Entrepreneurs whether kitchen-table start-ups or small businesses require confidence

Photo by Chesney Bradshaw.

Do you have the confidence that is a pre-requisite for entrepreneurs whether a kitchen-table start-up or small business? The small business person cannot afford to be sucked in by the gloom and doom that surrounds them. They are fighters. They cannot close shop because of bad times brought about by institutions. 

Whatever set of circumstances they are given, entrepreneurs need to come up with new ideas, new ways of thinking, adapt to changes and rise above. 

I recently saw and spoke to the owner of a coastal trading store who three months before started promotions for the December/January holidaymakers. When I met her she was outside in the garden in front of the store mowing the lawn herself. Her’s is a very small business and most of the running of the business she does herself. She’s not shy of hard work. 

This brings me to another area of the small business person who isn’t afraid of cost-cutting. They are used to working and building their businesses on a shoestring. This means finding ways to spend less and leverage the small amounts of money they have. They know how to use less to create more. 

It’s tough putting yourself on the line. Some entrepreneurs who have started their businesses walk a very fine line – very close to ending up on the street but they cannot let themselves go backwards. 

Hardy, tough, persevering entrepreneurs do whatever they can to make something happen in their lives and  business. They have tasted the bitter fruits of failure many times and rise up above their circumstances. There is no one to bail them out. No one will pay for their mistakes. No one will pay for their extravagance, largess and wild spending sprees.

Successes is incremental. You grow one step at a time. One sale after the other. You never forget the hard times when there is so little money that you have to rack your brains for creative ways to start your business, run your business, promote your business.

Entrepreneurs ignore the bad news, the bust economy and use their self-confidence to get on with what they know they have to do.

What small businesses need to watch out for with their Internet shopping websites

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The Internet shopping experience differs from website to website and it’s useful to know how online shoppers think and behave before they make purchases, when purchasing and after they buy. 

I’ll share some of my shopping experiences and how I go about buying on the Internet. One thing is knowing the credibility of the online retailer that you are buying from. You look for indicators such as the age of the business, who the founders are, what other customers say (both on their website and on other platforms), and the way that they lead you through the online buying process.

Before I buy anything of high value from a particular retailer, where possible, I make a trial purchase for a small amount. This will give me a good idea of when I will receive the goods, whether they are in good order, if customer queries or complaints are handled speedily and whether refunds are given quickly.

I’m sure that you have experienced problems with online shopping. Some of mine are waiting weeks and even months for packages to arrive, broken products, missing products and wrong products. When this happens you feel like you are not an online customer but just part of a sausage machine where the packers just slap your order together and send it out as quick as possible.

Another thing to watch out for is online sellers who no longer give guarantees. This means that they will send your item to you by post but if it doesn’t arrive, well that’s it. No refund. This is risky for the buyer and this is happened to me at least twice now. I won’t be ordering again from these sellers.

If you are concerned about your customers’ online shopping experience at your website, then you need to ask customers about their shopping experience with you and even, where possible, speak to those who don’t buy online and find out why not.

I was surprized recently at a fun evening hosted by a local radio show that when the CEO of the radio station asked about 100 people whether they had downloaded their radio app, only two hands went up. 

To be sure, online retailing offers the kitchen-table entrepreneur and the small business owner opportunities outside of their local market. If you website is in English then you have access to many markets where English is either the official language for the non–official language. 

Make sure you are attracting customers and repeat business rather than repelling customers through the blind spots on your Internet retail site.

Low-cost publicity tips for the kitchen-table business

How to promote your small business. Photo by Chesney Bradshaw

Bad news sells. Check out your news feed on your favourite website or app. What do you see? Most news items telling you about conflict, how tax and rising prices are emptying your pockets, people who have been injured or killed, environmental destruction, climate devastation and drought.

Remember this about bad news because that’s your real competition when you want to create low-cost publicity for your kitchen-table business or small business.

Publicity can be put under the umbrella of “good news”. You have a product or service and you want to promote it. Are you going to talk about its faults or failures? Hardly. You need to find some angle or hook that can make whatever you are going to say interesting.

Your lever is curiosity. You need to say something different, very different, unusual, radical even, to motivate people to read about your product or service.

Remember to that you have to get past the “gatekeepers” who are the editors of print and online publications or moderators of websites and social media. These people deal with news every day and have an instinct for something that will appeal to their readers, listeners or viewers.

