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Women Entrepreneur Successes

The Founder Of Khalala Earned Her Stripes Through An Entrepreneurial Baptism Of Fire

Sometimes the only way to live your dreams is to leap first, and then find the idea that will make your entrepreneurial goals come true. Mahadi Granier is living proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Nadine Todd

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VITAL STATS

  • Player: Mahadi Granier
  • Company: Khalala
  • Launched: 2016
  • Visit: www.khalala.com

In June 2015 Mahadi Granier made the single biggest — and scariest — decision of her life. She packed up her family and moved to Paris. Her husband, who is French, had found a job, but Mahadi was planning to stay at home with their five-month-old daughter and three-year-old son while figuring out her next move.

She wanted to be an entrepreneur, and she believed that throwing herself into the deep end and moving to a new country was the catalyst she needed. What followed has been a baptism of fire, but also one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. This is what she’s learnt about entrepreneurship since launching her business.

“You need to surround yourself with like-minded people who have the same drives and ambitions as you do.”

By the time Mahadi went on maternity leave for the second time, she had been employed in a senior position at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for eight years. She had a comfortable, well-paying job. She had the perfect set-up. She commanded boardrooms. Yet she lacked job satisfaction.

“I had too much time to think while I was on maternity leave,” she says.

Searching for innovation

“And what I thought about was my life path. Government employment is so bureaucratic. There’s no innovation. I didn’t feel like it was an environment conducive to achieving bigger goals and ambitions. I realised that the energy was dragging me down, and that if I stayed in that role, I would eventually become like everyone I worked with — comfortable and complacent.”

Mahadi’s friends and family didn’t understand what she was going through, or why she wanted to make a change. It was that same confusion that triggered the realisation that she was living and working in an environment that was not conducive to taking a leap.

Taking the plunge

Mahadi saw only one alternative: This seemed like the right time to take that plunge. She needed to radically change her surroundings, and force herself into the unknown terrain of entrepreneurship.

Related: Busi Skenjana’s Two Core Rules Of Entrepreneurship

“Sometimes you need to face your fears and take that big leap.”

Unfortunately, while the leap was big and bold, it wasn’t what Mahadi had expected. And yet, from that adversity emerged her business idea. “I realised it was a crazy prospect — new country, new market, new customers, without my social circle of influence.

I was moving to a market I knew nothing about, filled with consumers I didn’t know or understand. But that was the challenge. I wanted to go somewhere where there’s a higher level of expectation; where I was pushed to aspire to a higher bar.”

It was a massive culture shock. The language barrier in particular was greater than Mahadi had expected. Her dreams of arriving in Paris and starting a business were shattered. But that didn’t mean she was ready to give up.

Plan before you make your move

Instead, she chose to stay at home with her daughter, manage the integration of her family into a new culture, and research everything she could about France, Europe and the local business landscape.

“I had gone from boardrooms to stay-at-home mom, which in a way was the exact opposite of what I wanted for myself. But I’d had a reality check. If I wanted to do something real with my life, I needed to build the right foundations.

I also wanted to be a present mother. Part of my challenge was figuring out what kind of a role model I wanted to be for my children, and that meant also being fully present in their lives.”

Related: Black Like Me: Connie Mashaba

Achieving the work/life balance

As a result, Mahadi structured a schedule that allowed her to do both. “I woke up very, very early, and gave myself three hours of work and ‘miracle morning’ routine, before everyone woke up, Monday to Sunday, 5am to 8am. I then worked when my daughter napped, and in the evening after everyone went to bed.”

“Sometimes your greatest challenge can be your greatest advantage and opportunity as well.”

One of the core pieces of advice that aspiring entrepreneurs often receive is to do what you know. In Mahadi’s case, this was almost useless. She knew nothing.

Her past DTI experience was no help, and she was coming to the European market cold. But this also gave her an advantage. She had no expectations, and she was approaching everything with fresh eyes. She also had to seek out fellow South Africans who had already experienced what she was going through, and it was then that a business idea started to take shape.

Ask for advice

“I sought out South African entrepreneurs in France for advice. I had so many questions: Where are the South African entrepreneurs in France? What had their experiences been? What advice could they offer  — after all, they’d done this already and they understood the landscape.

“They could tell me what to avoid and where to go. By tapping into this community, my research time was reduced. I found valuable resources and trusted sources. Then I realised that no one was facilitating what I was going through — helping South Africans start businesses in the French (and broader European) market. Here was a gap that could be exploited. I felt like I’d stumbled on a
super-power.”

