How to use media platforms to grow your business

Build your public presence and reach new customers with these tips Click To Tweet

Public relations can be used to protect, enhance or build reputations through the media. The world of business is characterised by fierce competition.

In order to win new customers and retain the existing ones, companies not only have to distinguish themselves from the competition but must also create and maintain a positive public image which helps create a strong relationship with the customers and in turn increases the sales.

How to build your public presence

All you have to do is let others know you exist and that you are an expert source of information or advice about your industry. Being regarded as an industry expert can do wonders for your business.

These six steps will be useful;

  1. Start by making sure you know everything you can about your business, product, and industry.
  2. Talk to as many groups as possible such as with public speaking engagements. Do it free of charge, of course, and keep it fun, interesting and timely.
  3. Contact industry trade publications and volunteer to write articles, columns or opinion pieces.
    Offer seminars or demonstrations related to your business. For example, a travel agency may recommend the best and safest destinations for the Christmas holidays.
  4. Host or appear as a regular guest or contributor to a local radio or TV talk show.
  5. Capitalise in well-run platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can post about your current specials, discounts and new products around the clock.
  6. Preparing media or press kits

Effective publicists have great relationships with many different journalists in many different industries. Keep ready-made kits at hand for the media. Your kit could include executive profiles, quick facts about your organization, such as its company history, photographs, detailed product descriptions; even samples and business cards.

How to prepare a pitch to the media for publication

If you’d like media platforms to cover the work the work you do, you’ll need to first pitch to the media. These steps should come in handy.

  1. Write your positioning statement. This sums up in a few sentences what makes your business different from the competition and what your Unique selling point (USP) is.
  2. List your objectives. What do you hope to achieve for your company through the publicity plan you put into action? List your top five goals in order of priority and be specific and set timelines.
  3. Identify your target customers. Are they male or female? What age range? What are their lifestyles, incomes and buying habits? Where do they live?
  4. Identify your target media. List the newspapers and TV and radio programs in your area that would be appropriate outlets. Make a complete list of the media you want to target, then call them and ask whom you should contact regarding your area of business.
  5. Develop story angles. Keeping in mind the media you’re approaching, make a list of story ideas you can pitch to them. Develop story angles you would want to read about or see on TV. Brainstorm ideas for example, if you own a clothing store, one angle could be to donate clothes to the local women’s shelter.
  6. Make the pitch. Put your thoughts on paper, and send them to the reporter in a “pitch letter.” Make the letter short and include your contact details so the reporter can contact you.
  7. Following up is the key to securing coverage. Wait a few days then follow up your pitch letter with a telephone call. Always be courteous when speaking to journalists bearing in mind that they are busy individuals.
  8. Send a thank you note to the reporter after the publication of your story.

6 ways to improve your stakeholder relationships

In business you need more allies than adversaries, keep your allies happy with these tips Click To Tweet

For any business to succeed, stakeholders must be well taken care of. These are your clients, suppliers, partners, investors, employees and the broad community who have an interest in your business. When a stakeholder is not taken care of, the effects can be felt in various parts of the business.

Building strong relationships with stakeholders and maintaining them takes effort, time and a well thought out action plan. Below are six tips you can use both to build and maintain healthy stakeholder relationships.

1. Actively build strong relationships from the start

You know what you would like to achieve, and you know what it will take to achieve that vision.

Share this vision with your stakeholders on a more regular basis than you typically would. Don’t wait for structured meetings, use every opportunity you have with them to get them on the same page.

2. Involve your stakeholders

Yes, it may be your vision but remember its execution and success depends on how enthusiastic your stakeholders are.

Ask for their advice. A very powerful question you can ask is, “How can we best serve you…?” the answer is forward looking and guess what, you have a real chance of doing what is asked.

3. Schedule periodic touch-base sessions

We sometimes underestimate the importance of staying top of mind, especially where clients are concerned. To support the first tip of actively building strong relationships outside structure, have a structure built in as well.

Regular meetings keep you and your stakeholders on the same page and this means you are able to pick up on potential challenges before they even arise.

4. Keep your word

Do you deliver on your promises? When you say you will call back, do you call back? When you say you will have something important finished by a particular time, do you do it?

If you want to build lasting stakeholder relationships, do what you said you would do. Remember it is about your integrity, your trustworthiness and the respect you have for yourself and the other person.

5. Have an open mind

When you are after win-win relationships, understand that the job of the other party is not to feed your ego. They will have contradictory opinions, they will say things you don’t like, accept that.

It is actually a good thing because the last thing you want is to surround yourself with ‘ego feeders’ who don’t help you grow. Always have the big picture in mind and listen to suggestions, thank people for their inputs and genuinely consider what they have to say.

6. Address issues as and when they arise

There is nothing worse than hearing about a ‘transgression’ months after the said event took place. Not only may you have forgotten about it, but also the fact that the other person brings it up says a lot. In keeping with positive relationship building with all your stakeholders, make sure you are open and transparent. If something is bothering you, talk about it and clear the air.

When you approach all your stakeholder relationships with the view to continuously improve them, the other party will know it and this will set the bar on how they respond to you.

In business, you need more allies and champions than adversaries. For your vision to be realised, you must constantly work on your relationships.

