THE CHALLENGES OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Written by a small time girl from Klerksdorp, a home-school mum of three and Owner of Mesmerizing Mixes Sadiyah Mosam
The idea for Mesmerizing Mixes, a delicious pre-mix range was born in 2016, with my quest for convenient, easy, halaal baking with a delicious fresh-out-of-the oven home-made taste. It all began when my sister studying dentistry in Cape Town longed for home-made treats but didn’t want the hassle of going to buy flour, sugar etc. So the idea of making her premix batches sparked, the first premix – the “Triple Choc Delight Muffins”. The range has now grown to 15 different mesmerizing mixes!
My entrepreneurial journey started long before Mesmerizing Mixes. As most would-be entrepreneurs I had tons of ideas that I thought would make great business ventures. I spent many hours on research and tried to put together a business plan and it would take me months to do so. It’s important to mention that I have a very limited knowledge of how to do business. I barely understood the logic of accounting in school and if anything is not written down or sorted in my mind then it’s not possible to do! These ideas eventually either got shelved or I grew bored. And then a few weeks later a new idea would strike and the process would start all over again. The bottom line; I was getting nowhere!
The Challenges at Hand
I faced a many challenges in entrepreneurship, some very early and some learnt through experience:
- My first mistake. I put the horse ahead of the cart! I created a solution (thinking up business ideas) without actually having found the problem. I believe a true entrepreneur will find a problem and figure a way to solve it or improve an existing solution.
- My second mistake was that I was looking at anything that came my way instead of seeking something that really excited me. This resulted in a less than enthusiastic approach eventually becoming bored and eventually non-committal.
- Lastly, I suffer from a speech impediment and often I struggle to get the words out resulting in stuttering and faltering. This had been a lifelong challenge. With growing self-confidence it gets easier. Certainly there is a way around every obstacle. The art is to never give up.
When things changed:
- Knowledge is Power: A year and a half after my premix was born, I stumbled across the bestseller by Sir Richard Branson, “Screw it, Let’s do it!”. It was an absolute eye opener. Just the push I needed to rev and kickstart the entrepreneurial engine again. It is amazing how an inspirational book can change your life.
- Finding a Mentor: I rattled off all my ideas to Growing Hands Entrepreneurial Development Founder and Roshgold Young Business Achiever Awards coordinator, Uncle Haroun Pochee. Having already been in touch with Uncle Haroun Pochee previously, I was introduced to the Growing Hands Business Development Programme. I sat down with them and digested plenty of advice. This helped me tremendously! I heeded the gems of advice and it helped me grow in leaps and bounds.
- Getting the Support Required to grow: As stated before, I don’t believe that I am business-minded or blessed with business acumen. I struggle with administration and keeping track of financial records. As long as I had enough money to keep funding my ideas and I was not in debt I was happy. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) I have been blessed with a husband who is the total opposite to me. He grew up in a business orientated household and business and financial management comes naturally to him. He wouldn’t allow me to continue in business in my haphazard way. There are some days when I truly dislike him for throwing me out of my comfort zone, right into the deep end. I am grateful for all his advice and help.
- Have systems in place: In order to overcome my lack of business experience, we decided to implement systems to make the tasks easier. I was advised that a fully integrated Accounting software package is what I needed. We have now reached the stage where administration is growing with the business. A lot of startups get caught in avoiding administration. I didn’t do my costing correctly in the beginning and for the first few months of business I was selling items at unfavourable prices. I learnt the hard way… and it stung! Knowing that month’s of hard work and effort had resulted in almost nothing. But the only way to success is to pick oneself up, and carry on.
- Branding & Marketing your Products well: Being in a market where visual appeal is a strong selling point, I knew that I wanted my products to look professional and up market. I was content using stock images for my products but eventually decided on having a photographer take professional high quality pictures of my products. I then sat down with our graphic designers and we tweaked the packaging. The result is that I now have products that any store would be happy to stock on their shelves.
I broke into a market with a totally unknown brand and product. Social Media has helped raising awareness of our range. Initially I relied just on Whatsapp advertising until I started getting enough followers on my Instagram account. Now my Instagram account is my main tool of advertising and marketing
- Time Management: Initially I found myself working until the wee hours of the morning every day. This was not planning or admin work, but the manufacturing premixes until 2am. I felt like I was going mad! And to top it all I convinced myself that this is what it means to be an entrepreneur. Words like #hustle and #grind made me feel like I was being really cool. But in actual fact it was foolishness. I had to learn to work smart and manage my time otherwise I was going to burn out. I still find that some days spiral out of control but on the whole, I now have a routine and have learnt how to be productive rather just busy.
- Employing Staff: Hiring of employees and delegating was a mammoth task! I am totally out of my comfort zone here. I am very emotionally involved. I regard Mesmerizing Mixes in the similar light to my children. And I can’t simply entrust this baby to anybody. My main concern is quality control for a good product. I wish to hold onto these reigns as tightly as I can. I also know that while I am working IN my business I cannot be working ON my business and thus will not be able to grow. This proved tricky but I have managed to recruit two reliable employees and I am carefully handing over aspects of the production process to them.
- The proof of the pudding: The business has developed and people were requesting to sell the mixes in their markets. So Mesmerizing Mixes branched off into having stockists around the country. Hopefully by the end of this year we will have a fully fledged e-commerce website for better retailing my products. We started appearing as vendors in big events around Johannesburg. I see great success in tasters. When I do an event I bake samples of the variants in our range. This enables customers to taste the finished product before buying. Even if they don’t buy from me they remember the taste and eventually get around to a stockist to obtain the product.
The road to success can often be a lonely journey filled with potholes (challenges) and thorns (negativity) . There has to be long hours of planning, work and dedication involved. It can be quite daunting. These are my personal tips for entrepreneurs:
- Learn to look for the joy in each and everything that you do.
- As a Muslim our first port of call should be to Allah. I have realised that I rely on Supreme creator as challenges present themselves and by leaving it in His hands it becomes easier. There is only so much we has humans can do. Do not stress and get worked up over the things that you have no control over; just do what you have to do and have faith.
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes. It’s all a learning curve. I am still learning to tackle challenges head on.
- Do not let anyone stifle your creativity. If you have a vision/dream that you feel is worth pursuing; then go for it!
- Ask for help from those with the experience and know how. Run your ideas through different people whom you trust. We sometimes look at things with blinkers on (or through rose tinted glasses) and running your ideas via a trusted person could greatly help in putting things into perspective.
- Have a positive mindset and keep smiling 🙂
- I encourage all new businessmen to enter competitions like the Roshgold Young Business Achievers Awards. It helps shape your business understanding and you learn so much from everyone.