If you have ever run a business, then you know how happy and at the same time frustrating it can be. You can be celebrating getting a new client but at the same time, you need capital to service that LPO, but you have no money and getting a loan might be out of the question. You may be sinking money into the business, but it doesn’t seem to be coming back, and your business seems to be a black hole where money disappears never to be seen again. Your client list may be impressive, but you are not making any profit. Maybe employees come and leave, and you wonder why you can’t keep people in your company.
You probably got into the business because you were passionate about something. But things are not working out the way you thought they would. You are tired and overworked because you are doing everything or maybe you hired a relative and that was the worst decision you have ever made.
Things may not be necessarily gloomy at your business. In fact, our business could be thriving but there is a lot you don’t know about how to scale your business. You may need a fuel injection to take your business to the next level, but you don’t know how to get the funds. You don’t know what investors are looking for and you are wondering how do I get investor ready? You are not sure about bringing in more people because you are not sure whether they share your values and your passion for the business. Also, you may need to hire more people but you ask yourself where will the money come from to pay these people?
Or you may have an idea for a business, something you have been thinking about. But you are not sure if you should take the leap. You could be in formal employment and you need a side hustle, or you even want to eventually quit your job to do this thing full time. You are curious – where do I start? What do I need?
All these people share a dilemma.
What is the way forward?
What should I do differently?
Can I make this business work?
What do I need to ensure that I have a successful business?
These are the questions that made me decide to take the Sinapis course. I attended a free day where we learnt a bit about pitching and I was hooked.
Well, I had run several businesses since high school and they all seemed to have the same curve. I would be excited about running the business. I would make some good money but at some point, I would get bored. I would end up using the profits and capital to do other things and the business would die a natural death. Well apart from my bread selling days which ended when I left high school. That is a story for another day.
Present day and I am running a successful award-winning blog which I started running in 2015. And I have come back full circle. Its been fun but I am ready to move. The only problem well, there are many. I didn’t have structures. I hadn’t set up my business to run without me, so I gave myself a transition year to learn how to make the business self-sufficient and put in structures. During that time, I linked up with Sinapis.
So what is Sinapis?
Sinapis is an entrepreneurship training program that exists to empower entrepreneurs with innovative and scalable business ideas. It is a 16-week program where you either go to class for 6 hours on one day or 3 hours two times a week. It is a Christian centred program, so you learn about running a business the kingdom way. What I love about the course is that not only do you get the 6 hours of learning per week, but you also get four big manuals with everything you need to know so that you can 1. Do assignments 2. Be able to apply everything you are learning even after you finish the program.
We learnt many things in the 16 weeks including sales, financial planning, finding the right people and managing them, financial accounting, operations, working capital, customer development, understanding customer needs, unit economics, pricing and building a sales funnel, company identity, dealing with competitors, pitching to clients and investors, financing your business, how to manage projects and time management, and getting your business plan ready. At the end of the course you also have an opportunity to enter the business plan competition where you can win funding for your business or join the accelerator program where you will get mentored for 6 months.
At the beginning of the first class, we get an opportunity checklist which is an investor readiness checklist.
I will put the lessons I learnt using the opportunity checklist which has people, business opportunities, market analysis, products and services, marketing strategy, business modelling, financial statements, operations and contingency planning, deals and systems.
This is one of the most important things. Do you understand the business?
Do you have a management team or even a team helping you run the business?
Sinapis taught us that hiring and retaining people should be done in the right way. Before you hire other people, you must make sure you are a good boss which means you understand your strengths and weaknesses and you are a visionary leader. Leadership starts with you leading yourself. You must lead by example.
Do you understand all the factors that can make your business success or fail? From your competitors, stakeholders, suppliers, clients, distributors, to government policies and hiring the right people.
We learnt about understanding customer needs, market research and understanding the industry, structures, and dealing with competition. We learnt how to use market research to understand our customers and competitors. Also, market segmentation strategies to determine which market segments are likely to give us more profit or business. Understanding who our competitors are is also an important aspect of running your business.