Isis Nyong’o Madison: The journey has to be worth it

African founders have to actively create the environment needed for success - Isis Nyong'o Madison Click To Tweet

Isis Nyong’o Madison is a well-known media and technology leader in Africa who has held leadership roles at Asphalt & Ink, InMobi, Google and MTV. Over the past decade, she has made her mark scaling media and digital businesses across the continent. Isis holds degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Business School and is the CEO and Co-founder of Mums Village – an online start-up dedicated to enriching the lives of current mothers and mums-to-be in urban Kenya. Accolades awarded to her include being named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and one of Africa’s most Powerful Women by Forbes. She serves on the boards of two technology companies and can’t hurt to add that her family boasts of greatness with Academy award-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o as her cousin.

We’ve shared her lessons on landing a job in the media industry already, this article focuses on Isis’s start-up experiences and her lessons learned from challenges.


Overcoming challenges faced in the startup field

There are three types of challenges I have observed while working in this industry:

Access to capital

Access to capital is very different in Africa as compared to the US – there are a lot more types and forms of capital that are accessible, especially for technology-driven startups.

Ecosystem Development

Despite having a critical mass of people online now in Africa, unlike more mature markets such as the US, there’s more consumer education and ecosystem building. African founders have to actively create the environment needed for success.

For example, a couple years ago if you had an app, you would have to tell people what an app was, where to go to get it and how to download it. In the US no one has had to do that for the last seven years at least. So that shows us that there’s still a lot more work to do here to just get going, particularly with the consumer.

There’s similar challenges on B2B type businesses where you’re really trying to sell something useful for that particular business and that process is probably a lot longer than at other markets abroad.

Team Building

With regards to finding talent, the dynamics are just a little bit different. To get the talent that you want in a place in the west where every person has many options, you need to sell a more compelling vision or have deeper pockets. Here we just don’t have that depth of talent pool so you have to invest more time in identifying people who are problem solvers and then develop the other skills on the job.

I look for talent in unconventional places and try make the work environment an inviting and enjoyable space to be in. In regards to ecosystem development, I focus on leveraging partnerships as much as possible. From an access to capital standpoint, I think that’s something that is still definitely a work in progress in terms of trying to be more open-minded to the organic ‘zebra’ growth versus the ‘unicorn’ approach.

Isis Nyong'o Madison: I focus on leveraging partnerships as much as possible Click To Tweet

Take the Imposter Syndrome as a sign of growth

“This is something I have dealt with many times. I feel that it is probably just an indication of real challenge and growth where you feel almost not ready for something this is your chance to step up to the plate.

I certainly believe it’s an inner belief that builds up over time, and I usually just internally calibrate and tell myself ‘you know what there are probably people who feel the same way here and if they haven’t felt it here then they’ve probably felt it somewhere else.’”

On balancing life as a working mother…

Isis is a mother to Juno (3) and Sky (18 months) and has been a successful entrepreneur in Nairobi, running both MumsVillage and Asphalt & Ink for close to four years combined.

“You just have to be extremely organized and ensure that you build as much flexibility to your work and life as you can. It’s also about checking in to see if the way you are living your life has the values that you have. People make different choices, there are those who decide to take time off, others who don’t have a choice.

It’s a careful calibration where one might adjust on a week by week or month by month basis. As an entrepreneur, it’s not such a super static thought process as my schedule is more fluid. The reality is though that most mothers don’t really have a choice and they just have to try and do their best to balance it out as there’s no magic formula.”

The MumsVillage Team
The MumsVillage Team

Parting shot…

My mantra in life right now is – ‘the journey has to be worth it’. Ask yourself, how much am I enjoying the journey? Versus looking to the end goal.

This is a shift for me because I’ve been very goal oriented and so I think the journey in itself has to be rewarding as well. Another thing I’d add is, always have a long term view –that’s very much where I’m at right now.

Degree in view: Five things you must start now

Don’t pause your life in university, you can't expect to play it back after your degree Click To Tweet

Shout out to those of us that are yet to officially stop getting monthly allowances and still basking in the euphoria of the school life freedom.

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Undergraduate life can be amazing, and besides attending lectures (and partying non-stop), there’s a lot more you can do while still in the ivory tower which would be healthy for you and your future, sista.

So before, you join the 9-5ers or labour market or whatever it’s called, here are five things to start now to save you some stress in the future

Be independent and explore your options. (Yass girl, start learning to do things on your own).

how jessica gifTake responsibility for yourself and your actions now and start gathering up skills and those sorta things you would require to be your own #MotherlandMogul. Start making great and valuable decisions that would do you good years from now.

Regardless of the course you might be studying (whatsoever course) try your hands on a couple of other extracurricular activities and studies. You could learn a second language or some photography, or even try participating in an art exhibition. A professional job and a side hustle never hurt anybody, plus you never know where your big break would spring from in the long run.

Talk to your career counsellor, get a career mentor...and other things to start while in uni Click To Tweet

Get all the advice you can and enjoy the process

Talk to your course adviser or career counsellor (inasmuch as it might be boring). Get yourself a mentor, gain as much mentorship knowledge as you can about your career path. The internet is also a great stop for amazing career advice.

