Earlier, we shared their advice on taking the plunge and starting a business. Now we look at ways in which our entrepreneurs stayed motivated during their first three years of business: making it through tough times, harnessing the power of mentorship and keeping a positive outlook.
Simplifying operations: Dineplan’s Martin Rose had to make the tough decision to close his other business, ComeDine, as it simply wasn’t making enough money. “Know when it’s time to refocus your offering”, is Martin’s advice. “Sometimes you have to watch out for what the market is doing and adapt to survive.”
Overcoming import challenges: Benger’s Jamie Pike needed to import garments and fabric for his men’s clothing business but wasn’t VAT registered in order to qualify. He used clever ways to overcome this hurdle such as sharing shipping containers and ordering through his family business.
Fill a staffing gap: As they were offering a 24-hour Soweto experience, tourism cooperative So We Too found that they were simply too exhausted to find the time to pitch on new business. They used the assistance of the CATHSSETA - the Culture Art Tourism Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority – to offer internships, thereby solving staffing challenges.
Running out of start-up capital: No marketing budget? You have to think out of the box, advises So We Too’s Raymond Rampolokeng. "When times are tough, be resourceful about what you can get for free, for example free advice from a mentor and using free marketing channels such as social media (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)."
Coping with downtime: “Some of my best ideas came from my downtime”, remembers Garth Hendricks of Explosive Functional Fitness. Here he shares his advice on using downtime constructively:
The power of mentorship
The journey of an entrepreneur can be a lonely one. You don’t have the support of a boss or co-workers so it’s important to regularly check in with a trusted mentor. For some, like the Dineplan’s Martin Rose, this is a family member, or for others like Garth, an online source or self-help books. Our entrepreneurs share their experiences of the value of mentorship:
Revisit earlier learnings: The members of So We Too met whilst taking part in a business incubation programme. When not everyone was getting enough business, they decided to revisit former mentorship contacts. "These tough times were actually a blessing in disguise because it forced us to refocus", says Raymond, who is the treasury of the group. "We had to get our administrative ducks in a row, know exactly what the financial performance of the company is and so on.”
Find an online mentor: EFF’s Garth Hendricks used the online mentorship of Bedros Keuilian as daily inspiration. "Having a mentor is invaluable, whether it's a real person or in my case a blog”, says Garth. “Jump at the opportunity to attend a summit where you get to network internationally and learn from proven success stories. It's a big expense but one week can truly change your life."
Learn from your peers: Design duo JesseJames shared their premises with like-minded entrepreneurs to cover overheads, which proved to be a valuable incubator. "We were all spinning off one another's ideas and really learnt from one another", James reminisces.
Our entrepreneurs share words of wisdom about keeping a positive attitude:
Believe in yourself: “If you put yourself down, you won't succeed. If something happens to you, instead of asking 'why me', use the opportunity to say 'why not'."
- Garth Hendricks, Explosive Functional Fitness
Failure is part of life: “Failure is perhaps the best way to learn. If you have not failed then you have not tried properly."
- Martin Rose, Dineplan
Surviving a setback: Watch Benger’s Jamie Pike talk about one of his major setbacks – a theft over the festive season: