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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Leah Molatseli 4 Rules For Launching A Successful Start-Up

With a new baby in the house and an unfulfilling legal job, Leah Molatseli decided it was time to work for herself. But how do you start a business when you’ve got lots of other responsibilities? You launch a tech start-up, of course.

GG van Rooyen

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Leah Molatseli

Vital Stats

  • Player: Leah Molatseli
  • Company: Lenoma Legal
  • Established: 2016
  • Visit: www.lenoma.co.za

In 2015, Leah Molatseli quit her job as a legal practitioner. She had just had a baby, and she wanted to be able to spend more time at home.

“I didn’t want to spend 60 hours a week working at a legal firm,” says Leah. “I wanted more freedom, which meant starting my own business.”

At first, this simply meant working as a legal practitioner from home. And, while this certainly gave her more freedom, there were some issues. As with any service business, it was time- consuming. Every new contract required a significant investment of time, which meant it would be almost impossible to scale the business.

Leah was based in Bloemfontein, and while the Free State town definitely isn’t small, it doesn’t exactly offer the number of clients and opportunities that a place like Johannesburg could. Sure, she could travel to Joburg easily enough, but the whole point was to be able to spend more time with her child, not spend days and weeks away from home.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Embracing technology

So, Leah was faced with the same obstacles that many other new entrepreneurs encounter: She had a service-based business that demanded a lot of her time, wasn’t particularly lucrative, and was very hard to scale.

But she didn’t let it get her down. Instead, she decided to reinvent the business in such a way that it would be less time- intensive and more scalable.

“It started off quite simply — almost by accident. I realised that it’s just easier to consult with clients through platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts than meet with them in person. It meant that I saved time because I didn’t need to commute, and it also allowed me to widen the net and start taking on clients that were based in other areas.”

Overcome trading money for time

The main issue, however, still remained: Leah was essentially still selling her time, which meant that there was a definite cap to how much she could sell. Working as a legal practitioner, it seemed like an almost impossible barrier to overcome.

The legal field is an old and established industry that has always been based on the trading of money for time and expertise. How do you disrupt that and turn it into something that a lone entrepreneur could scale without having to bring on other legal professionals?

Going online

“I did some research and came across Rocket Lawyer. It was this disruptive start-up in the United States that had transformed the legal business from a service business to a product-based one. Instead of having to pay lawyers expensive consultation fees, Rocket Lawyer has loads of legal templates that can be bought straight from the website.

“In addition, it also allows users to ask legal questions and offers services like incorporation, but done in such a way that it is far simpler and cheaper. It’s taken legal services and made them product-like,” says Leah.

Every country needs legal documents applicable to its own laws, so simply buying something on Rocket Lawyer and using it in South Africa is not a good idea. Because of this, there was a definite opportunity to create something similar.

Find your niche

Leah created Lenoma Legal to fill this niche. It offers products and services like employment agreements, corporate filings, commercial agreements, business registrations and affidavits. Like Rocket Lawyer, it also provides legal advice online.

Lenoma Legal is a great example of what can be done by someone who has no background in technology. Launching a tech company doesn’t mean creating the next Google or Facebook. Sometimes it just means applying technology to an established industry and simplifying things for the user. It’s what Airbnb and Uber have done, and it’s what Leah has done with Lenoma Legal.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

How to launch a business

leah-molatseli-lenoma-legal

 

Being an expert in a particular field and being an entrepreneur are two very different things. You might be an excellent lawyer, accountant or doctor, but starting your own business in one of these fields is a different prospect. Running a company requires a whole other skillset.

Here are Leah Molatseli’s rules for launching a successful start-up.

1Improve your business acumen

If you want to start a company, you can’t just rely on your professional expertise. You also need to know how to run a business. Leah joined an entrepreneurship development programme to improve her business acumen.

2Swallow your pride

It’s easy to be impressed with yourself if you’ve got a big degree, but you need to understand that launching a business means swallowing your pride. You need to put yourself out there and sell your idea, and that can be hard.

You also need to acknowledge the fact that you don’t know everything. You need to listen to people who know more than you about business.

3Enter competitions

Entering start-up competitions is a great way to get your brand out there when it’s still new. You might not win the prize, but there’s a good chance that you’ll meet people who can help you along your journey.

Entrepreneur found out about Leah Molatseli and Lenoma Legal because Leah entered a competition.

4Use social media

If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, you need to use social media to build your brand. Even before she launched Lenoma, Leah was already very active on social media. Because of social media, she hasn’t needed to spend any money online to promote the business.

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Company Posts

Designing Her Destiny

Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.

QuickBooks SA

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In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.

“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!

I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.

Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items.  Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.

I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”

Less admin, more of what you love

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When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.

“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.

Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.

I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.

Diana Albertyn

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business

Embrace technology every chance you get.

Nadine Todd

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A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.

The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.

In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.

More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.

“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”

Innovation drives growth

Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.

In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.

“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”

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

Innovation enables sustainability

Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.

“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”

Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.

“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn

The role of disruption in creating value

A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.

The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.

Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm

Collaboration

Team up with customers and competitors.

There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.

Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch

PR

Know what your audiences are interested in

As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.

One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.

Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management

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