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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

3 Steps to Starting your Own Business Today

So you want to start your own business? What are you waiting for?

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Here’s what the experts say about how to face your fears of leaving the corporate world, and when you’re really ready to launch your own business.

Step 1: Refine your idea

Here’s how to take the idea of owning your own business and turn it into a reality.

The question that halts most budding entrepreneurs in their tracks is, ‘when do I begin?’. The fact that you’re even thinking about starting a business means you’ve already begun. You’ve taken the first step by asking for help and searching for answers. There will always be challenges, no matter when you decide to start your business. To succeed, your goal is simple: Define your business concept to the best of your ability, test it out and adjust it as you discover what will work.

The greatest aspect of being an entrepreneur is that there are no rules to follow. You don’t need more experience or money to start; you can go for your dream right now. To help you get going, here are four tips.

  • Define your passion in writing

If you keep an idea in your mind, that’s as far as it can develop. Writing down your concept helps you focus on how to make it a business. By clearly defining your idea, your imagination, heart and intellect can begin to work together to make it a reality.

  • Keep an open mind and trust your instincts

This is not the time to judge your abilities or your experience. Tell yourself that you can and will discover how to make your dream business a reality. Find people who can help. SME owners usually enjoy sharing their experiences. Listen to them and get real-life direction, knowledge and tools that will move you forward faster.

  • Buy yourself time

Pick a specific time each week when the only thing you do is work on developing your business. Don’t let anything distract you; this is your special time to go for your dream.

  • Test out your idea and be willing to adjust it

You will be successful if you take action and make adjustments to your idea by analysing the information you receive. Allow your business concept to be shaped and moulded by your research, friendly suggestions and other information you gather along the way.

By simply having a dream, you have already taken the first step to achieving your goals; now, get ready for the ride of your life.

Drop all of the excuses, jump in with both feet and trust your instincts. You will uncover the resources, people and strategies you need to succeed.

Related: Steps for Testing Your Business Idea

Step 2: Get going

If you want to start a business but don’t know where to begin, don’t worry – you are not alone. Here are eight ways to take control.

  • Take a stand for yourself

If you are dissatisfied with your current circumstances, admit that no one but you can fix them. It doesn’t do any good to blame the economy, your boss, your spouse or your family. Change can only occur when you make a conscious decision to make it happen.

  • Identify the right business for you

Give yourself permission to explore. Be willing to look at different facets of yourself (your personality, social styles, age) and listen to your intuition. We tend to ignore intuition even though deep down we often know the truth. Ask yourself, ‘What gives me energy even when I’m tired?’ How do you know what business is ‘right’ for you? There are three common approaches to entrepreneurship:

  • Do what you know. Look at work you have done for others in the past and think about how you could package those skills and offer them as your own services or products.
  • Do what others do. Learn about other businesses that interest you. Once you have identified a business you like, emulate it.
  • Solve a common problem. Is there a gap in the market? Is there a service or product you would like to bring to market? If you choose to do this, make sure that you become a student and gain knowledge first before you spend any money.
  • Business planning improves your chances of success

Most people don’t plan, but it will help you get to market faster. A business plan will help you gain clarity, focus and confidence. A plan does not need to be more than one page. As you write down your goals, strategies and action steps, your business becomes real.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I building?
  • Who will I serve?
  • What is the promise I am making to my customers/clients and to myself?
  • What are my objectives, strategies and action plans (steps) to achieve my goals?
  • Know your target audience

Before you spend money, find out if people will actually buy your products or services. This may be the most important thing you do. You can do this by validating your market. In other words, who, exactly, will buy your products or services other than your family or friends? What is the size of your target market? Who are your customers? Is your product or service relevant to their everyday life? Why do they need it?

There is industry research available that you can uncover for free. Read industry articles with data (Google the relevant industry associations) and read Census data to learn more. However, the most important way to get this information is to ask your target market/customers directly and then listen.

  • Understand your personal finances and choose the right money you need for your business

As an entrepreneur, your personal life and business life are interconnected. You are likely to be your first – and possibly only – investor. Therefore, having a detailed understanding of your personal finances, and the ability to track them, is an essential first step before seeking outside funding for your business. As you are creating your business plan, you will need to consider what type of business you are building – a lifestyle business (smaller amount of start-up funds), a franchise (moderate investment depending on the franchise), or a high-tech business (will require significant capital investment). Depending on where you fall in the continuum, you will need a different amount of money to launch and grow your business, and it does matter what kind of money you accept.

  • Build a support network

You’ve made the internal commitment to your business. Now you need to cultivate a network of supporters, advisors, partners, allies and vendors. If you believe in your business, others will, too. Network locally, nationally and via social networks. Here are some networking basics:

  • When attending networking events, ask others what they do and think about how you can help them. The key is to listen more than tout yourself.
  • No matter what group you join, be generous, help others and make introductions without charging them.
  • By becoming a generous leader, you will be the first person who comes to mind when someone you’ve helped needs your service or hears of someone else who needs your service.
  • Sell by creating value

Even though we purchase products and services every day, people don’t want to be ‘sold.’ Focus on serving others. The more people you serve, the more money you will make. When considering your customers or clients, ask yourself:

  • What can I give them?
  • How can I make them successful in their own pursuits?
  • This approach can help lead you to new ways to hone your product or service and deliver more value, which your customers will appreciate.
  • Get the word out

Be willing to say who you are and what you do with conviction and without apology. Embrace and use the most effective online tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) available to broadcast your news. Even though social networks are essential today, don’t underestimate the power of other methods to get the word out: eg, word-of-mouth marketing, website and Internet marketing tools, public relations, blog posts, columns and articles, speeches, email, newsletters, and the old-fashioned but still essential telephone.

Related: Smart Marketing Ideas for Your Business

Step 3: Overcoming your fears

Call it what you like. Procrastination. Fear. Necessary preparation. The fact is that many new business owners fall into the trap of staying ‘busy’ without actually doing business.

Designing business cards and setting up spreadsheets are just some of the tasks that, though necessary, make it tempting to put off doing business. After all, it’s more fun to choose fonts than to make cold calls.

It’s true that starting a business requires a certain amount of preparation, or as Robert Spiegel, author of The Shoestring Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Best Home-Based Businesses, calls it, ‘pencil sharpening’. Here are ten ways to move past pencil sharpening and put those pencils to work.

  • Make a list

Making lists is a common denominator in businesses that have moved forward during the start-up phase. “People take time-management classes and use various electronic tools, daily planners and software, but all these tools essentially help make lists,” says Spiegel. “Having a list is the most important way to keep procrastination away.”  Keep the list in front of you so it’s always visible.

  • Take baby steps

It can be overwhelming when your to-do list is changing and priorities seem to be wrestling each other, but starting with small, manageable jobs can help thwart fears and minimise anxiety. Focusing on what really matters often comes down to having discipline and a clear vision.

  • Find a customer

If you don’t have customers or clients, you don’t have a business. Yet finding and committing to that first customer can be a difficult hurdle for many entrepreneurs.

  • Forget perfection

It might seem ideal to have everything in place exactly as you envisioned, but perfection doesn’t pay the bills. The ideal situation would be to have high-tech office equipment, but rather than waiting, start working from a small office with little more than basic equipment – a desk and a telephone.

  • Talk business

Believing in yourself and your business might sound like hokey advice, but if you don’t believe you’re truly in business, as opposed to ‘starting a business,’ how can you expect anyone else to believe it?

Change your choice of words when you’re out in the world. Talk about your company like it is a business, not like it’s about to be a business – “I’m trying to start a business” sounds noncommittal. Even if all you’ve done is print your own business cards, saying things like, “I own my own business,” or, “I have to get back to work,” will get the word out that you are serious.

  • Reward yourself

On a weekly basis, ask yourself if you’ve really done anything worthy of a reward – something that will have a tangible impact on your business. Then choose your reward carefully and make it only as grand as the task completed.

  • Be accountable

Find a partner, organisation or another business owner to hold you accountable. Whether you choose to buddy up with another business owner or be regularly accountable to a friend or family member, pick someone who won’t let you off the hook too easily.