Read with a lil’ dash of fun

Immerse yourself in schoolwork, attend classes, never miss an assignment, read, read, and read, anything to come out with a turn-up degree, and do this while having a good time (cause we girls, are smart like that). You could try organizing a creative and fun study group with a few smart friends, that way, studying wouldn’t be so boring.

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Have safe fun as much as you can, but whatever you do, don’t stay partying on the eve of your exams, you are on your own.

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Spice up your profile

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Create a professional online presence for yourself towards whatever path you are looking to take in the future. Know what you really want to do; the kind of job that excites you and start building yourself and your resume in that direction (you do not want to come out of school with only your name and personal profile barely half page on what should be called your resume, nah).

You can start building yourself and your career strategy while in university Click To Tweet

Research on specific companies you’d love to work with in the future and apply to intern with them, chances are that they might want to retain you after you get a degree, or not (anyways, you still lose nothing).

Jumpstart your career

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School is the best place to start your career and your friends and classmates are the best customers you could have. However you start up, chances are that you will likely get loyal classmates and friends that’ll want to help your hustle. Don’t dull, take advantage of the university environment before you are shown the door out.

Start gathering your Oprah money:

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I know everybody talks about money, and honestly, we all need money to survive. So whether you’ll be gathering up from the tons of free money that comes your way while in school or from all the monies you’ll come to earn from doing jobs or having a business, start investing your money and saving enough cash for you and your great future of responsibilities.

Start making every second count now. Don’t pause your life, expecting to play it back after you’ve gotten a degree- nah, because when the degree comes, you’ll be in for some shocker reality check. Don’t take it personal though, everybody faces the check.

5 things you must know before starting a business with your husband

married couple husband wife
What could possibly go wrong when you start a business with your husband? Everything! Click To Tweet

Relationships have a lot of milestones, and one you could add to your cherished-memory collection could be of starting a business with your husband. You may be thinking, “We’ve been married for five years now”. You’ve obviously thought of the cons, you have even imagined how much of an adventure it would be —what could possibly go wrong??

Now, you may have a point, but before you go on and tell hubby you want to start a business together, here are a few things you may want to have in your knowledge basket…

tyra-banks-excited-gif1. Compatible marriage partner does not mean compatible business partner

So you dated the man for 3 years, and have been married to him for the past 4 years. You’re thinking “we make a great team!” Sure you do —but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work out the same way in the office too.

When thinking of a business partner, regardless of whether they’re your husband or not, a lot of things come to consideration; such as your personality types and your skill sets, and personality traits for success. Does he want to take charge everywhere? Would he be willing to let you be an equal partner and leave the ‘head of the family’ cap at home? And your skills; are they complementary or overlapping??

If you both love to do paperwork, there will be a problem because no one will want to do some fieldwork. Who is sitting behind the desk and who is meeting the big guys? While complementary skill sets are a bonus in marriage, the same just doesn’t apply in the work field.

2. He will still need his wife…

This is definitely something you need to talk about along with your job descriptions. You probably already have some rooster at home  for who is taking out the trash or picking up the kids from school and what have you. The same will need to apply in the office.

Who makes the final decisions? Who talks to the employees (if any) in meetings? Having the who-does-what conversation will be fruitful, and will help you carry out your wifely and/or motherly duties effectively. After all is said and done, you are his wife and he will still need you to be such before and after work.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because he saw you slaving away at work he will understand not having his favourite meal on the day it’s served. Will you need to hire a maid? Will you be too tired to cook? Talk everything out, but remember to not neglect the fact that you are his wife above everything else, and that as lenient as he may be, he’s still your man and his needs are yours to cater for.

You'll need time alone...and other things to consider if you want to start-up with your husband Click To Tweet

3. Your marriage will take strain…

Your funds and the time you spent together being a couple will take strain, and it will show. Is it manageable? Totally. Are you and your partner strong enough to weather the storms that will hit?

That is a decision you should both be willing to make because things can get ugly…In the meantime, be warned my sister.

4. You’ll need alone time

If you decide to start a business with your husband, consider the fact that you are spending pretty much all your time with him. To add on to that too, you are married to the guy, so you’ll be living like this forever, God-willing. Believe it or not, you will get tired of your husband.

To avoid this, make sure you find hobbies and activities outside of your marriage and work. Get that work-life balance. This way, you avoid having your conversations revolve around work and home. You get to spice it up with some news about how you beat your girls to the tennis game you had that weekend. Spending too much time with him should not be an excuse to neglect your life, or not keep him on his toes.

5.There is no guarantee it will work out

Start-ups can fail, and having your husband as your business partner does not make you an exception. Work on a contingency plan before you start your business.

Besides, who says the fear of failure should hold you back? You can always bounce back!

Monalisa Molefe: Buy into a business that you can connect your passion to

Monalisa Molefe
@Lisa_Molefe bought a 17 year old business rather than start her own from scratch Click To Tweet

In an era where the media has ramped up the encouragement directed towards the young entrepreneurs, one millennial, Monalisa Molefe, found herself in largely uncharted territory when she made the decision to buy a business. In September 2016, Monalisa took the plunge and assumed ownership of an already existing business, Art Form Factory.

At 26, she is now the youngest, black, female owner of a framing business in South Africa. Having previously worked in the luxury branding space, Monalisa had no prior knowledge on the complexities of the art framing world. What she did have was the foresight to spot and seize a good opportunity when it presented itself.

