We all have that friend whose business is amazing, customer service is on a 100 and product packaging is breathtaking. Your good sis is putting in the work, day in day out but her business isn’t blowing up online. In fact, YOU may be THAT FRIEND.
If there is anything this period has taught small business owners, it’s that online is the way to go. For local businesses that didn’t have a strong online presence, they’ve missed out on critical sales, visibility and customer retention during this time.
If this has been your story, we come bearing good news.
We’re collaborating with Visa to provide businesses like yours with the information and tools you need to create a thriving business in your community. This partnership is part of Visa’s ‘Where You Shop Matters’ initiative that aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa and encourage consumers to support small businesses by shopping local.
Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.
When you join the Small Business Hub, you can:
Set up your own online store for FREE!
Learn how to effectively promote your business and accept payments online.
Stand a chance to win $200 worth of online advertising on the She Leads Africa platform. (Hurry girl, this offer is limited to the first 100 SMEs to sign up!!!)
The fun does NOT end there!
As part of this collaboration, we’re sharing the secrets and growth strategies from incredible entrepreneurs from across Africa who have taken their challenges and turned them into opportunities. You do not want to miss out on all of the keys, gems and nuggets that you will gain from this series.
On our website, stay tuned for our #VisaSpotlightSeries feature successful entrepreneurs sharing how they went from brand new idea to solid business in diverse industries such as food, fashion, beauty and more.
On Instagram, we have four digital entrepreneurs coming through to talk about the nitty-gritty behind building an online business. We’re talking data, branding, customer service and growth strategies and the discussions will be FIRE!
Girl, you DO NOT want to miss out on any of this! Sign up now to get updates about these events in your inbox.
Mary Asanga juggles being a full-time student of biochemistry at the University of Uyo and running a business with grace and grit. “I started my business to make ends meet but along the line, I wanted to make my business distinct. I wanted to serve a purpose,” she says.
Once Mary was set on what she wanted to do, she decided to be intentional- “When I started, I wasn’t business savvy. I didn’t know the basics but I wanted to learn. There was this drive to be better and that drive gave me the desire to apply for many opportunities.”
In this piece, Mary shares her business story and valuable insights from her experience as a business owner and full-time student.
Why did you choose to sell peanuts?
I got a Nature Valley snack bar as a gift from a friend and it was really nice. So I went to the supermarket to find something similar that is locally produced and there was hardly any. It was just imported peanut snacks or regular peanuts.
That inspired me to do something. So, I began researching peanut snacks and how they can be used to support the diet plans of diabetic people. I noticed that this particular group of consumers are often ignored by the food and beverage industry.
How do you juggle being a full-time student and a business owner?
When I started, I ensured to move productions to weekends, I would source for raw materials during the weekdays after lectures. This way production was less tedious.
On weekends, my team and I would block off a time to produce and then on Mondays, we distribute to schools, staff quarters, student hostels, stalls and some locations in Lagos. We managed this model up until 2019. Once my course load reduced and I had more time, we increased production by 50% and our customer base also grew.
What are some lessons you have learned from running a business?
Fight your fear- One of the problems I had when I started my business was fear. There was this fear that, “Oh, it is just peanut snacks. What is so special about peanuts that other people cannot do?” At some point though, I realised that I had to fight the fear. There are still times when I doubt myself and when I fall into that trap, I look at where I am compared to when I started and it gives me hope.
Be consistent about your growth- Never stop looking for opportunities that will further your growth. Regardless of what your business is, so far, if you are providing a solution that people need, you should not hold back from seeking avenues to be better. There are so many lessons to learn from experienced business owners who have gone before you. They can give you insights so that you don’t step on the same land mines that they did. It also gives you an opportunity to network. When you are hungry for personal growth, you get to learn more, broaden your horizon and realise that your business has the ability to create more impact than you ever imagined.
Do your research- Study your customer. It is very important to research your potential customer. Don’t assume that you know what they want. Research on how you can serve them better with your product and your business practices.
