What is it with small businesses!

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Earlier this year, I had a small business coincidentally my cousin had started the same business ( in fact 4 of my cousins had the same business and we all started at the same time so in the end I let it go and I am exploring something else ). Anyway, I had made a few flyers for my business and my cousin asked me a rather interesting question, “who made your flyers?’. It wasn’t the first time that someone had asked me this question which reminds me of sometime last year when I released my official blog website, a lot of friends were asking me about who made my website and my logo etc.! And my answer was simple- Myself. I made my website (I edited and googles my ass off learning how to hyperlink, add elements etc.) same goes for the business flyers, logos etc. I didn’t pay anyone to make them, I did them myself! Of course, I’d have loved to pay off a graphics person to do my blog, website and logo but at whose expense!? I didn’t have the capital to cater for all those little things that one needs at the start of a business and frankly, I don’t have money to pay off someone to do the work for me. I made a list of things that I would’ve wanted at the start of my business and blog, the idea was that I get the costs of the things on my list ( prioritize) after a few clients here and there, I’d start ticking off a few urgent items. Most times, small business owners want to start in ‘high gear’ which is okay but at what cost! If you have startup capital/money then go ahead, prioritize and get those things done but if you don’t have that kind of ‘startup capital or money’ then slow down. Here are a few things that I would’ve done better and that I dream to do better in my next venture. 1. Research is key. Pretty sure that my friends are tired of this advice or statement or phrase. Research is key! Don’t just ask that friend of yours that’s in the business already, read, research, make those trips to town, google, and follow pages that deal in these kinds of businesses. Find out who supplies, ask questions! And research isn’t just about setting yourself up but also finding your target market. It’s not about doing what your competitors are doing but what your possible clients might want and need. This includes; location, pricing, social media etc. Look into what your clients need and what unique thing can you pitch in.

2. Suppliers Now that you know what you ‘think’ you want to offer, where are you going to get these! We are taken away by Pinterest and the beautiful posts on Instagram. But here is a thought, either you know how to do this or you have suppliers or people that can do it. Get acquainted with the names of the materials used, what does it take to make them (that’s if you are considering making them) if not then who and where are you going to get these things. Are the raw materials that are meant to be used to make these easily accessible, can you access them from your local market or its shipping (if so, look into the apps or sites that can help you get there, get the timeline for their delivery, test it out because technology has a way of getting jumbled up, get testimonials from friends or other people). How fast can you make these and deliver them (get your timeline too)? Make friends with your supplies build a proper work principle/ethic with your supplies. Friendship is tricky. Find out when these materials are scarce, when prices can rise and how they make their profits too (yes, authenticity and honesty is key but so is making a profit) let your quality match the price.

3. Practice, practice and practice. Give yourself a timeline of when you are intending to start operating. In the meantime, practice. With time, it is better when you know how to make most of the materials needed for your business. Learn how to negotiate with suppliers, later on, find out where they retail or ship from, what is needs. All these are investments.

4. Social media x graphics I felt that it was best to merge these two. Now let’s start with graphics, it’s easy to give that gig to your computer friend but it’s cheaper to do it on your own. Some apps can help you make a logo, some sites help you generate a logo, Pinterest gives you blank graphics banners or already made logo canvas and all you have to do is insert the name of the business for example juice logos, cake logos etc. one click on the search button and you are all set. This gets me thinking about mother’s day flyers for your business, Pinterest can help you out. There are sites like free picks that have free images that do not have many of copy write issues.

Social media! This dynamic world has had enough of just hard copy flyers, it needs more. I mean we do not pay much attention to flyers on the electricity poles (I am not discouraging you, but that flyer up) all I am saying is put up those social media accounts too. I know that we love Instagram and Twitter but my emphasis is going to be on Facebook. Facebook (aside from its shutdowns and stealing client information), sums up most of the business features. You need an official business page that you can create under your account which automatically makes you the admin. Put up a few images, 10 dollars for a ‘sponsored’ related post (your post appears on over 100 people’s accounts), your product is selling its self, put in the work hours, link it to WhatsApp and Instagram (which cuts a few loads like reposting cause once you post of Instagram, the caption together with the image are automatically posted on your Facebook page. And the Facebook page groups with other people enables you to post up your business info. Some pages are created for business, marketing etc., join those groups, it doesn’t hurt like they say the next client might be right in front of you! Instagram, crack the photography and editing tip, make your timeline beautiful. Pick a pattern whether it’s every image having a black or white background then you are good to go. You do not need a photographer, if you decide to take your photos with a white wall or green wall then maintain it. For me, I feel like if the photos look appealing then you attract more followers (not buyers exactly but in the future, they might be). Twitter (not much here, I am still finding the pros) but advertise, post up your work, talk about the beauty and impacts, offers, discounts, testimonials etc.

5. Online business or renting a spot in town.Tough though, here to remind you again that as a startup, it is best to stay online also maybe even in the long run. Rent in Kampala on average is let’s say 400, 000 but also in Kampala a few people pay 600.000 for rent! How much is your small business or as most of you say, side hustle bringing in a month? Okay, three months? If your answer is, “it’s not yet stable” then online it is. It’s cheaper! Costs for having an online business; data and airtime expenses and renting in town; transport costs, rent, food rather lunch” (that’s all that I know yikes 😂). My point is at the start try to minimize the expenses! Also renting calls for a perfect location which is a whole load of work just because you are in the town centre doesn’t mean that you are accessible or easily spotted. Online business means that one should have their notifications on (helps you monitor and see messages or a few things much faster and easier).

Last but not least, a few things to keep in mind. Have your mobile money set (for transactions purposes) get to know the taxes, withdrawal charges etc. I advise people to include these in the price, I don’t know why we are so embarrassed to add these. For me, I feel like these charges could almost be like transport fare, how?- if you were renting, the money used by your client from wherever they were up to that point which is your shop and thus they give you the 50.000 for the dress but online all those costs are to go to the withdrawal charges ( the transactions ). So, please highlight them and add them to your price tag.

The other is pre-order. I was talking to a friend and they said pre-order is more efficient when the client pays half this helps prevent issues with refund especially when a client hadn’t liked the item or they change their mind. Have terms with the pre-order. They pay half to cover for your energy (yes, darling, ordering the item is energy), the data expense (should be considered). Most times, we like being nice to clients who have thrown us off the edge with an order but to what end! If you are staying with the item, I guess you can deduct whatever was invested and give back a certain balance (it isn’t free).

Boundaries (I cannot stress this enough). I learnt this the hard way, I thought it would be nice to use my number as a business contact or rather I merged the two. Wasn’t so pleasant. I would advise someone to have a different number as a business number. The working hours, if it’s a 9 am to 9 pm then let it be. We often push our limits and think that we can take on an assignment or an order at any time. It’s draining and stressful, make it clear on your socials. Take a break (meanwhile taking a rest should be mandatory and not seen as a reward). I know that sometimes we might want to make up for the no sales in a while but that doesn’t mean that you should overstretch. Also, you can make it clear to the client on the deadlines or the cost of having to take in order past the working hours.

This brings me to my final point deadlines or rather timelines and being honest about them. If you will not be able to make a delivery point it out, if you need time, come forth. Honesty! It’s hard, I know but then don’t go low and block a client 😂😂… be forward with what you can offer, the timelines and consider what can happen if you are not able to pull through. And that’s all from me folks! I don’t know much but hopefully, this helps. Till then.

2 thoughts on “What is it with small businesses!

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