  • Predict the future

A sure way to determine if you are furthering your business is to look ahead. If you stay in the pencil-sharpening stage, where will your business be next week or next month? Chances are, you’ll be in debt. Guy Kawasaki, author of eight books, including The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, suggests that entrepreneurs use the following test to determine if what they are doing can be considered progress: “Would you call your spouse to tell him or her it’s done? For example, you wouldn’t call your spouse to [say] that you ordered stationery.” Do something today that makes you want to call home, and your odds of future business success increase dramatically. Or if negative motivation is more your style, picture your future if you don’t take some steps forward now.

  • Remember your dream

When the going gets tough and it’s time to tackle those things outside your comfort zone, keeping your initial dream in mind might be the motivation you need. Changing goals and creating new dreams can keep your excitement as fresh as it was in the beginning.

  • Do the hard stuff first

Emotion can kill a business before it even gets off the ground. Human nature dictates that we are first drawn to the things that bring us pleasure, and business tasks are no different. By getting distasteful responsibilities out of the way rather than avoiding them, we can more fully enjoy the other parts of business ownership.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Siyanda Msyzo Mdontswa

    May 10, 2013 at 09:23

    live my dream!

  2. sfifi buff

    Jan 24, 2014 at 15:31

    Never give up, never give in.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Savvy Business Sale Spells New Life

With woman’s month nearly at the end- take some inspiration from business woman, Sue Kiley. Who discusses, how selling her business paved a way for bigger and better opportunities for her to re-invent herself and how Andrew Bahlmann’s professional guidance, was pivotal in making this business transaction – a “Savvy Business Sale”.

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Breaking up is hard to do – even if you have made a rational decision that the time has come to sell the business you built up, the exit process is never easy, says businesswoman Sue Kiley. But she feels that since she and business partner Gordon Slater sold Johannesburg-based boiler company Dryden Combustion, she has been freed her to reinvent herself.

Kiley had joined Industrial Plant and Machinery, Dryden’s parent, in 1981, working her way up from receptionist/secretary to running Dryden by 1988. She and Slater, who had joined Dryden in 1989, were both given minority shareholdings by owner George Roberts in 1991. In 1997, Roberts sold his remaining interest to them.

“We poured our hearts and souls into growing the business for two decades, then it slowly dawned on us that it was our turn to consider whether we were ready to go through another round of expansion or whether we would sell on,” says Kiley. “It felt daunting and frightening but we are sure that both we – and ultimately our buyers – benefited extensively from the professional guidance we received from acquisitions expert Andrew Bahlmann.

“Selling up can be like a messy divorce or a death in the family with everyone squabbling over access to assets. Instead, it was a savvy and controlled negotiation leading to a well-managed handover.”

Related: 5 Truths Women Need To Grow A Successful Business

Kiley and Slater had built Dryden into a thriving business, increasing staff from nine to more than 70, for instance. Both recognised that their business had “hit some ceilings” and certain departments needed the benefits of substantial expansion.

“We realised that we had reached our limit and did not really want to change how we worked by bringing in new partners, doubling staff and substantially increasing factory capacity, even though this was what both the company and our staff needed,” says Kiley.

They opted for Bahlmann’s professional and hands-on sales offering because they wanted to avoid the more perfunctory way in which some business brokers simply post their portfolio of businesses for sale on the internet.

“We assumed that our business would go to our opposition but Andrew pointed out we were selling future business potential to a buyer that wanted to expand into our sector,” says Kiley. “We ended up with international offers on the table from India, Belgium and Pakistan, as well as South Africa.”

Kiley and Slater chose the offer from Cape Town’s Energy Partners, part of the PSG Group, not because it was the highest but because it made such a good fit with Dryden. Recognising and working with the intense emotional aspects of selling your business was an important aspect of Bahlmann’s guidance, says Kiley.

“Your company is your life and opening up our floor and our books to strangers made us feel very exposed,” she recalls. “Andrew ensured we were well prepared and fortunately I have always been a stickler for proper governance.

“This ensured that everything had been recorded and referenced, making the company far more saleable than if its history and processes are just in the owner’s memory. In fact, we accomplished due diligence in four days instead of at least six weeks.”

Preparing to part ways with the business and staff was inevitably emotional, especially as many employees had been with the company for at least 10 years. Kiley and Slater were as transparent as possible, sharing with staff the fact that the business would be sold as soon as they had engaged with Bahlmann.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

“It was pivotal to us that Energy Partners wanted to retain our staff,” says Kiley. “Becoming part of a larger company and group also gave staff opportunities for career growth that would not have happened with us.”