Monalisa Molefe had a passion for luxury branding which she envisioned bringing to the art framing world. She had a zeal and dedication, rare for many women her age. Lucky for her, Monalisa also has the support of a mother who has always encouraged her to dream big. Monalisa’s mother taught her to realize that once she decides to take a chance on something, she had better be prepared to go all in and not consider failure an option.

To find out exactly what drives this phenomenal young woman, SLA contributor, Uloma Ogba, caught up with Monalisa on a Sunday. This interview took place while Monalisa was present at her factory and in between business strategy sessions.


Prior to buying the Artform Factory you had a successful career in Marketing and had worked for some top luxury brands in SA. What motivated you to trade in your cushy, secure job to buy a business and take over its operations?

 I’ve always known I would be an entrepreneur. As I took on my career path I realized I had a lot to learn. So, instead of graduating and rushing into opening my own business, I took the route of gaining knowledge of the business world and the operations of large firms by working for them. The knowledge one picks up from that is something that a textbook cannot teach.

At the time I was introduced to Artform Factory in early 2016, I was working for a luxury brand. My move wasn’t so much because I was frustrated at work, it was more about the fact that I believe that opportunities are timed

It’s not everyday that you hear a story of someone like myself who was offered the chance to buy a business. The framing factory has been running for the past 17 years and it was previously owned by a Polish lady who started in the interior industry helping people frame for their houses and offices.

Monalisa Molefe had no prior knowledge on the complexities of the framing world Click To Tweet

The previous owner and my mother had a mutual friend who brought the opportunity to my mother’s attention. My mother, who already had a lot on her plate at the time, then introduced me to company. For the Polish lady, selling her business wasn’t just about a monetary transaction. She wanted to make sure that the new owner would be the right fit for the business.

She wanted someone who would take the business to greater heights. What she told me was that there is a gap in the market and no one was really owning it. If I came in and commanded the space, I would have plenty of opportunities. This was because a lot of corporates were looking to work with business that met certain criteria in terms ownership and service offering.

art-form-wall-decorAfter my initial meeting with her, I did my homework to ascertain the viability of the business. I wanted to some clarity on what to do with the business if I had to take over. Luckily, the business has had an impressive track record. This included owning exclusive rights to sell limited edition, official Brazil 2014 world cup soccer match balls in South Africa,. The previous owner also introduced the concept of the Mandela memorabilia which has been a major attraction for South Africans and people from all over the world.

I have a background in brand building and management and I’ve spent the last couple of years submerging myself in the luxury industry. My plan is to take the business to the next level and to turn something as simple as framing into a luxury business. At the factory, we frame under two categories. One is wall décor such as mirrors and art pieces. We also frame sports memorabilia to basically preserve “the greatest moments in sports”.

The way I see it, you could just go to the supermarket and buy ready-made frames or you could come to the Artform Factory and get a custom-made frame tailored to your specific style and preferences. That in itself is the essence of luxury to me.

Monalisa Molefe took the route of gaining knowledge of the business world by working for them Click To Tweet

What would be your advice to other women thinking of embarking on the same venture. Is there something you wish you had known before going in?

The experience has definitely met, and even exceeded my expectations. First of all, I was very fortunate because I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My mother has had many businesses. Growing up, I had watched her open up and close down several businesses. So when it came to my current venture, I’ve used her as a guide in terms of what to do and what not to do.

I am lucky to have had my mother who is a seasoned professional and entrepreneur to guide me. She has helped me ensure that the processes and the transaction were done professionally. My mother also advised me regarding any laws dealing with change of ownership in the business. She, as well as my mentors, have drilled into me the importance of business accounts. Business accounts are a good indicator of the success of the business’s operations.

Monalisa Molefe: It’s not everyday that you hear a story of someone like myself buying a business Click To Tweet

Another step that had to be done was a business valuation. This was to get a sense of where the business stood and how lucrative it was in its current state. A business valuation can also reveal if there’s any room for flexibility. I had to look closely at the sales contract including the terms and conditions to ensure that the terms suited both the parties involved in the transaction.

Also, what really helped me was that the then owner took me around. She introduced me to all of her suppliers and clients. This was as a sign of assurance that business would remain the same, even after she had handed over ownership to me. People are scared of change and so on my part, I needed to assure the clients. The only two things I changed were the logo corporate identity as well as the bank accounts, of course. The level of service and the depth of the relationships built stayed the same.

My advice to other women planning on going the route of buying a business is this; whatever you do, keep the standards at the same high level and exceed the expectations if and when you can.

For women without the same level of support you had, buying a business sounds like a scary venture. How would they even know how to go about the process?

That’s where the Internet comes in. This process requires a lot of time spent doing research and also strategically positioning yourself so that you are in the know. Apart from the guidance from my mother, I also had to do my own research. I had to find information that was “dumbed down” to a level I could understand.

That’s when I realized there was a gap in what the media tells us about buying a business and what the reality is. It turns out that in SA, there are businesses dedicated to providing assistance at every stage of the process. There are foundations and platforms that can develop you as a leader. They also match mentees to mentors for those that seek assistance for their personal and business development.

