The last few months have been busy and hectic for me as I have been consumed with the challenge of setting up and operationalising my new business, and this has come with added pressure and increased responsibilities.
The core activities of the business include blending smoothies from fresh fruits and vegetables. Hence our sales pitch “fresh fruit and veggie blends.”
I have been pushing myself out of my “comfort zone” and slowly but surely sailing into deep waters. So far so good.
I am learning to do things that I have never done before. In fact, I find myself doing the very things that I shunned the most.
Although I am still at the shallow end, the experience has been interesting. There have been a lot of encouraging signs and these are giving me the motivation to carry on.
In this article, I share my experiences so far. What I have done and what I have learned. I hope that you will be encouraged and inspired to step out.
Sort out the Paperwork
The first thing to do before you start operating is to sort out the paperwork. Depending on the kind of business activity you want to venture into I believe it is important to formalise your business. Here are some of the things that need to be done.
Business name registration – Your business needs to be formally registered with a unique name. This gives your business an identity that you carry around when doing business with other people or business entities.
There are many types of companies. Please choose one that fits and meets your needs as compliance may be different for each.
Tax and statutory Registration – In Zambia, the business or company registration process has been integrated with the tax system.
Your company or business name will automatically be given a Tax Payers Identification Number (TPIN) upon completion of the registration process with the company’s authority.
What you then need to do is to, log into the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) portal and register for the various applicable taxes that will affect your business.
The registration process usually takes about 2 to 3 working days. If you are stuck and need any clarifications the helplines on the ZRA website are easily accessible and they do respond.
Two tax lines that cannot be avoided are the PAYE and Income Tax or Turnover Tax depending on what you are comfortable with.
Trading License – Get a trading license from the municipal council or local authorities.
Once the registration formalities are done with, depending on what you want to achieve with the business the following could be done.
Logo design – Because I am trying to create a brand name it was necessary that I create a logo that will help with the visibility of my business. A well-thought-out logo and design could also help drive sales.
Menu/price list – these are customer documents. Make sure they are clear and well presented. I find it quite annoying when you enter a shop and there are no price tags on the items.
This practice is very common, especially in the hardware and auto shops. Whatever the reasoning is, I personally do like it. I want to know what the price is even before I make the purchase.
While all these processes are going on it is also important that you start looking for a trading place as this can actually be very challenging. It took me over 2 months of intense searching to find my current trading place.
Getting Over the Starting Line
One of the most difficult things to do when venturing out is getting started or rather opening your doors to the public. It is scary when you are doing it for the first time.
It takes a lot of courage and determinatìon to get started. There is never a time when you are completely ready. I had to postpone the opening for about 2 weeks. Only because of fear of the unknown.
You can have the best product around but there is just always that fear that comes when you have to be the one in charge of selling and marketing it to the public.
For me coming from a non-marketing background, it is a big challenge. But it’s a challenge I am embracing with both hands. There is still a lot to learn but slowly getting there.
I had to overcome all my fears by exposing myself to face them head-on. Now I always look forward to opening the shop.
If you are starting out you cannot run away from the fact that you need to do some marketing to help boost your sales.
You see, every day presents an opportunity for growth. It is important for an entrepreneur to be ready and poised to take up the challenge.
This is about the third month of operations. My business is still very much in its infancy. But I have quickly observed and learned that I cannot do everything by myself.
And so I have employed 2 assistants who are currently taking over the operational aspects of the business while I concentrate on driving sales and finding the best sources for our ingredients.
They work closely under my supervision but they are more or less independent. I encourage them to express themselves freely and give suggestions where they feel we need improvement and believe me there is a lot of improvement that is needed.
These guys are ever-present and they are slowly becoming the face of my business. They have created relationships and actually, some customers have a preference on who should serve them.
I practice an open-door policy and so we have some sort of informal arrangement of doing things. There is no hard and fast rule. This way they feel more important and I can already see the zeal in them.
I have also sold them my vision. Which is to open as many as 10 outlets and so they have seen the potential for personal growth.
Channels for Advertising
In the world we live in today technology has improved and presented us with many media platforms for communication. These communication channels can be used to your advantage.
The first thing to do as a form of advertising is branding and making your trading place visible. People must easily find and access your premises.
Once done with making yourself visible it is time to utilise the electronic media for advertising. My first adverts went out to the contacts on my mobile phone.
I used channels such as text, WhatsApp and indeed phone calls. Well, it was daunting at the beginning but eventually, I got the hang of it.
Starting with your inner circle, especially for some of us who have never done any form of marketing, is much easier to deal with.
This will make you get used to both negative and positive feedback. Your relatives and friends will in turn market your product or business to their peers.
Distributing flyers, I initially printed flyers with photos of some of the products being sold.
Well, the response was encouraging the flyers ran out in no time hence the printing of extra ones. I have now set aside a monthly budget for advertising.
The next step was to use social media platforms, particularly Facebook. While other people use it negatively you should decide to take advantage of its reach.
I created a business page and ran a paid advertisement for about 15 days. My God the response was overwhelming.
The exposure, feedback and interactions you get cannot be compared to any other. Yes, my sales are not as much as I want them to be but am encouraged by the response I am getting so far.
There are many more platforms for marketing that I have not yet explored due to budget constraints these include:-
- Print media
- Other social media network platforms e.g. Instagram, Twitter
- Electronic media e.g. Television & Radio
Overall business is not easy but it is the satisfaction you get to know that it is yours and you are in control. Many of us complain about a lack of employment yet we have the skills that are needed to create our own employment.
I encourage you to start with whatever you have, it is better to die trying. Follow my business page on Facebook Fruit ‘N’ Veggies.