The Covid-19 pandemic is not a time to think about what you know. It is about being creative, agile and adapting to the new normal.
MELITTA NGALONKULU: Welcome to the Small Business Conversations podcast. My name is Melitta Ngalonkulu. One thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is the importance of having a side hustle. But there are a lot of fears around starting your own business, and we are seeing many [shops close down]. With many now unemployed owing to the pandemic, and others dealing with reduced hours in general, as well as work uncertainty, many may be thinking about striking out on their own.
In this week’s episode, we talk about starting a business, and why it [may be] crucial now more than ever. Michelle Janse van Rensburg, a serial entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, and the managing director of Nimacc Business Lounge, joins us. Michelle, thank you for your time. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal way of life. Is it a bad time to start a business?
MICHELLE JANSE VAN RENSBURG: I don’t think so at all. I think it is completely dependent on the type of business that you would like to start. And then it also just depends on being completely honest about your mindset and the drive that you’re going to put into it.
MELITTA NGALONKULU: Many successful businesses started and also survived during tough economic crises, by recognising a new demand and rising to meet it. How can budding entrepreneurs do this now?
MICHELLE JANSE VAN RENSBURG: I’ve actually got a couple of success stories from some of our clients who have completely changed their businesses and completely changed what it is they’re selling and how they’re selling it. So I think it’s just about entrepreneurs being agile.
Often entrepreneurs stick to the way they’ve been doing things, because they’ve been doing it for so long. But now is not the time to be sticking to what you know, what you’re comfortable with.
It’s just about being agile and I think really doing research in the market to see, most importantly, what problem there is out there that you can solve. And Africa, I think, allows for a lot of opportunities,
MELITTA NGALONKULU: Funding is always a big hurdle to starting a business. How do you find it during these tough economic times?
MICHELLE JANSE VAN RENSBURG: I think there’s a twofold answer, to be completely honest with you. I think there is still funding available, definitely, and we can look at some of the examples that are available.
But I think the second part to answering this question, for me, goes about saying that often entrepreneurs – I don’t want to say they use these funding requirements as an excuse – don’t kickstart their businesses, because they’ve got this whole idea that funding is required, instead of kind of saying, “What is my big picture? What is the perfect world? For what will I need funding?” and then to almost try and reverse-engineer that idea, to start small and just start with what they’ve got without funding. And then putting a plan in place to say, “How do we scale to that point where funding would obviously be made easier, because now we’ve got a bit of a track record?”
But coming back to the first point of this answer, there are companies available like Bizcash, Bridgement and Lulalend that really do supply quick funding, dependent on a bit of history. But in turn they provide purchase-order funding, they provide sales-order funding, which really comes down to what it is that your business needs to get kickstarted. It’s not always just a lump sum of money. Does that make sense?
MELITTA NGALONKULU: Yes, it does. Michelle, I just want us to talk about the fear of shifting from being an employee to being a business owner. How do you do it? Recently I was at a restaurant and these two ladies across from me were speaking of actually making the move, and I could hear the fear in one lady’s voice. So how do you simply wake up one day and overcome that fear?
MICHELLE JANSE VAN RENSBURG: I think that’s a brilliant question. It’s how badly you want it. That’s what it comes down to. I remember when I quit my corporate job and I started my entrepreneurial journey about four or five years ago and made the jump.
I said, “this is it” – with no funding, no backup – because there’s nothing that drives you more than knowing that you need to put food on your table, and you’ve got debit orders to pay.
I think often that fear comes from a place of [recognising] you are the average of the five people you hang out with. So, when you are in a corporate job, that fear comes from being surrounded by people who love stability and need that security.
But what I have found with a couple of entrepreneurs that I’m helping at the moment is that once they take that leap and they are free from that nine-to-five or corporate job, it’s almost like that fear settles. It disappears to a certain extent, because now their network becomes other entrepreneurs.
MELITTA NGALONKULU: Thank you, Michelle, for emphasising for us there’s room to start new businesses in this period of uncertainty. I can’t wait to hear of those entrepreneurial stories that will come from this.
MICHELLE JANSE VAN RENSBURG: Like I said earlier, agility is key. If you are going to make a success during this time, and you are committed to making a success, then it’s absolutely about how agile you are, how quickly you can adapt. During Covid we find ourselves for some weeks adapting almost on a daily basis.
MELITTA NGALONKULU: That was Michelle Janse van Rensburg, managing director of Nimacc Business Lounge, a serial entrepreneur, blogger and speaker.
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