An idea is only as good as its execution, and Mahadi knew she needed to be more focused than ‘South African businesses abroad’. She needed to do more research. She approached the South African Embassy in Paris with one key question: What was the South African export basket into France dominated by and where did the greatest, untapped opportunities lie?

Finding your niche

Mahadi has her Masters in International Business, and is passionate about the subject. She had put this to use in her role at the DTI, but she now had an opportunity to turn those skills and passion into a viable business that also empowered other entrepreneurs. She just needed to find her niche.

“Before you get too attached to an idea, you need to understand the landscape you’re working within.”

“The first thing I did was look at the existing trade agreements between South Africa and France and within the broader European Union. Second, I looked at the South African export basket into France and realized that it was dominated by agro-processing, automotive, aircraft and electro-technical sectors.

Related: Out-The-Box Thinkers Shareen Parker and Silvana Dantu Share Their Partnership Secrets

Finding diversification opportunities

“And so, while those exports are in value-added products, they were concentrated in a few products. This presented a diversification opportunity. One such opportunity lay within the clothing and textiles sector.

“On the demand side, the French and global fashion industry at large is always influenced by the same fashion houses — Prada, Louis Vitton and the like. They dominate the market, irrespective of the undeniable demand for a diversified fashion aesthetic. With the South African ambassador’s help, I carved a niche and just like that, an idea was born.”

One of the first designers that Mahadi reached out to was Laduma Ngxokolo, founder of ‘MaXhosa by Laduma’. What she learnt from studying his global success was that designs rooted in African-rich heritage, culture, tradition and customs and fused with western influence provide a unique combination and hybrid that not only energises the international audience but acts as a catalyst for success. This is a crucial determinant of global competitiveness.

Understanding new markets intimately

“But there was a greater observation as well. If you want to break into new markets, you need to understand them intimately — their tastes, their purchasing behaviours, what they’ll spend money on, what does and doesn’t work. I knew I could play a valuable role here, acting as a conduit on the ground. This gave me a competitive edge in playing a business facilitation role.”

Armed with this knowledge, Mahadi saw multiple needs. “First, I needed to empower South African designers to raise their level of thinking beyond local markets and open themselves up to new international audiences. Second, I am constantly interacting with buyers at trade fairs throughout Europe.

“I am gathering intelligence, forging business relationships, networking, gaining new business insights but most importantly, I’m identifying trade opportunities. Finally, I decided to acknowledge the undeniable power of social media as a vehicle to reach remote buyers.

“Therefore, I launched a digital magazine that I market exclusively through social media. To date, the magazine has been read in over twenty countries worldwide.”

“Finding the right partner is an essential step in the overall journey, and in achieving your goals.”

Thriving in the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Another key lesson that Mahadi has learnt — and indeed, is imbedded in her overall business model — is the fact that entrepreneurship is an ecosystem. Business owners work together. Very few successes are isolated.

Related: How Matsi Modise Squeezes More Out Of Every Day While Keeping It Real

To carry her idea forward, Mahadi knew she needed a partner in South Africa. After researching the fashion landscape back home, she realised that the best person she could approach was Sonwabile Ndamase, personal designer to Nelson Mandela, creator of the Madiba shirts, and founder of the South African Fashion Designers Agency (SAFDA).

For almost three decades, Sonwabile has been giving back to his industry, training young designers from rural areas to not only become fashion designers, but to build sustainable fashion businesses. He had been looking for ways to increase the reach of his programmes into Europe and Mahadi provided the ideal opportunity.

Creating international market access opportunities

SAFDA and KHALALA have entered into a collaboration agreement, formalising a partnership to work together to create international market access opportunities for young and emerging South African fashion designers in Europe.

Mahadi and Sonwabile are just at the beginning of this journey, and are currently reaching out to funders. With the right focus, dedication and some luck, the next generation of South African designers making international waves will be in the not-t

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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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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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Uzenzele Holdings Co-founders Nadia And Zahra Rawjee’s Top Advice On Building A Service-based Business

Nadia and Zahra Rawjee of Uzenzele Holdings know what businesses need, and they understand the struggles that founders go through, which is why the pair often understand their clients’ needs before the first meeting has even taken place.

Nadine Todd

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Vital stats

  • Players: Nadia Rawjee and Zahra Rawjee
  • Company: Uzenzele Holdings
  • Est: 2012
  • Visit: www.uzenzele.com
  • About: Uzenzele Holdings is a consultancy that focuses on business development and accessing governmental funding for business expansion projects. The company uses its expertise to help clients navigate the complex process of applying for government and developmental funding, helping to unlock funds and opportunities that many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of.

Sisters Nadia and Zahra Rawjee grew up in a family business, so they understand the challenges that the average SME faces. They also realise that the average entrepreneur is unaware of the opportunities available to him or her when it comes to government and developmental funding.

