Starting a business with limited capital requires a shift in mindset. Traditionally we are conditioned to begin the process of looking for new business opportunities by asking: “Where is there a gap in the market and how can I fill that gap?” A gap could be an unfilled customer need or a new invention yet to be brought to market.
Next, we establish a goal to create a venture that will fill that gap. We consider the resources necessary to make our goal a reality and go out in search of those resources. We write a business plan and present it to potential financiers with the promise of a return on investment.
If the financiers like us and like our idea, they provide us with the capital to start the business. If not, we are stuck.
Most times, people find it difficult to raise the resources they require, causing the entire project to fall on its head. There is an alternative route to creating a new venture.
Instead of starting with the question, “Where is there a gap in the market and how can I fill it?” ask yourself, “What do I have and who do I know?”
Carefully examine the resources and relationships over which you have influence, and consider how you can put these to work quickly and effectively to create an offering that the market needs or wants. You can experiment using different combinations of resources to test how the market responds to different offerings and over time create an offering that is really valuable to others.
With this approach, an entrepreneur’s goals emerge over time, taking resources, connections and contingencies into account.
They are not fixed at the start of a project as they are when the traditional approach is applied. A useful way to contrast the traditional and alternative modes of venture creation is to use the metaphor of the dinner party.
Assume you are hosting a few friends for a casual sit-down dinner on a Saturday evening. In preparing for this get-together, you might spend some time thinking about who is coming and what food they like.
You might even call them up earlier in the week to find out if there is anything they don’t eat and if they have any preferences.
Having gathered this information you will decide on a menu, go to a recipe book to see what ingredients you need, construct a shopping list and buy the goods.
You will bring home the ingredients, prepare them according to the instructions and hopefully serve a delicious dinner.
The alternative option would be to wake up on Saturday morning, check what you have in the fridge and freezer, consider what sort of food your friends prefer and concoct something for them with the ingredients that you have on hand.
Developing the alternative entrepreneurial mindset
Here are some principles and guidelines that will provide you with a better chance of effectively launching a business with little or no capital.
1Start with what you have
At the outset of looking to start a new business take stock of what you have at your disposal. Consider your:
- Skills – what can you do?
- Experience – what have you done in the past?
- Knowledge – what do you know?
- Tangible resources – what do you own and what do you have access to?
It is recommended that you think carefully about your responses to these questions. Go beyond what comes to mind immediately and think a little more deeply about what you have at your disposal. In this process be sure to write down your responses to these questions.
Your written responses will create a collection of artefacts that can be combined to create something interesting, novel and valuable in establishing a new business.
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2Take into account who you know
What you have needs to be combined with who you know for it to have real power. Take stock of the relationships you have with others, map out your network of connections and consider how your connections could enable you to use what you have more effectively.
Sarasvathy points out that the alternative means of venture creation advocates “stitching together partnerships to create new markets.” Relationships, particularly equity partnerships, drive the shape and trajectory of the new venture
3Invest what you can afford to lose
There is a big difference in your mindset if you start with the perspective that “I am investing this amount and I expect a 30% return” versus “I can afford to lose this much, therefore I will put it into the business and see if I can make it work”.
If you have only put in what you can afford to lose, you maintain flexibility in the business and minimise stress in managing it. If you are only willing to invest when you expect that you can get a specific return, there is a strong chance that you may never take the leap and launch the business you always dreamed of owning.
An example of this is the entrepreneur who refuses to leave a well-paying job until he finds an opportunity that he predicts will pay more, versus one who decides to invest a small portion of her savings and two years of her life in a project that she believes is worth that amount of time and money – irrespective of whether it will pay more than what she currently earns.
She is living out the alternative entrepreneurial mindset.
4Experiment and adapt
With this mindset, flexibility and adaptability are a competitive advantage. You succeed not by becoming too fixated on a single goal or outcome but by being responsive to changes in the environment.
Existing firms typically take longer to adapt than new firms because they have more incentive for things to remain the same and they have established routines and practices that reinforce the status quo.
New firms are not tied to the way things have always been done and thus entrepreneurs can benefit from shifts in consumer preferences, or shifts in technology or changing legislation by realigning their businesses to take advantage of such developments.
As Sarasvathy puts it, in the traditional approach to business planning, “there is an explicit effort to avoid unpleasant surprises”.
The entrepreneur with the alternative mindset, “in contrast, has to stand ready to make do with what comes her way and learn to transform both positive and negative contingencies into useful components of new opportunities.”
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Types of new businesses to start with limited capital
The businesses that emerge when entrepreneurs have limited capital and adopt the alternative mindset for new venture creation typically have certain characteristics. They often fall into one or more of the following broad categories: Service, Events, Performance, Brokerage or Education.
