Resilience and innovation are key

The mission of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE)and Rapid Incubator that I lead is “to grow resilient, innovative youth enterprises”.

Two words are key, those of resilience and innovation.

The environment of raising entrepreneurial thinking and helping entrepreneurs to establish sustainable businesses is a most rewarding one.

The question is sometimes asked, “What happens to entrepreneurs once they move out from the support structure of a business incubator or accelerator?

I believe that incubators play an integral role in helping to build sustainable businesses. With that in mind, I would like to share the follow-up story of one of our past beneficiaries.

I wrote an article about her in August 2017 (“Build a strong business you can love”), so this is the next chapter in that story.

Terine Lott Cupido is the founder of EmpowerLink Services, which aims to support small businesses (with 10 to 49 employees) by offering a tailored customer centric HR solution, to meet their needs.

EmpowerLink Services is passionate about building sound employee relations, skills development and empowerment.

I first met Terine in October 2016, and she came onto our incubation programme in 2017. She graduated early in 2018 and has been running the business for just under two years now.

Her achievements include being on the incubation programme of the CFE where she modelled a hunger for learning and application; being selected for an international women in business mentoring programme and being a proud winner of
the CFE’s Poster and Pitch competition.

In 2017, Terine was also asked to write a regular HR feature article in Your Business Magazine, which is aimed at offering tips to small to medium sized businesses.

Empowerment is key for her and her company.

EmpowerLink Services has assisted 20 businesses to date with bespoke HR support, adding value to clients through the implementation of identified needs.

For example: apprenticeship implementation; sourcing training grant funding for some; HR coaching where needed, HR procedure and policy development, assisting with disciplinary matters but to name a few.

When asked to share nuggets from her past two years’ experience, she enthusiastically shared these four:

Believe in your “Why”

This is vital to understand and embrace because the entrepreneurial journey has many highs and lows.

Terine referred to her faith and her focus on her family as her true north.

She is building a legacy for her family, with the unqualified support of her husband, and a pioneering view of building this business.

She seeks to model the values of the business to her clients, knowing that offering quality HR support to small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) can add much needed capacity to under-resourced entities.

Know your numbers

It is essential for the aspiring entrepreneur to know their “numbers”. Knowing and acting on that knowledge reduces the likelihood of flying blind in this critical area.

She discovered that finances are quite straight forward, and encourages others that it is not as scary as it may appear.

She also urges the aspiring entrepreneur to engage with the services of a bookkeeper or accountant as soon as possible.

By purposefully building your own financial capacity, you keep your finger on the pulse of key activities like your sales pipeline.

She actually wishes she had implemented her financial processes earlier.

Practically, it may be good to print your bank statement and assess each item to discern what was the expense or income for. Implementation of a simple income statement can be included in the entrepreneur’s monthly habit.

Remember that every management decision in your business has a financial consequence.

Drive your sales

Terine acknowledged an aversion to sales before she started, but now “owns” this vital process.

She has come to see that it is not so much about the sales process, but owning the value proposition associated with your products or services.

She noted that learning how to pitch your business helps to add confidence to the pitcher, and clarity and credibility to the offering. Attend and participate in exercises and events where you can pitch your business.

Support

One of the key offerings of an incubator is that of support, so I asked Terine to comment on the value of support, particularly as she has graduated but is still receiving post incubation support. She reflected that she missed the buzz of her cohort and fellow entrepreneurs. This tended to help with keeping the energy and drive levels up.

Being in the programme helped identify blind spots which are sometimes hidden from the entrepreneurs’ view.

In this environment, she also learnt to look at her business as a whole system, and made use of the opportunity to call on experts to assist her.

She is now, however, more focused on working “on” her business, rather than only “in” her business. Ongoing support provides a mechanism to test this objectivity.

Leveraging on her own and the centre’s network has also been a key lesson post incubation.

I started this article with an emphasis on two words, innovation and resilience, and I am pleased to account that businesses like Terine’s embrace these two values and are built to last.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Email steve.reid@falsebay.org.za or visit www.falsebayincubate.co.za for more about the CFE.