We learnt about how to determine our barriers to entry (things that make it hard for you to get into a market), customer power, supplier power, substitutes and degree of competitive rivalry. We learnt about how to deal with barriers like capital requirements, economies of scale, government regulation, and brand equity.
Do you know who your ideal customer is?
Do you know what they need, and can you provide it?
Can you make a profit by servicing this need?
Basically, we learnt how to do research in order to identify potential current and future customers. Also to understand the market and what segments we can target.
Products and services
What makes your product or service stand out or makes it memorable?
We learnt about differentiating both products and services by offering a superior product or coming up with a pricing strategy to attract customers.
I think these were some of the most helpful classes. We learnt about pitching and how to create a sales funnel and a sales roadmap to connect potential customers to a sale. For that, we needed to understand who our target audience is and target them. Also understanding that marketing has costs and it will affect your profit margins.
This was one of the hardest classes, but it is critical to the business. Understanding unit economics and how to break down the costs of everything that goes into creating your product or service. How does your business make money? Is it sustainable?
What are the costs that go into you providing a service or product?
How much do you need to make in order to break even?
How much do you need to make in order to make a profit after covering all your operating costs?
Many people after doing these calculations understood why there were making losses even though they were making money. You can be bringing in a lot of money but because you have a high cost of production you are not making any money. What goes into determining pricing? A lot of entrepreneurs don’t really consider the cost of production and also operating costs before determining pricing.
The classes in unit economies and financial accounting and statements were a key component of our learning. Sometimes as entrepreneurs we don’t want to be bothered by the numbers, but the numbers are important. It will determine whether the business will thrive or not.
Learning how to regularly do your financial statements and understand your cashflows, debits and credits are important if you want your business to grow and scale. Also learning how to create financial statements for investors.
Also, financial and growth projections, how to do them and present them to investors.
How are you making your products?
What are you doing to ensure that your goods and services are of the highest quality (that you can afford)
We learnt how to create efficient and effective processes for our businesses. Also, how to be wise stewards of our resources.
We learnt about contingency planning as well. What are some of the risks that your business may face and how well you mitigate these risks by having a contingency plan?
Is your company a good investment for an investor? Investors can be family and friends., banks or even commercial investors.
If you want investors and they looked at your business model, financial statements, operations, systems, people is it a good fit for them?
What is your strategy for bringing in investors and what is your strategy for exiting them?
What are the milestones you want to achieve in your business and have you set a time frame?
For many entrepreneurs just starting out, organizational systems might not be one of those things that you think of as you go along. You may start with no structures or thought about how this will affect your business in future. We learnt the importance of setting up structures.
It is important to articulate and live your values, vision and mission. But you need to have them written down in the first place.
We were also challenged to put up a clear organizational structure for both current and future employees and also for future hires. This will mean you will have to do job descriptions, putting in systems to measure the performance of individuals or teams in the business.
During the 16 weeks, there was a lot of learning. There were new things to implement, and we also had to unlearn some of the bad habits we acquired as entrepreneurs.
The best aspect of it is that if you want to run a business as a Christian professional, you will get tips and lessons on how to do it from stewardship to understanding your calling. This also involves treating all employees fairly and with no favouritism and integrating kingdom principles into your business.
I recommend this course for anybody who wants to start a business and is not sure of how to do it. For those already running a business, but you are struggling to make sure it is sustainable and that the business will stand for years to come. Or for people running a business that they want to scale but are not sure how to do it.
To be honest I haven’t figured everything I need to out yet. There is still a lot of work needed to get the business to where I want it to be. What I liked about the Sinapis classes is that it gave me the clarity about what needs to be done. How I implement that is left to me. I know I will use the tips I learnt to take my business to the next level.
So are you ready to take your business to the next level? Find out more about the Sinapis Entrepreneurship course here.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at email@example.com.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat