Use this checklist to write articles that your readers will love

Who has had the most impact on my blogging life?

Without any doubt, it’s Neil Patel. I started writing articles on getting business capital for new entrepreneurs a year or two ago. I came across a profound article that carries the title ’13 Questions to Ask yourself Every time you Write a Blog Post’ by Neil early in my writing journey and I have found it to be extremely useful. I have religiously used the article as my checklist each time I have to write an article for a magazine, newspaper or for my blog.  I have written over 30 articles and each one of them has had to pass the checklist test.  Check out some of them at https://abcafricaaccelerator.com.

The first question that I have always had to answer is, ‘Who is the blog post for?’ My readers are mostly people who want to start their own businesses but do not know how to go about doing that. In pursuit of their dreams, they fumble and make many mistakes that cost them dearly the resources that they hardly have. By answering the question, I am able to focus on the needs of this group of people. Knowing my audience is one big lesson that I have learnt from Neil. If you are a startup entrepreneur, the lesson is equally important for you as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey. The blogging checklist works equally well for startup entrepreneurs as it does for bloggers. Putting up your ideas out there is like an entrepreneur who creates a product and sells it to consumers who need to solve a high pain problem they are experiencing.

Secondly, the checklist requires me to establish the purpose of my article. Am I writing the post because I need to help new entrepreneurs understand the importance of acting on their dreams? May be they are wasting too much time, effort and resources on things that are really not that urgent, things that can be done once their businesses are up and running.  I could be writing the post to inspire entrepreneurs to act on their dreams using the knowledge they are getting from me and other sources. Without purpose, it’s easy to end up wandering all over without focus. That compromises the quality of my writing and alienates some readers who may have better things to do than read an article that is trying to please everyone.

Related to this, is finding the best way to present my point. I am not much of a story teller and therefore I really need to spend time thinking about my angle of approach. I miss this and the message does not go through as intended.

Neil also taught me that I need to know what I want my readers to do after reading my articles. Writing is a means to an end. Writers need to know what they want their readers to do after reading their works. I want my readers to be better entrepreneurs and most of all, to access the capital they need to grow their businesses. For this to happen effectively, I need to be using every opportunity to encourage them to act on my teachings.

An important take away from my association with Neil has been learning the business side of writing. The checklist requires you to answer the question, ‘How do I promote my posts?’ While you may love what you do, you also need to earn a living from it. This question in the checklist helps me take my passion to the bank. I admit there is a lot that I need to be doing on this front and I am glad I am acting on that.

And, thank you Neil for teaching me that I can repurpose my post. While I may be writing mostly for startup entrepreneurs, the articles I write are also very valuable for established small businesses. Neil taught me that instead of having to write a new article for that specific audience, if the message is more or less the same I can repurpose the articles originally intended for startups so that their content adds value for established entrepreneurs. While I enjoy writing, it can be daunting at times and this kind of knowledge comes in very handy indeed.

Last but not least is the need to know how I will measure the success of articles that I write. Without this, there is surely no way of knowing if the articles I write really do make an impact on people’s lives.

Neil always says while you can read as much as you like from his articles, the only guarantee that you may begin to generate results is when you promise to act on his teachings. I am committing to doing exactly that as I embark on the second leg of my blogging journey. Thank you Neil. Check out his website at NeilPatel.com

Email your questions to tmkconsult@gmail.com

Whatsapp, call or text me at 079 070 4395. Follow me on Twitter @tmkconsult.

How to write your one-page business plan

Planning prepares you and helps you understand your business better. A prepared entrepreneur is attractive to investors. Improve your chances of getting funding by writing your own business plan. Not the fancy 40-page business plan that established businesses write, no. As a startup, you know very little about your customers: who they are, where they live, what they like and don’t like, what budgets they have, among other things. Therefore, at this stage, you really don’t have much to say. Start with a one-page plan.

This is how you do that.

For each of the following, write down 2-3 sentences: your product or service, the problems your product is solving, the customers who will buy or use your product, why they will buy from you instead of buying from other suppliers, the channels you will use to get your products to your customers, how you will market and sell your products, how much you are going to price your product, how much it is going to cost you to manufacture or to buy the product, how much you expect to make in sales per month, what profit you are going to make per month, who your competitors are, who your suppliers will be and what resources such as machinery, equipment, stock you will need.