Monalisa Molefe realized there was a gap in what the media says about buying a business & the reality Click To Tweet

I’ve come across a lot of situations where young entrepreneurs complain that they aren’t receiving the type of support they need. In reality what happens is that a lot of them don’t follow through with what they start. Most of them quit while they are ahead.

You have to take yourself seriously first before you expect someone else to take you seriously. If you are going to do this, my advice is to be all in, you can’t half-foot the process. It took me 9 months of background research and planning for Art Form Factory. All the while, I worked a full-time job, executed events, travelled the world and studied part-time. It was not an easy or short process, but from the minute I made up my mind, I was willing to sacrifice whatever it took to get there.

5 steps to developing business systems that work for start-ups

shehive lagos she leads africa business systems
@jeanette_nk summarises the lessons she learned building business systems for her start-up Click To Tweet

So, you finally have a concept and business plan finalised. You’re ready to begin operating but don’t know where to start? This is usually where consulting firms sweep in and offer help for a fee.

Although outsourcing usually benefits most small start-ups, it’s also true that not every small business has enough money to exploit such services. If you ‘don’t know anything about business’, but don’t have the money to consult those that do, then you’d better whip out your notebook and concentrate.

When I started my business I had no idea how complicated running a PR company was so I dived in, head first. Luckily for me, I snapped out of my illusion quick enough to save the company from myself. I took a step back and educated myself on the business systems that exist within a typical PR company.

Below, I’ve summarised the lessons I learned in 5 very doable steps that can be applied to businesses in various industries.

1. Identify all existing/potential divisions

Business systems are a strategic response to a chain of events that occur within different divisions. Let me make it simpler, using a chocolate cake for instance. Business systems would, in this case, be the oven for the cake and the different divisions involved would be the ingredients needed to make this cake.

I know, I’m salivating too! Okay, let’s focus. These systems include payment policies, contractual agreements, marketing management, customer care etc. For example, if I got a call to handle a campaign for a company, between that call, the conclusion of the campaign and payment being transferred to me, I need to ask myself what divisions would be involved. There would administration for the signing of the contract and releasing of press releases and accounts to record the payment for example.

When you develop your business systems, you need to consider how it will help make those divisions function well together, taking into account all other factors involved like employees within those divisions. You might want to pick up a business book or two to learn more about general business management if you are not too sure about the operational divisions.

Play office, just like you played house when you were a cute little kid Click To Tweet

2. Play office

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Yes, play office. Just like you played house when you were a cute little kid before life put the world on your shoulders and no, I’m not mad to suggest this! Putting yourself in a real-life scenario will help you identify what works and what doesn’t work, it helps bring you down to earth.

When I started out, I pitched for a partnership with a very big musician. I was excited for a little while because I could taste the big-time in my mouth. However, once I sat down with my notebook and laptop, I realised that I had no idea where I was going to start and what I was going to do.

I sent out a few mock press releases to see how easy it would be to get word out there and after weeks of waiting, not one publication got back to me. Devastated doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I sent the “I’m going to start small” email to that client. Yet, I understood that I needed to go through other processes before I got the handle of things. I realised things were a lot more complicated than I thought.

In theory, your vision always seems a lot easier, that’s why it’s important to try and see how well it would work out physically.

Believe me when I say, I literally played office. I set up a nice corner for myself in my tiny typical student room and every morning when I had nothing to do, I would go in, pretend to consult a client, hold staff meetings and so on. This helped me see how things would be if I were sitting across from an actual client.

3. Shadow other existing businesses

Enquire with a similar business and take notes on how they respond to you.

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I promise you it’s not as shady as you might think. This step will allow you to, if you haven’t yet, come up with a niche/speciality for your own business. Once they respond to you, or if they don’t at all, you can spot what you can incorporate in your business systems to better serve potential clients. Think of it as industry research, because it pretty much is just that.

For a month or two, I analytically and critically followed one particular PR firm. It was during that time that I started spotting trends on their Twitter timeline. I started learning about things like status meetings and press release drafting sessions, things I had never thought about.

The whole shadowing journey guided me in the right direction, I began seeing exactly how you handle your clients as a publicist and how you navigate the different divisions around such an account or campaign.

Shadowing existing businesses in your niche is not as shady as you'd think Click To Tweet

4. Develop an operating system

This step isn’t as easy as you’d think, but it is completely manageable if you give it enough push. When developing your systems, think long-term, you want these systems to become a tradition and lifestyle for your business.

Although it is referred to as one big system, the truth is, a business system is made up of many small systems that are tailored according to the different interrelated divisions you identified in step 1.

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No think about it, it’s really not as confusing. Let’s take a step back to the cake example, these small systems would be how you prepare your ingredients before you mix them in. Before you mix cake batter, you would have had to mix the liquids and dry ingredients separately. You also can’t mix the icing and add it to the batter before it’s been baked into a cake. All of those small, yet differentiated processes are what makes a business system.

How to develop systems that become a tradition and lifestyle for your business Click To Tweet

Taking into account all the information you gathered from the previous 3 steps, start developing your systems. Remember, sometimes it helps to keep things easy and simple. Before you decide your system is complete, make sure it answers the following questions:

  1. How will your client/customer find you? For e.g. do they have to make a booking?
  2. What needs to be done internally to ready the product/service?
  3. How will you deliver your service/product?
  4. How do you document the progress of the delivery?
  5. What events take place after the fact and how do you document these?