Recently a group of vegan warriors launched an angry protest outside butchery in the UK. That’s news. But it’s hardly something that the ordinary kitchen-table business owner would want to do. Why? Because it’s risky. It could blow up in your face. It’s better left to left -wing activists. The worse their publicity backfires, the better results for them.

You don’t always have to go for the unusual or over-the-top, you might also consider plain vanilla flavoured news interest items such as informing customers about your business opening or a new product that you have on the market. Just remember that these two types of events are once-offs because you can’t go back and repeat.

You need to think of updates – how can you provide an update on and existing businesses or service? Any publicity agent, worth her salt will help you generate ideas for promoting your business. In fact, a short while back I had a free gift for new subscribers on no-cost, low-cost publicity techniques for small businesses. Unfortunately, that valuable information is no longer available.

I’m sure that while you been reading this you’re thinking to yourself that you can use Facebook or Twitter to make announcements. Sure you can but be careful of being bland or too outrageous where the customer sees little benefit in it for them. The point about social media is that if you don’t have a way to record interest such as bookings for an event or driving social media traffic through to an opt-in page, you really don’t know the success of your promotion. What are you going to do with page views and likes?

Generating publicity for your kitchen-table business can be fun, and valuable for your business but make sure you get the basics right.

All-women run small butchery shows opportunities in niche markets for kitchen table entrepreneurs

All-women run butchery despite the name. Photo by Chesney Bradshaw

Are you a kitchen table entrepreneur looking for opportunities in the niche markets? Have you looked at your background and experience and found what you would like to do?

First, some context why kitchen table entrepreneurs are growing in ever increasing numbers. The reality is that everyone is wanting to take more out of your pocket. The tax man cometh. Failed institutions are bleeding – and who ultimately pays for that? Manufacturers put up prices at will. This one and that one wants your money. Institutions are not creating jobs at the rate that they did in the past.

On Saturday afternoon I came across a small butcher run by women. They’ve been operating the butchery from the same premises for the past 10 years. It’s not in an up market centre but are rather in a rundown one but the rentals are lower. 

The owner and one of the other senior staff have a long family history in the meat trade and livestock farming. They have spent many years learning the trade in other retail butcheries and on farms. The shelves are loaded with speciality items such as Parmesan cheese chicken breasts and marinated sosaties. Their boerewors is made for a discerning clientele. 

Yes, but you might say, you can get meat in supermarkets. For someone looking for something special for a Saturday evening braai, a matured steak or something for a Sunday roast, this butchery offers some delightful cuts of meat.

There still are opportunities in markets for small business owners. All you need to do is listen and observe and you will find gaps in the market that the super big retailers, manufacturers and service organisations don’t find profitable to fill.

But smaller entrepreneurs can operate with lower overheads and make a good living for themselves. It’s not just Internet businesses such as coaching English and teaching art that are flourishing but all sorts of niche businesses because of the institutionalised scarcity of opportunities. They have to make a plan and go find opportunities. 

Hats off to small niche entrepreneurs and other similar personalities that provide quality and outstanding service to their customers. Where everyone is going big and not succeeding in quality and customer service a reverse trend is occurring. Small, niche entrepreneurs are springing up all over the place, finding customer demand for their products and services and beating the odds.

Time for an internal audit of your business continuity plan?

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Unless you review your business continuity plan at least once a year it is worthless.

How do you go about reviewing your business continuity plan?

You could start with an audit – the audit can be done by an external auditor or by an internal auditor. It doesn’t matter really which one as long as the internal auditor is certified for ISO 22301.

The benefits of an external auditor are that you get third-party external advice and objective opinion. The advantages of an internal auditor who is ISO 22301 certified as a lead auditor is that the auditor knows your organisation and understands your business processes.

The word “audit” can be intimidating. Whenever we hear the word “audit” we suspect bad news. But it doesn’t have to be that way – an internal auditor isn’t there to find fault but to show weaknesses in your business continuity plan.

The internal auditor identifies areas where your business continuity plan can be improved. The conclusion of the audit would be a list of corrective actions that you need to take to strengthen your business continuity plan. The auditor will give you a certain period within which to close the gaps.

What is the internal auditor and external audit to look for? The auditor would go through your business continuity plan with you and look at areas such as your scope, risk analysis, business impact analysis, whether you have communicated your plan to your team, your business management strategy, whether your plan shows continual improvement and the specific actions you would take following a disruptive incident.

