meet the deadline of a bridging finance need, submitted on an urgent basis, where the finance is needed as soon as 2-3 days from time of application. A specialised or alternative funder is able to do exactly this. A traditional funder is also unable to find creative methods in solving the SMEs lack of high-value collateral in applying for finance.

This SME has generally already used their high-value collateral for traditional credit facilities but now needs funding for growth or resolution of a temporary cash flow challenge. An alternative financier is able to look at such an application in a different way, and has most likely already established alternative ways to make this happen for the SME.

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6 Money Management Tips For First-Time Entrepreneurs

That R25 coffee every morning isn’t taking you to the next level any faster than brewing a pot at the office.

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How many times have you been told that saving money is a good thing? Financial specialists recommend that you save a bit of money every month, but that’s easier said than done. After all, it’s not uncommon for people to live paycheck to pay cheque.

However, if you want to start a company, you’ll need to break away from this cycle and start budgeting and saving. At times, this will be a trying task, but it must be done if you want to invest in your future as an entrepreneur.

If you want to start managing your money more effectively and set yourself up to become an entrepreneur, follow the six tips below. With these techniques in your arsenal, you’ll start so see immediate changes, and you’ll set good behaviours in motion that’ll serve you throughout your career as an entrepreneur.

1. Prioritise organisation

When you are organised, you can track every facet of your finances. Record all of your financial information in one place so you can refer to it and keep track of your progress.

When you chronicle all of your financial information, you may want to try and organise it by category. For example, when you are recording your current costs, you can categorise them as “urgent” and “future.”

Not only will this system help you stay on top of your personal finances, but it’ll prepare you for entrepreneurial success because it’s a directly transferable skill.

Related: Smart Money For Small Businesses

2. Check your credit

According to a recent MoneyTips survey, nearly 30 percent of people don’t know their credit score. If you are among this group, it’s time to request a free credit report. Once you know your number, assuming money’s tight, feel free to use a few do-it-yourself credit repair techniques to quickly improve your score.

Understanding your credit score and improving it to the best of your ability is paramount when it comes to money management. A little-known fact among aspiring entrepreneurs is that the funding a new business receives is often dependent on the founder’s credit score.

3. Save where you can

People often cringe when they think about cutting back. Fortunately, there are several painless ways to save. Look at your daily habits and see if you have any spending trends. For example, if you spend $5 every day on lattes, you might consider cutting back and only having the expensive latte every other day. Slowly, you’ll get used to this new habit, and your bank account will reap the rewards.

Related: Time Is Money: Tips To Help You Use Yours Well

4. Search for additional information

The Penny Hoarder

Have you heard of The Penny Hoarder or Dough Roller? These are just two personal finance blogs that can help you better manage your money, but there’s a whole lot more out there.

Subscribe to websites and follow podcasts that offer advice on money management. Also, keep your eyes peeled for informative outlets that speak directly about entrepreneurial finances and follow them, too.

5. Set long- and short-term goals

Have you ever noticed that people want to reach their goals in as little time as possible? If you pick up almost any given health magazine, it’ll claim that it can help you achieve extreme results in little to no time.

Unfortunately, crash diets are often ineffective, and “get rich quick” money management techniques often lack substance.

It’s hard to accept that your goals will take time to accomplish, which is why you create short- and long-term goals. In either case, aim to make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Ideally, accomplishing your short-term goals will give you the positive feedback that you need to continue striving for your long-term goals.

Related: If You’re Trying To Raise Money, Doing Any Of These 9 Things May Scare Off Investors

6. Find a mentor

If you manage your personal finances and entrepreneurial finances, one thing is certain – at times, it will feel like you can’t keep up with everything. Financial planning can be difficult, and it’s not uncommon for it to feel overwhelming.

As an individual, you can seek out mentors that can help you with personal finances. As an entrepreneur, you can continue to work with these people or seek out more established financial consultants that provide you with guidance you need to run your business.

Managing your finances is a trying and rewarding experience. It will feel messy at times, but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve your personal finances and set yourself up for entrepreneurial money management success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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