The Business Side of Your Passion
By Esther Kolimba ~ Co-Founder of Soul Treats on 24 Apr 2020Entrepreneurship
So, what happens when a passionate entrepreneur has to go from working on their craft, to building a company? It is not pretty. It is not pretty because growth is tough, very rewarding but tough. Perhaps, I should start at the beginning.
At the start of 2012 I was on maternity leave and I started to get an itch to do something creative. Cooking and baking had always been a part of my life, courtesy of my mother, a kitchen goddess. But somehow, on my mini business “trial and error journey” it had never featured. I had sold handbags, had been a clothing designer, and had made home décor items, but I had never thought of baking although I loved it. Well here I was nursing my little one and watching all these baking TV shows. Fast forward a few months, making my first killer chocolate cake, uniting with three friends and starting a cake business, I had finally found something that scratched that itch. After juggling a fulltime job and the business for three years I resigned from my job in 2015 and went into business fulltime.
At the end of 2018 after having been both employee and manager of the business for 2 years, I and my co-founders came to the realisation that since the inception of our business we had put all our energy and time into the product that we were putting out. Anything other than the product kind of just happened by the way. We knew good cake and we knew what we wanted people to experience when they encountered our cakes. We however began to realise that if we kept neglecting what I like to call “the business side of our business” we would sooner or later fail no matter how great our product was. I later learned that a good way of summing up all that we needed to work on was PPP (People, Product, and Process). I think we made the mistake most entrepreneurs make. Well, maybe calling it a mistake is a little harsh, because without knowing our product or for some their service how would these businesses have started or have been sustained? What I want to argue is that in addition to working on our product we should have also been setting up processes and working on the quality of our people/team.
Now, where do we get these skills you ask? I certainly didn’t know how to build a team or to formulate processes. Before I go on I want to say that there is great value in running your business by yourself (or with co-founders as in my case) because you get to know every aspect of your business. You know your suppliers, your staff, your customers and what their needs are. However, enlisting the help of those with skills you do not have in house is paramount. My first piece of advice would be to seek out someone who has the skills you do not have, for example an accountant, or a human resource professional. Your business may not be able to afford to employ fulltime but you can find individuals who are willing to offer guidance on a monthly basis.
Secondly, make sure you document how to do everything. Processes are created overtime as you realise the most efficient way of doing something. Without good processes your business will not survive without you. You should be able to go on vacation and the wheels keep on turning. Thirdly, when recruiting, employ based on character and less on skills. Most skills are teachable but it is extremely hard to unlearn a characteristic. Number four never stop learning. The way you perfected your craft was by study, practice, or in our case watching a thousand Youtube videos, well don’t stop learning and improving your craft. Your product or service may be the best thing since sliced bread but always remember that your industry as well as your consumer will evolve with or without you, so find ways of evolving along with them.
So, all I wanted to do was to bake cakes but here I am building a company.
By Esther Kolimba ~ Co-Founder of Soul Treats