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The Female Entrepreneur Print E-mail
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Written by By Jacklyn Burns   
Thursday, 11 January 2018 00:00

Kindly permit me to start this article with a disclaimer.  I know absolutely nothing about business but I am a good customer.  With that alone, I think I might have a thing or two to share that you might find useful.  I write to invite our women to become entrepreneurs to awaken this snoozing economy.  We certainly need more business women in our country.

With the constant concern of university graduates having major challenges finding jobs, I task our Belizean women of this wonderful country to seek their own passions and initiate their own businesses.  A good friend and colleague of mine often shares his justification of why women make excellent leaders.  His explanation is that women are more into details.  We compare cost of items more. We shop smarter.  We spend wiser. So, in his explanation, women do a better job at spending a hundred dollars than most men.  Whether this is true or not, I know that women can be excellent at being entrepreneurs because we manage households and budgets every day.  So, why not do it for a profit?

We need to become productive. Those of us who sit at home and say “I can’t find a job” are wasting opportunities. A job is not only a place of employment.  It is also opportunity to provide for a family as well as an opportunity to contribute to our society.  Not only that, being the mistress of your own business means being your own boss and working on your terms.  Being an entrepreneur can be taxing, but it will have its own rewards as well.

Starting a business cannot simply be going shopping and delivering a product or a service.  It means finding some product or service you are passionate about, one that you love enough so that when you must spend hours perfecting it, you do so willingly because it means a lot to you.  A product is always better with love as a secret ingredient.  It is only then that you would be willing to invest not only financially but time as well.  The first thing that the female entrepreneur must do then is to think of what her passion is and identify a business idea that can be lucrative and that is connected to her passion.

As women, we are sometimes timid to invest our precious savings into an idea that can potentially fail.  However, this is why our business plan needs to be tight and detailed.  This is why when our business ideas suffer some unexpected challenges, we must solve the issues and carry on until we have overcome the obstacles. Of course, this is easier said than done.  But, it is not impossible.  We need to realize that the first year of a new business is one of the most challenging because this is the year of learning.  One important practice a business woman must have is record keeping and filing.  A record of expenses, collections, losses and profit must be kept so she learns what works well for the business, which products are best sellers, what the customers like most about the business and what areas she would need to improve in. keeping a suggestions box, asking about the service and even asking customers for a rating and review can assist in your keeping constructive criticisms of your business once you get it rolling.

There are financial supportive institutions in Belize that can assist you in starting a new business.  Some of these are the Development Finance Corporation, Belize Enterprise for Sustainable Technology and the Commercial Banks and Credit Unions.  Investments should be smart and the repayment schedule needs to be affordable.  Therefore, a wise thing to do is to get a business plan that includes profit projections so that you can more or less estimate what payments you can afford.  Do not set yourself up with gigantic business loans that might run you bankrupt before you make your first dollar.  In fact, I always suggest, you start small and you let your business grow.  It can be done, but it needs to be done strategically and smartly.

I have two friends who recently started their own businesses.  These are not women of affluent means.  In fact, they sit on the contrary side of affluence.  However, with the help of family and friends, they were recently able to set up their own home businesses or what is sometimes referred as micro businesses.  Both these women came up with separate business plans and stated literally from scratch.  Now, perhaps two months later, they both have smouldering fires. I watch them grow almost daily.

Some common practices that I observed in both of them are that they both are highly dedicated to their product, they plan ahead, they spend long hours and they work hard.  One of them stated that she is ultimately happy even after a long day because she knows that the work is for her business and her success is partnered with hard work and dedication.  The other one stated that every sale is a small victory for her and victories make her feel elated.  Both of them have had chit chats with me to share their business plans…not because I am any business guru as I stated earlier, but because they think I would be creative enough to give them some constructive feedback of their services and products.  So, I obliged them.  Some of what I shared with them both include keeping their products consistent, providing only the best service that is available and market and advertise as much as is possible.

Consistency in products will earn your customers trust.  Too often businesses start off brightly, offering the best product and after a period of time, they dwindle into being ordinary.  Sometimes this happens because they become overwhelmed with high demand or because they compromise their ingredients or the materials they usually use.  One of my friends, Ms Baker of Belmopan says that she will not bake if she cannot find her usual butter because she has developed a flavour, a brand in her product and because it is important to her to deliver quality, she will decline an order rather than give a knock off version of her baked delicacies. I think this is an excellent business practice and I find that when customers find you reliable and consistent, they are willing to pay top dollar. That means money in the bank for you.

Excellence in service delivery is rare but when we get it, we always want to go back.  Again, we have to study our customer base and use what works to enhance our businesses.  For instance, I do not like those offices that have the automated voice answering machines that say press 1 if you need the operator.  I still love the personal touch of “Hello, this is Carolyn speaking … How may I help you?” Don’t you?   Always keep the customer informed about delays. Always deliver in a timely fashion.  Always be fair in your prices. That list right there will establish a reputation for your business and in a small country like Belize, most people do business based on referrals.  Keep the service you offer as a good flavour in people’s mouths and very often, they will crave an opportunity to use your business. If at any point you have a mishap or mistake, apologize and offer compensation.  A kind gesture like this can save the reputation of your business.

And yes, even though word will circulate about what type of product or services you offer, you need to market your product.  As much as you feel like people know about your business, still let them be reminded that you offer a product and you want them to come spend their money at your establishment.  Invest in ads, billboards, sponsor community events and use social and multi-media efforts to share your business with anyone who might be interested in your product.  Keep your business in the limelight for good reasons and be creative enough to have exciting changes as often as possible.  Remember, people get bored easily so think of new ways to keep their attention where you sell your products.

What will it take to get you started on your business idea?  There are some small and simple money making plans that can become big businesses eventually.  I recall a popular business woman in Belmopan shared how she started her business in a really small building and with minimal staff.  She now manages one of the biggest and most reputable businesses.  Her staff is large and her store is a favorite of mine.  Can this be you eventually?  I certainly hope so.