You would need to provide the auditor with supporting documentation so that he or she can see concrete evidence of what you’ve done. What also be important is whether you have done an annual walk-through of your plan or test. This will show your commitment to business continuity. The auditor may also want to look at your disaster recovery plan and to see how it fits in with your business continuity plan.

Business continuity planning is an important element of risk and controls. By thinking through what you would do in the event of a disruptive incident, you can be better prepared for one. The aim of business continuity planning is to help you get your business back up and running or operational as soon as possible after a disruptive incident of whatever nature.

If you have any questions or need assistance with business continuity implementation, business continuity management systems or auditing of your business management system, please let me know.

Do you have a talent for ideas?

I was listening to a radio interview with a celebrated singer last night and she mentioned that she also teaches people how to sing. She said that people with a natural talent for singing are easier to teach but those without natural talent, if they work hard, can find their singing voice.

In a way, coming up with ideas, and especially business ideas, is much the same. People come up with ideas all the time. It’s part of being human.

Cast your mind back to yesterday and think how many ideas you needed to come up with to get through your life and work. Some people who we call entrepreneurs have a natural ability to come up with business ideas. They actively generate ideas or look for ideas in their communities. They have made idea identification and generation a part of their being. It’s one thing talking about something and actually being something. A good book on the subject is Siddhartha a novel by Hermann Hesse.

What should you do to become a better ideas person, particularly in business?

Think for a moment about when you are under pressure. You may find yourself in a situation where change is occurring to your life and business. You need to come up with new ideas to survive. This means that you begin and to search for new ideas.

For example, I needed a new business idea last December. Immediately I started writing in a journal and never stopped until 17 days later. My business idea did not come out of my journal writing. However, the journal writing paid off by preparing my mind to open itself up for new business ideas. How did this happen?

I was taking a leisurely walk along a main street in a coastal village. I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green so I could walk across a side road when I looked up and saw something that triggered a business idea.

So strong was my feeling about this idea that for the next two days I wrote everything down I could, what the idea was about and how I could implement it. I spent the next year producing the product in my spare time.

To get back to idea generation, we don’t always have to you wait for crises before we can come up with new business ideas. We have tools, techniques, methods, approaches, paradigms and prompts to spur new business ideas. These ideas generation tools and techniques, new ways of thinking, equip you with power to generate and develop ideas any time you wish. To find out how, get yourself a copy of “Breakthrough Ideas”, a resource, a toolbox if you will, that will show you how.

Tips on starting a kitchen-table business

Stay focused on your startup goal no matter what stands in your way. Photo by Chesney Bradshaw

The number of entrepreneurs who have started successful businesses from their kitchen-table must be in the millions. More than highly expensive startup incubators.

Where else do you start?

Often, starting a new small enterprise begins at home.

Even if you don’t have a kitchen table, you’ll still have a space somewhere in the house such as a dining room table or a desk in the study.

Don’t kid yourself, starting a new enterprise is not something to be sneer at. It takes hard work, determination and guts to follow through right until the end. Someone starting a training business, for example, may spend an entire year developing the training manual and the associated presentation that goes with it.

Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out – a quote from a motivational writer. The advice is spot on — you need to chunk down all the tasks that you have to do to accomplish your startup goal and then get about doing them.

The advantage of the kitchen table startup is the low overhead. You don’t need to lay out any capital to start. Even when you have a minimal viable product, you can still operate from your kitchen table to test market demand.

Kitchen table businesses are really business idea incubators. Just think of how many businesses have begun at kitchen tables for many decades. This is the place where small businesses start and then involve into small and medium size businesses.

Often when the original founder entrepreneur retires, the business is sold on to the large corporations that then have sufficient capital to roll the business out on a regional or national scale.

Working on the kitchen table is not always the ideal place. It’s not always free of interruptions and you can only work for so many hours in the day at the kitchen table.

The kitchen table remains a symbol of free enterprise. It’s where anyone with an idea to start something can begin. As mentioned, the capital outlay is negligible – all it takes is determination and perseverance.

The kitchen table start-up might be romanticised but take a look around and you’ll see how many businesses have actually been started at a kitchen table. Here is one to check out.

If you look around at the number of smaller stores and limited line products coming home to market, especially in the coastal areas, it seems that kitchen-table start-ups are on the increase, especially in this economy.

Find opportunities in your local market

Photographer: Chesney Bradshaw

Trade and commerce is two way. Consumers have the option to buy local or global today with the Internet. But there is a good case to be made for local businesses attracting local customers.