Service businesses depend on the skill and time of the person starting the business. Such a person can make their skill available to others with relatively little upfront investment. To start a service business you merely need the tools of your trade.
A consultant may require a computer, a handyman some tools and a dressmaker a sewing machine. With these tools on hand you can use your contacts to start selling your service.
Events-based businesses are a little more complex but can still be started with limited capital (see the March edition of Entrepreneur for a feature on events-based businesses). Events-based businesses include ventures that put on sports events, expos and concerts.
The advantage of such businesses is that with effective marketing, you can sell the tickets before you incur the major costs, limiting the amount of capital required to keep the venture afloat.
Performance-based businesses depend on the ability of entrepreneurs to perform and to pull together other people who can enhance the performance.
Mark Lamberti, the entrepreneur who turned Makro into what it is today, says he learned some of his most important business lessons when he played in and managed a band in his young adult years.
Performance-based businesses depend on the creative skill of the entrepreneur coupled with an ability to market those skills to a broader audience.
Musicians, comedians, motivational speakers and singers all have the potential to create performance-based businesses.
Brokerage businesses are amongst the most popular kinds of ventures for people with little capital. They bring buyers and sellers together. You find brokers across multiple industries from real estate (e.g. estate agents), hospitality (e.g. website portals marketing B&Bs), recruitment (e.g. recruitment agents), and sports (e.g, sports agents bringing sportsmen and sponsors together), to speakers and performing artists (e.g. speaking agents marketing speakers to conference coordinators) and the list goes on.
The key to being effective in brokerage businesses is having contacts and fostering relationships and effective marketing on both sides of the equation – to buyers and sellers.
But the essence of the business is still what it has always been, filling an information gap between buyers and sellers. People with lots of contacts in a particular industry and a flair for marketing and selling should consider a brokerage business as a low capital way to get into business.
Education is another area where people find opportunities with little or no capital. Anyone with skills and insights that others wish to learn, and a passion for helping others develop could move into education.
From an ex-teacher setting up a business that provides extra lessons to school-going children, or a sports fanatic setting up a coaching business, to a person with training in photography helping others take better pictures, there are multiple low capital opportunities in the education arena.
Although these five categories of businesses – service, events, performance, brokerage or education – may spark some ideas within you, low capital start-up opportunities are not limited to them.
With ongoing development in technology, there are many new opportunities emerging in the software and web services space (e.g. creating iPhone apps) and in the media space (e.g. with website and blogging tools there is no longer the need to spend R5 million to create the foundations of a media company).
The key is to start with what you currently have – the resources you can access, the skills you can leverage and the connections at your disposal – to help you figure out a low cost path to a sustainable and profitable new business.
The downside of the low capital approach
Although there are many benefits to starting your entrepreneurial journey by asking “what do I have and who do I know?” there are also downsides to this approach which may require remedial action to overcome the negative consequences.
The major one centres on the notion that the business and the owner become inextricably linked – the owner is the business and the business is the owner. Under such circumstances, it becomes difficult to scale the business because the owner only has so many hours a day to keep selling his services.
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It also becomes difficult to sell the business because it is worth very little without the owner and there is a risk that the owner may become overworked and burn out.
To overcome these challenges, entrepreneurs should focus on codifying what they do and training others to be able to replicate it. They should also aim to systematise as much as possible in the business – creating systems and processes to do what they would otherwise have done.
The big four accounting firms all started out many, many years ago as small accounting partnerships but they were able to grow because the senior partners effectively trained junior people entering the firm in the ways of effective accounting and auditing and they created methodologies and practices that could be passed from one person to the next to enable a broader base of people to do the required work.
Privateproperty.co.za and Wheretostay.co.za have created value by taking their brokerage businesses online. They are therefore not dependent on the people in the business to make it work. The business can scale and be sold without being tied to one particular person.
Although there is a downside to the alternative approach to entrepreneurship there are also many upsides. It is empowering to focus on what you can do with what you have at your disposal and it enables people to get into business in ways they would otherwise not have imagined. If you are genuinely serious about creating a business from a low capital base, I encourage you to give it a try.
SAB Transforms Supply Chains
Supplier Development Programmes grow black-owned suppliers and create jobs.
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.
“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:
- Diagnostic: Screening the business’s current situation and systematically identifying gaps and opportunities for growth.
- Catalyst: Proposing an intensive three-month coaching intervention addressing key business functional and technical areas of improvement or growth.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- Call: 011 886 0922
- Visit: www.spartan.co.za
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Search for additional information
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.
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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