Dryden’s staff were not the only ones to enjoy career growth. After a handover year as semi-employees at Energy Partners, Kiley semigrated to Knysna where she is currently launching a completely different new business – collaborating with a young designer on the Roze Collection, a fashion label for plus-size women with sales run online.

“Selling Dryden was the right decision for all of us,” says Kiley. “The new owners are taking the company to exciting new levels that we would never have undertaken and our former staff are really happy and thriving on this.

“Gordon felt ready to retire and is enjoying it. I didn’t want to look for a new business partner but still wanted to have an exciting reason to wake up in the morning, something to plan and strategise about.”

Kiley believes selling Dryden enabled them both to move on completely and she is delighted with her opportunity to reinvent herself.

“I have always loved fabrics and fashion so I have a fresh start working with a lifetime passion,” she says. “Those around me comment on how the change has completely re-energised me. I am having the time of my life and selling up made this possible.”

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce of www.Segeriusbrucecoaching.com talks through how she does business with a world-wide audience of entrepreneurs from her home in a rural part of the Eastern Cape.

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce

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We’re so lucky to live in this era where the world has become a very small place.

With the right set of skills and IT infrastructure behind them, I believe anyone can set up to work from literally anywhere, including the South African beach town of Jeffrey’s Bay where I have been working with a varying international client base since the beginning of 2016.

Whether it’s a virtual assistant, coaching, consulting, web design, copywriting or translation work, I have seen a mass of companies starting up that don’t require regular face-to-face meetings. In fact, I believe face-to-face meetings are almost outdated with Skype and Zoom being so successful in bringing teams together.

After doing a year-long coaching programme with one of the top multi seven-figure earning coaches from the USA, I now have the confidence to charge in USD $ so that I can leverage the currency conversion which works out nicely for me in South Africa. I’ve been able to help people do the same thing too.

One of my clients is a branding and website designer based in Knysna and she’s able to work with clients globally too. When she lost her house last year in the big fires, she was able to save her laptop and backup drive and therefore save her livelihood even though her entire home burnt down! Imagine what would have happened if she lost her laptop too.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

The first thing I did when I looked at our beachfront property to rent was check the Internet line speed. To run an online business, you need to have the best Internet connection available. We have a 10 Meg uncapped ADSL line and I believe they’ll be installing fibre optic soon. Don’t skimp on this technology.

The way I attract international clients is by giving value-led video training sessions using live streaming such as Facebook Live. This is the fastest way to show people you know what you’re talking about and they can decide if they want to connect with you.

Build a community

I have a thriving Facebook group, with over 2,000 members, where people feel safe to ask questions about their business and everyone’s able to get to know each other. By having your own Facebook group and being seen as a leader you automatically gain authority.

Become an influencer

Use Instagram and Facebook to show behind the scenes, share where you travel to, what you like and share your unique perspective. Create a personal brand online, be visible, show up and stand out. Although some people have an issue with becoming more visible online, my coaching skills do come into play when I’m helping people with confidence issues or impostor syndrome. They key is to give practical marketing, social media and personal branding advice.

Work on your money mindset

As South Africans, many of us grew up being told “money doesn’t grow on trees” and many of you may have a mentality that needs to be changed, especially when it comes to having the confidence to charge your worth and even charge in USD $.

Finally, outsource as much as you can as fast as you can

Ask yourself “Who else could be doing this task?” Keep in your “Zone of Genius” and get a virtual assistant, web developer, bookkeeper and a cleaner to help you with all the things that take up your time. Stick to the things that only you can do in your business, like creating content, showing up on video and planning out your bigger picture plan.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate

To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.

Nadine Todd

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The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.

At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.

1. Prepare your mind

Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.

When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:

“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.

2. Create shared value

thato-kgatlhanye-bagsThato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.

Most successful organisations would never have been launched  if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.

Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.

According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.

Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

3. Get stuff done

When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.

Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.

The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.

the-five-second-rule-mel-robbinsIn her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.

Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.

The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.

Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.


IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Focus on learning new stuff

FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.

Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:

“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”

Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.

Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:

  • Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
  • Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.

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