5. Evaluate your system

Test the practicality of your business system. If you must, play office again and see if it runs smoothly. If it does, then you’re okay and if it doesn’t, start the process over again with a different approach.

And remember, even though some practically walk into greatness from the word go, don’t rush past being small. Everyone and everything has to start somewhere.

Leslie Ossete: Improving lives through better transportation

leslie ossete she leads africa

If your mission is improving the lives of millions, you’ll find some similarity with Leslie Ossete. She is one of four co-founders of Magic Bus Ticketing, an offline SMS based ticketing system. Magic Bus Ticketing aims to improved lives by simplifying how they interact with transportation.

It’s a student start-up that lets bus commuters know when the next bus arrives and how much it is charging. It also allows payment through mobile money.

Recently, Magic Bus Ticketing won $1 million dollars from the Hult Prize. Pretty amazing, right?


Let’s start with the Hult Prize. Congrats on winning the $1 million! How do you plan to use the money from the prize?

Thank you!

After a year long process, Magic Bus Ticketing has finally won the Hult Prize, which awards $1M in seed funding to the winning start-up. My team was among the 5 finalists out of 25,000 applicants worldwide to
compete in what is now the largest student competition for social good.

This September 20th at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, we pitched our innovation in front of notable judges such as Bob Collymore,
CEO of Safaricom, and Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group. And, we won!

The $1M prize is distributed to Magic Bus Ticketing through monthly instalments. Depending on how much is required to effectively run the business, the Hult foundation makes funds available to Magic Bus Ticketing.

Magic Bus Ticketing will use the million to fully launch its operations in Kenya, and scale fast to other East African countries with similar market conditions, Tanzania and Uganda by the end of this year.

You are from Congo Brazzaville and Madagascar, why set a company in Kenya?

I grew up in Brazzaville, and my team-mate Wyclife is from Nairobi. Both of us as Africans had experienced similar challenges in public transportation; long wait times at the bus stop and inconsistent pricing when it comes to bus fares.

We decided to focus our pilot in Kenya because first, Nairobi is one growing tech hub on the continent. Second, Nairobi has the fourth highest commuter pain point according to IBM. And third, there
had already been a lot of research and initiatives done towards using technology to improve public bus transport.

In fact, Nairobi is a place of innovations. Several projects to introduce cashless payments in the bus system had been led, such as Google’s BebaPay bus card.

What sparked the idea to integrate urban commuting with mobile payment?

The public bus system in Africa is mostly privatized and informal. The day-to-day operations are run by a crew of drivers and conductors who earn little money from their hard work. That pushes them to overcharge
commuters for their own benefit. They abuse the current cash system to set higher fares based on demand and supply.

For instance, in Nairobi when it rains, the bus fare triples. Commuters themselves don’t like to carry cash around. They worry about pickpockets, and not being able to get their change back in the bus.

Furthermore, the police also abuses the cash system. Police officers know the bus crews carry cash 24h/24h, and do not hesitate to fine them for absurd reasons. We envision that cashless payment in the bus industry will bring more safety and order. We believe the way to implement a cashless bus system is through the use of mobile money, which is already widely used in East Africa.

It is quick, accessible, and locally relevant. Prior initiatives have been using bus cards linked to banks, but most people don’t have bank
accounts, banks have high transaction fees, and buses need liquid cash on a daily basis.

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What steps did you take to grow your company by 5000 booked tickets in less than two months?

In order to acquire a customer, you must spend on marketing. We did a lot of mass-marketing through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp groups.

We also do outreach marketing, implementing stalls at university campuses. Furthermore, we do collaborative marketing with the bus
operators themselves, handling flyers to commuters, in order to build trust with potential customers.

Last but not least, we also do product demos of our technology at major bus stops. As we launch in Nairobi, we will expand to advertising through radio, TV, and billboards.

What does a student start-up need to thrive and be successful?

A student start-up needs to be backed by a board of advisers, with a diverse background and expertise. Magic Bus Ticketing consistently asks for feedback from renowned experts in the fields of transport, technology, finance, and organizational management.

Our advisers come from valued institutions such as the World Bank
and MIT university. Briefly, a student start-up needs to create for itself a network of mentors who understand the goals and challenges of the organization —no, they don’t have to come from particular institutions, but they have to be right for your organization.

For example, for Magic Bus Ticketing, one of our key advisor is Bernard, who has been a bus driver in Nairobi for the past 10 years. That’s real knowledge!

Perseverance is key, even more for student start-ups, to succeed. I remember our humble beginnings on our campus at Earlham College. Our initial plan was to add more buses on the roads, and to provide commuters with a subscription model to access buses on-demand. Our buses were supposed to have TV screens, Wi-Fi, bike racks, online libraries, and much more.

We presented this idea at the local Hult Prize at Earlham, and were not selected to attend the regionals. It was extremely upsetting because we all knew we were tackling a real challenge in public transportation. We had to iterate our business model, and re-apply online to ensure our spot at the Hult Prize Boston regionals, which we won. Without perseverance, we would not have come this far!
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What do you think of the industry you work in? How do you plan to remain consistent?

