Article in brief: the author shares 5 lessons she learnt within the first two months of starting a business.
Don’t you find that the E-word is thrown around very loosely nowadays? It seems that anyone who starts a business of any kind can claim the right to call themselves that. “Entrepreneur” is so often misappropriated to a degree that it undermines those who really do deserve to be given that title. The word evokes someone who has filled a gap in the society- not the market, and someone who has contributed to the development and increased efficiency of societies. As a boutique-and-café concept store owner, I do not claim to do either; yet I am using the word entrepreneur in this new column for lack of a more succinct term that is easily understood in today’s popular culture – hence the inverted commas.
In the past 14 months that my store has been open (and the 14 months that preceded it of government approvals, meetings with fitout contractors, and various other development stages) I have learnt on-the-job what it takes to get a business up and running. I’ve learnt more about myself than I ever did, and I have learnt tons about human psychology – which definitely comes in handy. In one word, running a business means turning into an Energizer bunny constantly managing every tiny aspect involved. In this new column, I’ll be sharing insights and reflections of what it takes to manage a business here in Dubai, and I hope that many of you in the same boat will be able to share many of my sentiments and thoughts. So without further ado, here are some of the things I learnt within the first two months of opening Spontiphoria:
It will become your life.
You will eat, sleep, and breathe your business. There will be times when you won’t be able to fall asleep because your head is so full of numbers, bills, things to get done, and ideas. You will not be able to sit down for a quick 20 minute dinner in front of the television because you will inevitably get a phone call that needs to be dealt with immediately. You will dream it. At times, it will be what pushes you to keep going and at times it will be what makes you want to curl up in a dark corner and never come out. Be prepared.
There is no point doing something that’s already being done.
Don’t start a business unless you’re giving something unique to society or the market. There has to be something unique that sets you apart and that “something” has to be very easily visible. But if you are going to do something that’s already being done, make sure you open in a location where the same goods or service isn’t available for at least several miles.
You will wear many hats.
You will learn to be the manager, the salesperson, the advertiser, the logistical person, and the technical person. Even if you have staff handling these aspects for you, you will still learn how to do each one. You’ll learn how to use awesome little things you’d never even thought of learning, like a till machine or that little plastic gun that sticks tags on to clothes. It is extremely important to be skilled in the industry or field that your business is in. I had to be the chef for one whole month when we opened and were still between staff.
Your set-up costs are a long-term investment.
Set a 3-4 year goal for covering these and don’t let this initial cost preoccupy you. Focus on providing a good product and breaking even each month. Covering your set up costs will thus come eventually and automatically.
Avoid that big initial hype- the bubble will burst.
So many businesses that open are preoccupied with getting a huge buzz and being the talk of the town. This will get you nowhere. Things like this are temporary, and if you don’t have a product that’s unique enough and worth going back for, this initial buzz, no matter how big, will just pop.
Click here for part 2 of this article.
Sidiqa is 25 years old and is half-Emirati and half-Pakistani. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace, and Security from the University of Durham in the UK. Sidiqa owns and manages the boutique-café concept store “Spontiphoria” in Wasl Square, Jumeirah.