Before you give your notice and burn bridges your work enemies, remember that your network and relationships are especially important to you as anentrepreneur who is just starting out.
Testing the waters—To resign or not to resign?
If you are going to be a full-time entrepreneur, you have to make sure you’re financially and legally in the clear
The golden rule before quitting your job is to make sure you have 3-6 months worth of your fixed-income saved up before leaving. If your finances are not in check, you should reconsider resigning.
It is not unusual to start your own business journey while being employed. If you want to keep your “day job” while starting a business, please ensure you’re not violating your employment contract. If in doubt, seek legal counsel and/or inform your current employer about your new venture.
Employers and courts take contractual agreements seriously, so do not call your employer’s bluff.
For example, there was a case in Nigeria where an employee entered into a service contract where he was not to engage in a business similar to the employer’s business within a certain geographical area for one year.
Less than 3 weeks after he started work, he breached the contract by resigning and joining a rival company in the same area. The Nigerian Supreme Court held that contracts that prevent employees from engaging in a similar business as the employer are enforceable as long as the contracts are “reasonable with reference to the interest of the parties concerned and of the public” (Leventis Motors Ltd. v. Andreas Koumoulis (1973) 1 All NLR (Part 2) 144 at 146).
Diving in – Your resignation
Before you resign, review all your employment contracts, if applicable. The contract usually details the resignation procedure, how your resignation must be presented, and the necessary resignation notice period – 2 weeks, 1 month, etc.
It is important that you follow the rules sis! You do not want to expose yourself to unnecessary legal liability by ignoring those words in black and white.
Secondly, check if you signed a non-compete agreement with your current employer. Will your new venture involve the use of your employer’s proprietary information?
If you did sign one, make sure that the scope of your new venture does not fall within the scope of services your employer offers, and that your new venture will not apply your employer’s proprietary information.
Finally, are you planning to start the new venture with a coworker?
Ensure that you and your co-worker’s departure will not result in a breach of your contract or your employer’s policies. Also, ensure that your potential business partner is not subject to any non-compete agreements and will not be using any proprietary information in the new venture.
Keep your start-up team in legal tip-top shape.
It is important to dedicate time to thinking through your resignation. There is no point in rushing to the finish line without laying the right foundation.
Got a question? Send a message or voice note to +2349078653509 on Whatsapp anywhere in Africafor our new video advice series – #AskASis.
In the wake of women’s month, it is so important to use our platform to always uplift young women so that they can reach their full potential in whichever career path they choose.
As a young black woman, especially as one starting out in her career, the work place can be a challenging space to navigate through. Gender pay gap, sexual harassment and racial discrimination are our biggest issues and play a pivotal role in how fast or slowly we climb up the career ladder.
This constantly leaves us questioning where we fit, add value and what kind of impact we are going to make in our chosen fields.
Keep reading, because below, we have asked 3 young and incredibly talented women to speak to us about the 3 key lessons they have learnt to push past the career challenges of the young black woman.
Be you. Most of us don’t know how to naturally be ourselves but once you are able to simply show your personality, you become impressionable to your peers.
Be curious, read and ask questions. Not just on your job but on those related to yours. Understand the business’ big picture and where you fall in so you are better able to plan your own path of success.
Get a sponsor or mentor to understand what value you wish to extract from the relationship.
Lastly, try be sociable. Comes easier to others but people promote and hire those they like. Go to the work drinks, go to the charity event and talk about things that are not work related to understand fully people’s characters and where your personalities get along.
Above all, remember you are magic.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
I think we’re all familiar with the fact that corporate South Africa continues to be largely white and male. The secret is to invest in yourself not only intellectually or professionally but mentally and spiritually.
My experience has taught me that as a young black woman, I have always felt that I needed to be exceptional to be given the same respect as my white, male or white male peers. I have found myself going over and above what was required only to be overlooked.
I have come to learn what it is that I bring to the table and ensuring that at every point, at least one person at the table is clear about what that is.
Find allies in the workplace and use them for guidance as well as to off-load because there will be days when you need to vent before you can continue.
More than anything else, build a strong support system outside of the office and take care of yourself. Be deliberate about taking care of yourself and try to enjoy it by celebrating your victories, big and small.
MAINTAIN YOUR CONFIDENCE
In my profession where knowledge is everything, I have learnt that one must never stop working on their emotional intelligence.
I think that’s so important in the workplace. Always be your own biggest fan, and don’t expect others to pat your back. Know that you are enough, know that whatever is thrown at you, you can handle.
Trust yourself, fight for yourself, and never lose sight of who you are.
If you follow Padebi Ojomo, you can’t help but fall in love with her vibrant personality. This dynamic entrepreneur is so full of life that you can’t help but smile. Padebi runs the Business Savvy Chick Academy and is referred to as the client attraction genie.
#MotherlandMoguls, you definitely need more clients no matter where you are on the business ladder.
How did you get involved in business?
I’ve been involved in business for about 16 years. It actually started with my mum who sent me to learn hair making because I was causing problems at home. She reasoned that since I had so much energy, I could channel it to better use. I didn’t like it initially because it felt like punishment. But I got fascinated with the fact that one could do stuff and money would get exchanged.
I started buying and selling stuff: Adire, handkerchiefs to anybody most especially family. This experience opened my eyes to business and built my threshold for taking risks. I had never thought of getting a 9-5 job even though I studied Computer Engineering. After school, I continued buying and selling before branching out to other businesses.
My first registered business was Nirvana Design, an interior decorating business. I really love interior decoration most especially for homes. The second one was Blue Tangerine which was basically just a shop. I bought things from China and sold them. It was just something I did because money came in from it. I got married and started Purple Signatures with my husband. This was more like training for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
However, in the course of doing my interior decoration business, I realised that most of the money went towards purchasing furniture. Design always needs good furniture and sometimes artisans could be a pain. I started Chic Carpenter and it was a hit back to back. Though it was stressful, it was a really successful business. I had my factory and a good client base. But it got really difficult to combine it with my pregnancy in 2015 and baby came too early. I had to stay indoors for 4 months because of my baby’s health. This lead to some of my businesses going down due mismanagement.
My restless and extroverted nature wouldn’t allow me sit still for 4 months. I had to do something and that was how my online business started: Business Savvy Chick Academy. It has been an awesome experience.
How would you advise an entrepreneur trying to find her feet?
You need to start with passion otherwise, you would give up when frustration and stress sets in. It is also important to start early. Personally, I started early and it boosted my risk taking threshold. I have done businesses that failed woefully and I have done ones that succeeded. This helps because I have tested it and I see it works so my resolve is strengthened.
When you start at an early age, the world isn’t expecting too much from you. So, even when you get your fingers burnt, it’s not really the end of the world as you just learn from it. For example, I’d lose money in my business as a student but my father would still be available to pay my school fees. But as you get older, you have more responsibility and do not have the luxury to keep wasting resources.
Passion is really important but if it is not profitable you could branch out and still find ways to do your passion, maybe as a CSR.
What do you wish you knew earlier in business?
The importance of having a mentor and supportive parents. If I had more support from my parents, it would have been more helpful but I had to hide most times to do stuff.
As a matter of fact, they wanted me to get a job with one of the oil companies since I’m from the Niger Delta region. But I knew I didn’t want that kind of job.
The major challenge most businesses have is getting clients. As the client attraction genie, what would you suggest we input in our businesses?
Based on experience, people buy from people they know, like and trust. For instance, we might use a particular salon or doctor because of the relationship we have with them. Therefore, to sell you need to be deliberate. Be helpful to your clients, give compliments and be there for them.
Satisfied customers will always speak about you to others within their circle of influence. Remember, they are not just buying your product or service but the experience of you.
What’s your tip for running a home and a business efficiently?