A one pager plan will help you to get started sooner

Starting the planning process early will help you in a lot of ways. It will help you start conversations with potential customers, partners, material suppliers, funders and investors. It’s always hard to start off anything, a baby’s first step is a huge milestone for the baby. This also applies to a startup: you have this big idea but taking that first step is always a big challenge. If, however, you start writing your plan, that action alone will help you quickly kick-start your business & before you realise it, you will be well on your way to building your dream business.

Use the business plan as a tool to refine and to adapt your strategies.

Remember, as a startup, you begin from a position where you really don’t know much about your customers and their needs. As your sales grow, you gather new information from customers in the form of comments and better or declining sales. As you learn new things about your customers, make the relevant adjustments to your product or service and update your plan accordingly.

There surely is a system to build successful businesses, and it is this system that we are sharing with our readers. By following the system, you will eliminate a lot of the wandering in the dark and get straight on with building your business.

Email comments to tmkconsult@gmail.com

Call, sms, Whatsapp: +27 79 070 4395

Twitter handle @tmkconsult.

My Top 12 Small Business Funders

Sourcing funding requires a lot of work from the entrepreneur. You need to prove your business works using the little resources that you have. Open a bank account and make sure that whatever cash you generate goes into that account, and every cent that is spent comes from that account. The idea is to show activity, to show that your products are selling and you are investing in the growth of your business. This activity will reflect in your bank statement. It is the proof that funders want.

Seda is my preferred SMME development agency. Take your company business registration certificate, tax clearance and BBBEE certificate to your SEDA branch and tell them you want assistance with building your business plan. You will be interviewed to assess if your business is compelling enough. Again, that proof I always talk about comes in handy here. Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park, lest you forget. If you are approved, they will allocate you a consultant to help you build your business plan.
The NYDA provides the same services, however, the focus is on youth. Provincial development agencies such as the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, the Free State Development Corporation, the North West Development Corporation and the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency will also help you develop your business plan at a subsidised cost. Armed with your business plan, you are ready to submit it to funders.

Seda has a grant fund called the Technology Transfer Fund that targets emerging small businesses that have been in operation for at least a year. The fund provides funding up to R600 000 for machinery & equipment and for business development services such as branding. Email bmakeke@seda.org.za to apply.

The NYDA has an attractive grant programme of up to R100 000 that can be used as seed capital to kick-start your business. You can use the money to buy machinery, equipment and stock. To apply, visit your local NYDA offices, you can also visit their website at http://www.nyda.gov.za/grantprogramme or call their call centre at 0800 52 52 52.

The National Empowerment Fund has various funds that target small businesses. It has entrepreneurship finance for startups up to R10 million. It also provides capital to buy franchises. Get application forms from their provincial offices or download them from http://www.nefcorp.co.za.

The Small Enterprise Finance Agency offers startup loans. You can get their application form from their regional offices or download it from http://www.sefa.org.za. Alternatively, call their call centre at 012 748 9600 or email them at helpline@sefa.org.za.

The Cooperative Incentive Scheme is a grant up to R350 000 that targets cooperatives. The money can be used to buy machinery equipment and vehicles. Download their application form from http://www.thedti.gov.za, call them at 0861 843 384 or contact your Seda branch.

The Black Business Supplier Development Programme BBSDP provides grants up to R1 million for machinery, equipment and marketing. Visit your Seda branch to apply.

Anglo Zimele is an Anglo American Enterprise Development Agency that I have found to be very receptive to small businesses. Interest rates are low at 6% per annum and turnaround times for applications are short. It has various funds that support different types of startups and existing businesses. Visit Zimele Business Hubs located across the country. You can also email them at zimele@angloamerican.com or visit http://www.angloamerican.co.za . You can also call them at 086 ZIMELE (946353).

Join us next time, and spread the word. Startup Talk with Move! is the business column that informs.

Email comments to tmkconsult@gmail.com
Call, sms, Whatsapp: +27 79 070 4395
Twitter handle: @tmkconsult.

Checklist_How to WoW Funders and Investors

I used to enjoy watching Dragon’s Den on Tuesday evenings. I learnt quite a bit from the show. The Dragons sometimes seemed hostile, mean, imposing and difficult. Do I blame them? Not at all, they have to make sure they are giving their money to the right people.

Getting investors to buy in starts with a great story: here is where the market is today, here is where it will be tomorrow, here is how I have anticipated those changes in the market and will capitalise on them. Capture their imagination with something unique and compelling.

Sell the opportunity to funders. Explain the opportunity you are going for. For a plastics recycling company, ‘We are a plastics recycling company. We have identified a gap in the market for clean plastics which are used as inputs for the production of plastic pellets. There is presently a huge shortage of recycled plastic pellets. It is this gap that we are pursuing’.

What value are you creating to capture the opportunity?What does your company do? And don’t just tell them what you do, tell them what you do better than anyone else. For example: We buy plastic scrap, sort, wash and bale the product using world class technologies.

Be clear and brief so that investors figure out quickly what your business does, how you generate cash flow, what you require from them and how much financing you need.For example: we require R3 million to buy the wash plant, we will contribute R300 000 as own investment.

Tell them about the future that you are building, tell them where the business is going. These are goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. For example:The company wants to build its brand as a major plastics recycling company in the region processing up to 2 880 tons of plastics annually.
What is the ‘magic sauce’ that your business has that gives it a credible competitive advantage?What is that something in your product that cannot easily be bought or copied?
Funders and investors invest in people.Sell yourself and the team. Who are you and why are you the best team for the job?Your team will make or break the deal. Show investors you have a capable team with complementary skills.
Investors love traction. If you can show them that your product or service has a market, even on a small scale, you are surely on your way to winning their hearts. An untested business concept scares funders.

Know your investors. Investors have preferences. They have causes they care for, and they have views on issues such as gender equity, development impact and the environment. It helps to know these preferences before hand.

Know your numbers. How many products do you expect to sell, at what price, what is your profit mark up, what are your key costs, what is your expected net profits and how many products must you sell to cover all your costs?

Funders need to know who else is in the market. Who are your competitors, what is it that they are good at and you are not. What are you good at, and they are not? Be open about your weaknesses and show how you are going to reduce their impact on the business.

Practice your pitch. Do it in front of your mirror. Do it before a trusted friend. Find someone to listen to your pitch and to give you feedback.

Till next week, keep well.

Email comments to tmkconsult@gmail.com
Whatsapp: +27 79 070 4395
Twitter Handle @tmkconsult

Build your Startup Organically using these 9 Steps

Use the word organic in any setting and you are likely to get attention. It is normally associated with things that are natural, healthy, pure, untreated and green, from village chickens, farm eggs to renewable energy. Building businesses can also be done organically.

Building a business organically means that you start small, with the little resources that you have, a ‘friendly’ loan from a friend, from a relative, your own savings, from your stokvel or from your savings club. If you are lucky to have inherited a cow, you can use that as your seed capital. Build and sell your product to one person who tells another and another and another, and before you realise it, you have ten customers, twenty and so on. That is the track record funders and investors look for. That is the traction that funders and investors love. Build a track record, apply for a small loan, grow your business, pay back the loan, apply for an even bigger loan and before you know it, you have a bankable track record. An entrepreneur following this ‘green’ startup building approach is going to take out a lot of the risks out of the business. And funders & investors love de-risked investments.

Now, how do you build a business from ground up?

  1. Build a team that has the right skills set. Find a good partner who shares your passion for the opportunity that you have seen and who complements the skills you have. Technical, marketing and financial management skills are critical. Give your co-founder equity or shares in the business.
  2. Rope in a mentor. Successful business people in your community are always willing to assist. They will provide you with valuable expertise and connections.
  3. Raise capital from whatever sources you can. Funders don’t take kindly to giving you capital before you can show that your business works. Pool your savings together with your founding partners, borrow from friends and relatives, sell your idea to business people you know, get a second mortgage on your home, get a personal loan from a bank.
  4. Accurately define who your customers are going to be. Who are they, where are they, how will you find them.
  5. Get out of the building and talk to them. Ask them if they have a problem that your product or service solves. If you intend offering nothing different from what is already in the market, go back to the drawing board. Being BEE is not good enough, the product or service must provide better value than existing products in the market.
    Build your product and start testing it with your market. This is where rubber hits the road. By actually selling a real product, you will prove if there is customer demand to build a business, you will prove that people see enough value in your product to pay the price that you are asking for and that gives you the profit that you want. Most importantly you will prove that you have the technical knowhow and the business acumen to deliver on your promise.
  6. If the costs of building the product and testing its traction are high, put your idea on paper & start testing it with customers: ‘Does this solve your problem? How much would you pay for it?’ Ask potential customers for letters of intent and offer free trials. This is the kind of evidence that can sway investors, even if your product is only on paper.

Let’s talk again next week when I bring you the 7 things that you need to know to get your business funded.

Email comments to tmkconsult@gmail.com
Call, sms, Whatsapp: +27 79 070 4395