“As a business owner, you can choose who you work with, what you work on and how you do it.”
How do you start a business, locate funding or deal with challenges as a young entrepreneur? Sheena Lindahl, founder and CEO of Empact, shares inspiring advice with the YALI Network.
How to GET STARTED
What should a business plan contain?
Lindahl: If you need a business plan to get financing or for some other purpose, you may want to use a business plan template. To find one, go to Google and search “business plan template.”
State what you want to sell, who you will sell it to, how much it will cost to get started and how you will market your product or service. Don’t try to write a perfect plan.
I always think that it’s better to start tomorrow. How can I get past that?
Lindahl: Take one action a day to move forward. First, write down your idea. Next, determine your costs. Ask three people how much they would pay if you could deliver your service or product. Make a test piece to see how long it takes to make. Make each step as specific and actionable as possible.
I have a supply company. Should I specialize in selling one specific product or be more general?
Lindahl: The more specialized you are, the better the business does. You become known for that thing, so whenever someone has the need, they know to come to you. And with limited funds, it’s hard to invest in many areas.
Does an entrepreneurship education give you more chances of succeeding in business?
Lindahl: The more you educate yourself, the better your chances of success. However, that education does not have to come from a classroom. It is a combination of taking in information and taking action on that information to gain experience. Entrepreneurs have to be willing to constantly learn and apply that learning to their experience.
How to LOCATE FUNDING
Access to financing for young entrepreneurs remains a challenge. How can we work around this?
Lindahl: There are the traditional routes – debt financing through banks, and equity financing through venture capital or angel investors. Explore www.vc4africa.biz.
If these routes do not work, scale down your idea or pivot to something that requires less startup capital. For example, an entrepreneur wanted to build energy-efficient housing, but could not get funding. So he started doing energy audits on existing housing. That business became a success.
Also, look at the assets you do have, like your own knowledge and skills.
I am trying to set up a refrigerated food preservation company. The banks love the idea but say they don’t finance startups. How can I find funding?
Lindahl: Remove some of the risk they see. Start the business on a smaller scale. Ask family and friends to invest in a piece of equipment. Use that to show the bank how profitable it would be if you had more equipment. Prove that you know how to get customers and manage money. Ask future customers to invest in the business. Look to www.vc4africa.biz to find angel investors.
How to DEAL WITH CHALLENGES
Is it necessary to continue your studies or stop studies to start looking for money for a business?
Lindahl: Don’t quit a job or studies to launch a business unless you are at a point where the business can support you.
I am in a partnership and seem to be the only one interested in getting the business going. How do I deal with the other party?
Lindahl: Talk to your partner. If the person is not interested in running the business, maybe he or she would be willing to walk away and let you do it on your own. If they can’t invest the same amount of time or money as you, discuss ways to share ownership of the company.
What are the pros and cons of owning a business?
Lindahl: As a business owner, you can choose who you work with, what you work on and how you do it. But you also have the ultimate responsibility. If things go well, you get the credit. But when challenges arise, it is up to you to solve them or find the answers.
If growth and making a contribution to your community drive you, the extra responsibility of being an entrepreneur will be worth more than the comfort of a corporate job.
These are excerpts from our #YALICHAT with Sheena Lindahl. Find her complete answers on our Facebook page: on her background, on tips for beginning a business, and on the challenges of women entrepreneurs.