“We realised what an impact government and developmental funding could have had on the family business, but like so many SMEs, it never accessed the funds available,” says Zahra Rawjee.

The fact of the matter is, many business owners are unaware of the funds that are available through government. Others, meanwhile, do not think that they would qualify, or they think that delving into this ocean of bureaucracy would simply not be worth the effort. This is a mistake. It can absolutely be worth the effort.

“Companies looking to grow can access millions through government,” says Nadia Rawjee. “We’ve seen clients receiving tens of millions in funding.”

That said, there is some truth in the view that accessing these funds is sometimes difficult. The application process can be complex, and the process as a whole can be a long one. However, if you know what you’re doing, you can get funded.

Related: Uzenzele Holdings Unpacks The How And Where Of Business Funding

Because the Rawjees understood the challenges that businesses faced, and they possessed the arcane (and often shifting) information needed to access these funds, they decided to launch a consultancy that would assist clients in the process. Uzenzele Holdings has now been around for more than five years and has helped many clients secure funding. As you might expect, theirs is a business driven by relationships. Here’s their advice for building a successful service-driven operation.

1. Know thy customer

As mentioned, Nadia and Zahra understand the wants and needs of their clients, even when the clients themselves don’t. “We find that many clients underestimate the amount of capital they’ll need to make their growth and expansion plans a reality. They go into the process looking to raise less money than they’ll actually need, which can result in disastrous cash flow problems down the line. Because we know this, we can advise them accordingly. If you  don’t understand your clients’ businesses, it’s tough to give them the right advice.

KEY LESSON: True success comes from becoming a trusted advisor to your clients. This can only happen if you have real empathy for your clients, and if you understand their businesses intimately. Without these two characteristics, any relationship will be purely transactional.

2. Follow the market

uzenzele-holdingsFollowing your passion is admirable, but it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the realities of the market in the process. To their credit, Nadia and Zahra initially wanted to focus on small/micro businesses because they believed that this was the area where they could make the biggest impact. However, they quickly learnt that these businesses were so cash strapped and focused on survival, that they weren’t looking at growth, and they didn’t have the money needed to invest in advisory services.

As consultants themselves, they decided to invest in advisors who could help them reposition the company. “We brought in marketers who helped us reposition Uzenzele Holdings and make it visible to the companies who were actually looking for our services.”

KEY LESSON: Don’t make any assumptions about the market. Your target audience might not be where you think it is. In fact, your ideal audience might be very different from the one you have in your head. It’s worth spending time and money to find out exactly who your ideal audience is, and where they can be reached.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

3. Educate your audience

Because so many of Uzenzele Holdings’ clients are unaware of the funding options available, knowledge transfer is an important activity for the consultancy. “You have to be willing to give out information freely,” says Zahra. “For this reason, we have a blog on our website, we do talks at conferences, and we contribute to business publications.”

“At the moment, for example, we are focusing on the Black Industrialist Programme through the DTI, and funding available for agro processing. There are great opportunities open to those looking for funding, but people don’t know about it,” says Nadia.

KEY LESSON: Signing clients is nearly impossible when they don’t understand what you’re offering. For this reason, you need to see education as part of the selling process. The payoff might only come way down the line, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the process.

4. Network

Speaking at conferences and writing articles for publications not only educates potential clients, it also builds the Uzenzele Holdings brand and ups the profile of the Rawjee sisters. “Networking is important,” says Nadia. “You have to be out there — you need to get to know people, and they need to get to know you. It takes time and work, but you have to do it. Networking is important in any business.”

“You shouldn’t underestimate the value of LinkedIn when it comes to networking. It’s a great place to connect, and post content. When it comes to the B2B space, LinkedIn is definitely one of the best platforms,” says Zahra.

KEY LESSON: You have to build your brand and get to know people. Most young companies land their first clients because of connections and referrals. To succeed, you have to establish yourself as a presence in your industry. You can do this by joining organisations, attending conferences and going out of your way to connect with others.


Your funding checklist

Understand what you need. There’s a basic checklist to follow:

  • Do you need money for working or operating expenditure vs capital investment?
  • How much do you require?
  • How long do you need the money for?
  • What is the cost of capital you can afford to repay?

Armed with this knowledge, you can start finding the right fund or finance vehicle for your needs.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Funders have different criteria:

  • Turnover: mainly grants
  • Profitability: loans/grants
  • Balance sheet: loans/grants
  • Ability to scale: venture capital

Funders tend to have between two and 26 different funds, each with their own mandate, eligibility criteria, funding type (loan or grant), costing, things they will and won’t fund and other specifics. Read the mandates to find your fit.

Call and speak to the funders and be fund specific. Speak to a consultant at the fund to clarify your eligibility before starting the application process.

Ask questions around:

  • Their timelines
  • When the credit committees or panels sit for adjudication
  • What is considered for your application to get adjudicated.

Arming yourself with this knowledge will exponentially increase your chances of being considered for funding. Many applications do not reach the adjudication phase because the business doesn’t match the fund or the application is incorrectly filled in.

You cannot receive funding if your application is not even considered. The correct content and format is vital.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Pet Wellness Worx Found Business Success In Rehabilitating Pets

Lorren Barham, the founder of Pet Wellness Worx, spoke to Entrepreneur about the challenges of launching a business in a relatively unknown industry.

Nadine Todd

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Vital stats

  • Player: Lorren Barham
  • Company: Pet Wellness Worx
  • Est: 2014
  • About: Lorren Barham is the owner and operator of the hydro underwater treadmill and therapist-in-the-pool facility of Pet Wellness Worx. The business specialises in the health, wellbeing and rehabilitative care of pets.
  • Visit: petwellnessworx.co.za

Certain business ideas are obvious, others aren’t. In a world where many founders are looking to create ‘the Uber of this’ or ‘the Uber of that’, a company that offers rehabilitative care for pets might seem like a niche lifestyle business.

But Lorren Barham’s Pet Wellness Worx has seen fantastic growth over the last three years precisely because it is so niche. Lorren identified a relatively unexploited niche and owned it.

In the modern business world where all the obvious opportunities have already been jumped at, success lies in finding that small but promising industry that is ripe for growth. Not that launching a start-up in this sort of space is easy, mind you. Chances are, you’ll need to educate consumers and grow your company slowly, but if you get the basics right, you can establish a sustainable operation with excellent long-term prospects.

1. How did you identify this unique business opportunity?

I did not have a background in the field, but I’ve always had an intense passion for animals, and because of my own pets, I knew about auto immune disorders like degenerative myelopathy, neurological spinal prolapse and hip dysplasia.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

Over the years, some of my own animals had to deal with these issues, so I understood that there was a need for a facility that could assist with rehabilitation. So, going into the industry wasn’t a purely tactical business decision — I had a real passion for the work. I think that’s important. You can’t pursue a business idea simply because you think there’s an opportunity in it. You need to be passionate about it. When times are tough, it’s your passion that’ll keep you going.

2. What is your background?

Pet Wellness Worx

I have a corporate background. I started out as a personal assistant, and over the years, I furthered my education, completing courses in fields like bookkeeping and business administration. When I opened my own business, I found that the knowledge and experience I gained in the corporate environment was immensely useful. Procuring expensive equipment, for instance, was less intimidating because I knew how to deal with suppliers and negotiate a fair deal.

You don’t need an MBA, necessarily, but you need some basic business knowledge. You could be a great specialist in your specific field, but running your own business is something very different. As an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats, and you have to manage every aspect of the company — you have to manage employees, balance the books and do the marketing — so you need to educate yourself on the basics of running a business.

3. How did you prepare for the launch of the business?

I did a lot of research. I spent months figuring out exactly what sort of services I should provide, and how I should structure the business. Importantly, I had a goal and a mission. It helps to know what your ultimate goal is. Figure out what you want to achieve, and then do plenty of research. Take your time. Solid research will prevent you from making mistakes that can be costly down the line.

Related: Women Leaders In Business: 5 Lessons Learnt

4. How did you market the business in the early days?

We focused on qualified veterinarians. Not only could they refer clients to the business, but it was also clear that in order for the company to succeed, buy-in from them was necessary. So, I spent a lot of time at veterinarians’ offices. I had to show them that I was running a legitimate business that could do real good.

Whenever you operate in a niche area, you need to realise that some education will be necessary. You need to explain the value that you bring to potential customers, and to other important decision-makers in the field.

As the company built a solid track record, and I could show vets the improvement brought on by our rehab work, we started getting more and more clients. I truly ascribe a lot of our recent success to the fact that the vets embraced us.

5. What other marketing strategies have worked for you?

It’s very important to know exactly who you’re targeting. We’re very targeted in our approach. We go to animal shows and events, and we run adds on websites like showdogs.co.za, since these are places that we know we’ll find our target audience. Facebook is another great place to showcase the work that we do. Another strategy that has worked for me has been to write articles for publication.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to educate potential customers, and a great way to do this is through editorial. I’ve written articles for magazines and websites, and media companies have generally been willing to run them. If you write an informative article that’s suitable for publication, you can get your name out in that way.

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