I find myself in a somewhat unenviable situation where I am UNEMPLOYED! A lot of Zimbabwean sisters can relate to this right now – being out of work in an instant. Most of us were in our comfort zones, holding on to the mistaken belief that our jobs were forever secure, having risen to dizzying heights and not seeing any obstacles. So much life and energy to go on with the grind till we dropped. Now left with very few choices, a lot of us have decided to do the best we can with what we have. Some of us have resolved to start a business!
As I talk to my fellow would-be entrepreneurs I find that most businesses have not taken off due to – not having any capital. Women with amazing ideas and game changing products are holding back because there is no money to start their ventures. I used to be one of those women who felt that when I launched my product, I would launch it BIG! The impact of my product would be felt across the entire continent. But alas, to date I have started one thing after another and failed to see it through because I did not have enough money (or any money) to fulfil my big dream.
One day I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing lady called Fungai Ndemera who is running a successful business that she started from scratch. She reminded me that God has a purpose for me, whether I am employed or not, whether I am earning or not, whether I am running a successful business or not. The only thing I need to start fulfilling my dream is ME! After that encounter I set out to start where I was and using my experience and expertise I decided to launch my consultancy and training business.
Look, I am still struggling with a lot of issues, still building my brand, still learning new and valuable lessons. I have made some epic mistakes, I am far from perfect but here are some of the things I have learnt and which I feel could help a lot of my sisters in their up and coming businesses:
- Money is nice but not key
I have met a few people who run businesses, have the starting capital, and even have a ready market yet still they fail. I have also seen people who have started with nothing but a dream and they have done very well. So! Is money all that then?
For me, the first and most important thing to have is a dream or a goal! Every business starts from a mere idea so take your ideas seriously. Write down what you envision, identify your strengths and weaknesses, have a map of how you are going to reach your goal. Pray, pray, pray for direction and wisdom in meeting your goal.
Lately a lot of innovative and determined individuals have invented amazing products that eventually earn a lot of money for them. I find that such people have accomplished so much because they were led by their vision. Not having money did not stop them, in fact for some it encouraged them to keep going. They realise and accept that the money will eventually come but first the product or service must be available…. and good.
- Create the right mindset
Having a great idea is not enough if your mind is filled with fear of failure, fear of competition and any other negative thoughts that may take over. While it is perfectly normal to be fearful and to acknowledge the threats to your idea or your dream, you need to develop a clear and positive path mentally.
As you start your business prepare yourself for various hindrances, distractions, naysayers. Be aware of your enemies and possible threats but keep your eyes on God and focus on the work you have been called to do.
Creating a positive mindset is not always easy but it is certainly essential in ensuring that you hold onto your vision. The people you work with or serve also need to feel the confidence radiating from you. Imagine someone selling a product to you but doubting the success of their own product. Only you can convince others to trust and believe in your product so make sure that your mind is properly aligned to your dream.
- Approach your concept and clients professionally
A lot of good ideas fail to take off because of bad attitudes, disrespect for clients, employees and service providers and lack of discipline. As a business grows, so does its reputation. It is therefore vital to ensure that the reputation is good from the very start. Being professional is not something that can be left to multi-million dollar businesses. In fact, small and growing businesses need it the most. Remember that it is easier now to become an overnight global brand and in the same vein, becoming a global failure can happen in an instant.
No one likes to be kept waiting. Respect your client’s time and deliver products promptly. Give every client the very best of yourself whether they are a friend, relative or stranger. Send invoices and provide receipts when required. Return calls and respond professionally to emails.
Treat your concept with respect. Take care of your documents and company assets. Protect your intellectual property and regularize all company documents.
- Honesty, integrity and respect
In my profession I have met a lot of great minds, people with astounding problem solving skills but most of whom lack honesty, integrity, respect or all three. These people run businesses where people place a lot of confidence not only in their services but in their ability to protect confidential and often potentially harmful information. Clients are willing to pay a lot of money for these services and yet sometimes the confidence and trust is grossly betrayed. As business owners there is a moral and legal duty to protect your clients by being honest and giving them the product they paid for (and a little extra if possible). Lying to clients is a sure way of losing out on their patronage and can damage future prospects.
Sometimes the lies come by way of overpromising, claiming to have capacity to deliver what you cannot. It is vital to always communicate with clients where potential or real threats appear. Simply informing a client that something is wrong before the client comes ranting and raving is advisable.
Respecting clients is more than being polite and courteous, it also means taking their needs seriously, taking all reasonable measures to protect their private information as well as their reputation.
- Do not give up
Starting a business is very tough especially in an economy that is struggling and where the market is probably saturated with similar products or ideas. It is easy to be tempted to give up on a potentially great idea because of economic, bureaucratic and other hindrances.
Each time you feel like giving up remind yourself why you started your business and how much you have invested in it. Remember every dream comes with its challenges.
“Do not focus on your circumstances. Look at what’s in your heart.” – Joyce Meyer.
Do not give up!
- Take time out
It is essential to take time out to refresh and re-energise. I know that a lot of the time, in today’s world, we are encouraged to always be on point, to be on top of our game, to bring on the best at all times. While this is ideal, it can also be very damaging to the individual and the business. As human beings we have to accept that we have limits and we need to take a break from the hustle every now and again. As Christian women we should be led by our Maker’s example where He, in all His glory, took time to rest.
On the other hand, we cannot take time to rest when tasks are generally incomplete. You cannot rest before you’ve done the work. Funny as this bit of advice seems, I have come across a lot of young women who claim to “deserve” a break or a treat after barely lifting a finger. In order to be a successful business owner it is important to know when and how to strike the balance between hard work and well deserved rest.
As we try to navigate through the often challenging venture of starting (and maintaining) a business I invite you, dear sisters to share this verse with me, for from it I find focus and a vision;
“Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a disgrace…. And they said, Let us rise up and build! So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”
Nehemiah 2: 17-18.
Let us pick up the broken pieces of our lives and rise up to build our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our families, our communities, our homes, our nation, our businesses.