It’s important to have a supportive spouse, be extremely organised and plan ahead. For example, I plan ahead for the food that will be eaten and for cleaning.
In today’s world, it is important to work smart. Focus on the areas you are good at and do it with joy. The others you’re not good at, you could automate. I always stress, “Enjoy, Delegate, Automate or Delete” to my community. If you are good at something, do it with joy, enjoy the process. If it’s not your best task, delegate to someone who would do it with ease and joy. You could also automate the process to make it easier or delete it from your agenda.
What are your final words for female entrepreneurs?
Do not make your small business make you small minded. Take it seriously and grow it to outlive you. It should not be a second fiddle because you plan to get married or you have a rich father. Get ready to burn your fingers and lose money but be open to learning.
Your business is like a child and needs time to grow, don’t expect it to start paying for all the lovely stuff you desire immediately. Invest in your business and by extension yourself too. Remember that whatever you learn makes you and your business better. If you do not know enough, learn it or pay to learn it. You either grow or retrogress in business so continual improvement is key. Give your business your best shot always.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
Phones are ringing, orders are streaming in and your sales department is a beehive of activities. Your business is doing well, the mood is ecstatic. The store person walks to you and breaks unpleasant news, stocks are exhausted. You quickly ring your suppliers and each supplier, as if choreographed responds, “We can’t supply till you pay the outstanding amounts”.
You call your accountant and ask her how much money the business has. She says there is very little cash, but quickly assures you that there are receivables which if you collect; the business will have more than enough money to buy stocks. You ask your assistant to call all the debtors and collect outstanding money. Meanwhile, you call the bank, for quick working capital. In your mind, either of these two must come through for you.
By end of day, you call your bff to explain you have no money to buy stocks and you have lots of orders pending. She does not have any cash either; all orders for that day are delayed.
The next day is no better, and customers start asking for alternatives, to which you direct them to your competitors. It is a sad state of affairs and each passing day, the mood in your business dampens, and activities slowly grind to a halt. Where did I go wrong? you ask yourself; with no answers.
Many times we hear an investor say, I will make loads of cash from this idea, so let me put in all the money that I have. Yet she doesn’t consider the day to day cash needed to sustain the business and her life. Such a #MotherlandMogul who underestimates the power of money sets herself up for failure. Money dictates the pace of growth for our businesses, and also the pace of progress of our lives. The absence of money brings business to a standstill and slows our lives down.
Planning cash flows is tantamount to respecting the King. Cash must circulate in your business, from your financiers and customers, to be used for purchasing inventory or stocks, investing, paying for labour and some lying around in a bank account to handle emergencies.
All these activities are so important for your business survival, neglecting any of them, or leaving it to chance is a quick way of muzzling your business to death. In this series of articles and guides, we are going to breakdown cash flow management’s concepts to help you manage your King in a way in which he will flow, without any turbulence, and provide your business with the much-needed growth.
The cash flow cycle explains the physical flow of money in your business, from the moment you receive it, through utilising it to pay for your expenses, all the way to banking and using it to produce goods and services.
Show Me The Money (Guide)
We then delve into the best time-tested strategies for managing cash. Here, we discuss how much money you need to have idle around your business waiting to be spent, what you need to do to manage suppliers and the people who owe you, when to turn to debt and when to dispose your inventories, even if it is at a loss.
A stitch in time… (Article)
Timing your cash flows to coincide with your outflows is quite a serious strategy in the process of managing cash. It is important that your big expenses are undertaken when you are expecting your big payments from your customers or an inflow from your financier, be it a loan or a grant, or an injection of capital.
Cash in itself can be an investment. That means by having liquid cash, you can keep it in a form in which it earns interest instead of keeping it under your mattress. Money can be invested to earn a return while waiting to be used in the business. Concepts around managing liquidity, investing excess cash, earning or paying interest and banking will be discussed in our last article on cash flow management.
Cash is King. No queen ignores the king. If a #MotherlandMogul ignores the King, it can only be to her own detriment.