Opportunities in the property market are local. Property owners are achieving high rentals in upmarket suburbs.

The local and international tourism market provide excellent opportunities for local property owners who wish to rent out accommodation.

Prepared foods are local. Local restaurants and fast-food chains reap the benefits of being local. For some it might be hard to attract those consumers who opt for fast foods from the international chain but they play their role in creating employment.

Attention to the quality of local cuisene provides many local business opportunities.

Local Internet gurus keep hammering away at selling online to international markets. There is nothing wrong with this of course – it provides important opportunities. However, first look around and identify local opportunities that lie right under your nose.

Services provide many local opportunities. Businesses in electrical repairs, plumbers are the obvious ones but there are also roof coating specialists, glass fitters, kitchen cupboard re-fitters, local furniture manufacturers, furniture restorers, carpenters, tiling and floor experts, and garden landscapers.

With the consumer having so many choices these days, it pays to understand local tastes and preferences. It’s also important to keep in touch with local buying trends and to tap into them. (Security services, for example, are in high demand – a sad reality.) Talk to your customers and find out what they want. Ask them for feedback on what you are providing to them and how you could improve not only the products they buy but also service.

Local markets provide much opportunity for entrepreneurs. But with high volumes of imported goods and services, local entrepreneurs have to up their game and be better than the best.

To outsmart competition, you need differentiation – in product, service, packaging, local content and astute marketing. Buy local can just be an empty promise or futile statement unless your local offering has clear competitive benefits and value to local customers.

A business person shares a success secret

Photo by Nicolás Perondi on Unsplash

I used to go to a restaurant quite regularly because it was so well run by the owner. The experience there was good because the staff were happy, he came and chatted to customers and he always played pleasant music.

One evening he shared a secret of his success, not put in that way but he showed how he had gone about creating wealth.

Now, to start at the beginning, this business person began by owning a restaurant that was part of a franchise chain. He bought the restaurant franchise from previous owners who were not successful.

The first thing he did was to renovate the place, change the menu ( in keeping with the franchise menu but with some variation), hired new staff and kept a close watch on everything.

Once his restaurant was running smoothly, he began looking for new opportunities. He found a pizza outlet in another suburb that had been neglected by the owners. He bought the pizza outlet and went about refurbishing it. He established the pizza outlet as the leading one in the suburb.

Not satisfied with those two successes, he went on to buy another pizza outlet that had been bought for someone’s son but he was never in the outlet, gallivanting all over the place and pizza outlet went down. Again, the entrepreneurial restaurant owner rebuilt the outlet and slowly but surely increased customer volume.

After all this hard work, and this entrepreneur was never shy of hard work, he got his lucky break. Yes, there are lucky breaks when you work hard.

An international chain came into the country to expand and made him offers on his two pizza outlets. He was able to receive a princely sum for both pizza outlets.

The real secret of this entrepreneur’s success was to find run-down businesses and re- establish them as successful outlets. The opportunity to sell both of them to an international chain of pizza outlets was really the cherry on top.

What paid for him in the long run was to spot these opportunities, to work hard and make them successful. 

How do you explore new business possibilities?

Photo by Chesney Bradshaw

I came across a list of 100 business ideas. Each business was described and included a photograph of the business owner. Not one of those business ideas interested me in the least.

This is the problem with lists of business ideas.

You go through them looking for something that may interest you and when you have found nothing to raise your curiosity or interest, you may become despondent.

You begin thinking, when will I ever come up with a new business idea?

You may also tell yourself that you need to keep looking.

Lists of business ideas are pretty much useless because there are so many business ideas out there.

There is one waiting for you to discover it if you go about it in the right way.

Exploration for new business ideas begins with you. You need to do some introspection and find out what your interests are. Consider things that have excited you in the past. Perhaps they provide clues to what you could explore.

Your exploration for new business ideas may include certain interests or hobbies you already have. Is there a way to turn your hobby or interest into a business? What would it take? Would turning your hobby or interest into a business kill this interest for you?

To take a simple example, you may enjoy making preserves for family and friends. But to produce a great quantity of preserves requires a whole new way of operation. Is this really what you want?

A new business idea should appeal to your nature, interests ,something you enjoy doing and that could be propelled by a purpose.

Start exploring by looking at what you’ve done in the past, what you are presently doing and what you’ve always wanted to do.

Shift you’re thinking by wandering around new places, reading new magazines and Internet sites, switching your television and cell phone off and discovering new possibilities outside of yourself.