Magic Bus operates in the public bus industry in Africa. It’s informal, somehow chaotic, highly tied with politics, and mostly men-dominated.

As a young African woman, it’s often difficult to have your voice heard
in the middle of such chaos. However, optimizing our public bus system through technology is a challenge that I am willing to take!

If you could wake up tomorrow as someone else, who would you pick and what would you do?

I would definitely love to wake up as FLOTUS Michelle Obama. The first thing I’d do is to present my candidature to become the next President of the United States.

I strongly believe she —a highly educated African-American woman— has the right calibre to run the country.


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

How to beat the rewards system

shehive nairobi she leads africa rewards

As someone who has been working in this crowdfunding space for quite some time, I have had the opportunity to have incredible conversations with people who run crowdfunding platforms and people who run campaigns on crowdfunding platforms.

As you can imagine, the information you gain from both sides of the coin, while different, is necessary for a complete understanding of the crowdfunding scene.

Before I decided on exactly what I wanted Do it Now Now to be, and the kind of support we would need to offer our campaigns, I did a lot of research into what it takes to run a successful campaign and what support campaign founders need.

Let’s talk about perks/rewards

Yes! You got the money, congratulations! But now, you have to deal with sending everyone that pledged an amount of money to you, the things you promised you would give them.

If you have raised $23K and you have 380 backers who have each donated between $10 and $1000, you are going to have to gift 380 people a gift corresponding to the amount they donated.

That means, you are going to have to design or purchase the gift and send it to their individual addresses. To some of us, this seems pretty straightforward.

im-sorry-im-confused gifHowever, for people like myself who need to break stuff down, consider this.

What is your donation percentage?

The first thing to consider when deciding which perks you are going provide to your donors, is how much of the donation is going to go to perks.

Most platforms offer a 5% (or more) commission on the amount raised. After that, they add the transaction fees (usually between 3 and 4%). The problem with pledges, is that not everyone has the money in their account when it is time to collect. Factor in the cost of failed pledges.

fix-it

 

We suggest you factor in another 2% to cover this. So, before you factor in perks at all, you have just paid out 10% of the amount raised on each donation. So far, on each $100, you are making $90. Not bad.

What is your attraction percentage?

Now, how much money do you want to spend to attract someone to donate to your campaign? This includes any kind of advertising (Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc.) you want to use.

We don’t actually suggest you pay a ridiculous amount for advertising a campaign. Say you spend 50c on each $10 donation, that isn’t too bad. So far, on each $100, you are making $85. Not bad.

What is your perk percentage?

How much do you value your donor, in each donation bracket? Think about this purely monetarily. Your perk percentage reflects how much of the donation you want to spend on the physical or non-physical perks, the shipping of the physical perks, the design costs, etc.

We suggest as an individual campaign, you spend no more than 15% of your raised amount on perks. There are different rules, depending on the type of campaign you are running. If you already have a product you are trying to sell, and you have a RRP, then by all means use your existing merchandise!

You have already paid for it, and if you are making a small mark-up on the cost-price of your merchandise you are doing well. However, if you do not have existing merchandise and you actually need to make some money to create merchandise, this 15% maximum budget is for you.

The 15% includes the physical items, and the packaging and shipping of those items. Note that with the state of most platforms, people expect a lot as a reward.

We suggest you get really creative so that you don’t end up spending 50% of your raised amount on perks (trust me, it happens!). You are now at $70 for every $100. Not bad.

Keep on budget and you will get a good amount back!

the-windMake sure you factor in the quantity of each perk you want to offer. What will your community actually donate? Are you surrounded by $10 givers, or $100 givers? What do you think your $100 will want to receive?

Try talking to your community. If you make them a part of your decision making process, they are much more likely to respond to your campaign.

What is your administration cost?

Think about your opportunity cost. How much time are you going to spend on the post-campaign administration? How much time are you going to spend on marketing and organising your campaign?

Most campaigns take 10 hours a week to run, and most campaigns run for 8 weeks. Post-campaign administration is about 3 hours each workday for a month (approx. 60 hours). Factor in a salary that makes sense for whoever is going to be dealing with this part of your campaign.

You are looking at 140 hours at an average wage of $5/hour; $700. Factor in 3% of your fundraising amount as a guide, if you don’t want to have strict time/cost constraints.

These estimations depend on the number of backers and the type of perks you have —the more personalised the perks, the longer it is going to take to organise properly. It is not impossible to do this well.

There are actually a number of print and ship on demand platforms that you can look up. There are also a number of crowdfunding support companies that handle all of this for you. They usually charge between $3-5 per physical item for shipping and handling post-campaign.

If you plan and budget carefully, and you do as much of the work yourself and try to use as much readily available merchandise as possible you could be at $67 for each $100 donation post-campaign. Not bad at all.

There are benefits to donation/reward based crowdfunding, and there are obvious benefits to no-reward donation based crowdfunding. You need to think about what type of crowdfunding best suits what you are trying to do.

Merchandise based campaigns with ready merchandise should go for Indiegogo or Kickstarter. Cultural campaigns (particularly the UK based ones, should consider Crowdfunder UK), and people who want to raise very small amounts of money to help solve a specific issue, should consider Go Fund Me (their commission is higher, but no need for rewards).

The other option

Do it Now Now is very different from other platforms out there because we have a number of innovations in our donation based models, with the addition of something we like to call our “universal perk system”.

The rewards system of donation based platform is undoubtedly the most confusing and often the most stressful part of the entire crowdfunding process. We decided we would do our best to ease the stress.

We provide all the perks and rewards on our platform. And in some cases, we work with our campaign founders to create “speciality perks” that are specific to their campaigns and resonate with their communities/following. We support charitable initiatives, start-ups, fundraising individuals, and creatives with a project in development.

If you are interested in what we offer over on Do it Now Now with our “universal perk system” and our “admin cover”, feel free to contact me.

5 ways to keep your clients coming back to you

I love writing, writing my plans, thoughts and even notes to God. Interestingly, most times it leads to me asking Him questions and of course getting answers…some of which I’d like to share with you today.

This is a world of similarities. Multiple businesses offering pretty much the same product or service. Several businesses all scrambling for the same consumers. Not surprising then that one of the major questions on the minds of business owners is, “How do I keep my clients coming back to me for repeat business?” Just how does one keep clients from falling for the seductive ‘lyrics’ of competitive businesses?’

So here we go *drumroll* here are useful tips to keep your clients hooked heart, body and soul to your product or service.

Keep track of your clients; with your business purpose in mind

Remember as an entrepreneur, your major objective is to provide solutions. This means you need to be truly concerned about the people who currently need your solution –whether they know they need it or not. Being concerned about your clients should naturally lead you to keeping track of them especially with regards to the purpose of your business. Sounds like plenty English to me right now…time to break it down.

Say you run a hair salon, your business purpose is to keep your client’s hair always on fleek. To do this, you need to keep track of your clients to ensure that their hair-dos always represent. This could mean sending that special client reminders to swing by your salon for a new do… the last one you did for her two weeks ago should be getting old and rough. In the reminder, you can even suggest new styles she can try based on her preferences and shape of her face and send pictures to her.

What this does is give your client the feeling that you care for her and how her hair looks. She is not only reminded of when to change her hair-do but with time, she’ll stop thinking about her hair because she knows you’ve got her covered! You’ll remind her when she needs to come by, you’ll share styles with her and you’ll do them well. I don’t know about you but for me, this is one sure tip to keeping your client from even thinking of patronizing competitive salons.

Know your thing and let your customers see you as an expert

Do you sometimes compare your business to others in the industry? Do you notice the gaps between where you are and where they are? Don’t worry, it’s normal. This should not deter you or make you feel incapable of keeping your clients.

The important thing to focus on as you try to close the gap is that “one thing” that attracted your current clients to you in the first place. There is something you are very good at…something that you are a tested- and-proven expert of. I can hear you asking yourself already, “But how do I know this?”

Okay, imagine one of your current clients is talking with a friend about your service. What would be the biggest wow about your business that would make her friend say, “Oh I want to try this lady?” If you can answer this, congrats! You’ve found what you are the expert of! For one example, Banke Meshida-Lawal of BM Pro is amazing with making her client’s eyes POP!!

Make it a point of duty that everyone that meets you, leaves with the conviction that you know your stuff. More importantly, that they feel a connection with you! People like to be in safe hands that they trust. Even if they try other businesses, as long as your knowledge is deep and there is a connection, they’d soon realize it and come back to you.

Be humble and honour your clients

You humble yourself when you know and act like the client is boss. This way you always desire to deliver excellent service to the client always. Even when the client is upset and spitting out venom, you should seek first to understand before sharing your point of view…if you really must.

Offer your product/service in the way your customer likes and would feel respected. For example, prompt response to emails from clients, calling clients back when you miss their calls, creating offerings that fit their needs and preferences or even simply saying thank you for payments.

Always speak respectfully to your clients and also about your clients, especially when discussing them with your staff.  This is important because how you refer to clients when speaking with staff impacts the way they will speak to them in future. So if you say, “This client can be annoying”, the next time the client calls, your staff unconsciously has less patience with them. This can ultimately lead to the loss of that client.

Don’t become a financial burden

When you offer excellent customer service and are passionate about your clients and their development with respect to our business purpose, you will most likely create new and deeper relationships with them. Some of which even grow into friendships….this is really a good thing.

However, at all points you need to ensure financial respect is maintained between you and your clients. No matter the relationship, avoid situations that make your clients feel they are patronizing your service because they just have to help you. It can be emotionally tasking and with time, they will run!

Never download all your business and/or personal problems to clients so they feel obligated to help out. Clients may also feel obliged to patronise you if have lent you money that you can’t pay back. Talk about a messy situation.

Be consistent

Knowing your stuff brings clients to you and makes them feel safe. Being humble, respectful and keeping track of your clients ensures your business is top of mind for them and guarantees repeat business. Ensuring financial respect exists ensures all parties remain friends over time. This is the formula for preparing the cake…the icing on the cake comes from consistency!

A consistent application of your proven formula will not only ensure your clients remain happy with your business. It will also tire those competitive businesses trying to tap into the opportunities in your industry.

These tips blessed me when I found them…and I sincerely hope they do same for you.

Which of the tips did you love the most and intend applying to your business immediately? Let us know below.