Andrena Sawyer: Flexibility is key to increasing your business lifespan

andrena sawyer

Start-ups sometimes need miracles to survive. Luckily there are superheroes who rise up to the challenge. Take Andrena Sawyer for example, she runs P.E.R.K. consulting an advisory firm that provides quality and affordable services for small to mid-sized nonprofits and businesses.

Andrena is so effective at ensuring SMEs survive that in 2015, P.E.R.K. consulting, placed 1st in the AccelerateUp Business Growth Competition presented by the Maryland Small Business Development Center and Capital One Bank. This basically means that P.E.R.K consulting can serve as great model to new startups.

When Andrena offered to share her story with SLA, we jumped at the opportunity. Get ready for actionable advice on overcoming funding challenges, lengthening your organisation’s lifespan and increasing revenue.

Firstly how can SMEs overcome the juggernaut that is funding?

Importantly, SMEs need to create effective business models that include strategies for cash flow management if they’re to navigate funding challenges.

Cash flow challenges are inevitable for most start-ups, and many wait until a seeming crisis to develop a management plan. Creating a strategy before the need arises is essential for survival.

In addition, it is important that SMEs have a compelling value proposition. As a Small Business Consultant, I meet passionate entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas, but the value ends at their passion.

To survive the initial start-up years, the problem that a business solves should be clear to customers, investors, and partners. I firmly believe that the more informed stakeholders are, the more engaged they will be.

How can organizations lengthen their lifespan?

Simply, flexibility and innovation are the keys to organizations lengthening their lifespan. With the advent and increased use of social media, industries and consumers are rapidly changing.

It has become more important now that founders remain flexible and informed of how their customers’ needs are changing. The focus should be on creating a culture where change is encouraged.

Doing this can take an organization from a reactive to a proactive stance in marketing, capacity building, and revenue generation.

How did you manage to increase P.E.R.K.’s revenue by 72.3% in one year?

Primarily,  the reason for the increase in revenue is that we identified our niche. When P.E.R.K. launched in 2013, I envisioned being all things to all clients.

I desperately wanted my passion for community development to translate quickly to meet the needs of anyone that was interested. The challenge was that our customers were confused about our expertise, experience, and scope of work.

Also, in our second year of operations, we started to refine our offerings to three key services. They include entity formation, business development, and capacity building support. This created a more targeted marketing approach, which allowed us to focus our efforts and ultimately bolster our credibility.

Understanding our market also allowed us to conduct more accurate research.  This helped to set competitive rates and create strategic partnerships with other key players in our industry.

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What advice will you give other startups looking to use P.E.R.K. as a model?

There are two things I would say to startups looking to use us as a model:

  1. Be persistent. As cliché as it sounds, do not give up. Entrepreneurship can be extremely stressful, and founders may find that they initially encounter a lot of rejection. My advice is to do your due diligence by ensuring the idea is viable. Get the support of trusted mentors and advisors, and push through the challenges.
  2. Be creative. I once read that the average millionaire has about seven streams of income. There is a lesson to be learned there. If those who are thriving financially are always looking for ways to earn more, I believe that businesses can thrive in much the same way. For example, P.E.R.K. primarily provides consulting services. However, there are several other ways that we generate revenue including trainings and seminars, publications, and referrals through partnerships. As long as it is consistent with the business’ value proposition, there is no limit to how creative founders can get in generating revenue or reaching their audience.

As a Sierra Leonean, are you engaged in any initiatives back home?

Interestingly, even though I am not directly engaged in any initiatives in Sierra Leone, P.E.R.K. maintains a partnership with several organizations.

These organizations help to mobilize young Sierra Leonean professionals in the United States and within the diaspora. In 2013, we helped launch the Sierra Leonean Empowerment Network. The network has since grown to include thousands of young professionals, many of whom are now working in Sierra Leone.

Who will you say is the greatest African woman to have ever lived?

Fortunately, there have been many great African women who have impacted the continent and the world. Women like Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Winnie Mandela, and Miriam Makeba immediately come to mind.

However, I have been personally impacted by Leymah Gbowee’s story. As someone whose life was altered by the Liberian/Sierra Leone civil war, her story narrated in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell reignited my passion for community work.

Studying her work as a peacemaker who mobilized thousands of people in Liberia to put an end to the war compelled me to launch P.E.R.K. Consulting as a platform to support other change agents.

Surprisingly, women like her are often thought of as just extraordinary. But her story challenged me to believe that any woman with a conviction and commitment can inspire a community to effect change.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.


About She Leads Africa

She Leads Africa is a community for smart and ambitious young African women. Our goal is to become the #1 digital destination for young women looking to build successful careers and businesses.

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