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The joys of running a start-up

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Small Business. PHOTO:Digitalist Magazine


A Start-Up is simply a new business venture set in motion. According to Dave McClure of 500 Start-Ups; “a ‘Start-Up’ is a company that is confused about what its product is, who its customers are and how to make money.” This sounds hilarious but it is utterly correct. It is alright to be confused about these, but not for long. My business idea came up from the need of getting fresh fruit smoothies at my workplace while trying to detox. Safe to say, I knew there was a viable business idea from my needs but I was confused about what my products were, who my customers are, and how to make money off this business idea. The vision of my business evolved shortly after it started and today, it is clearly defined (products, customers and profitability).

Reminiscing about the past, a couple of times I may have cringed when people called Smoothie Express a Start-Up. Somehow, I had wanted to have already arrived at my destination – to be the foremost healthy food and beverage business in Africa. When I think of it now, I sincerely appreciate having been called a Start-Up and being one. As a Start-Up, there is room for mistakes. Your audience is more understanding to your struggles and fails. As a Start-Up, you are simply in the best phase to learn and perfect your craft. I can’t count how frequently we fouled up on our products and services at Smoothie Express, but I can say our most loyal customers have been there since our inception and when we were most confused.

Customers are pretty much invested in your business as a Start-Up. We once had a customer randomly call us to say she found ‘Mangoes’ for sale [the main fruit we use in producing our best-selling Mango Surprise Smoothie] and she told the Aboki [the local roadside fruit seller] to keep all the Mangos he had for us. These are the joys of running a Start-Up.

To grow your Start-Up into an enterprise with a viable business model, you need to set your goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. You also need to set your standards and keep to them. People like consistency in products and services. It is important to learn from your mistakes as a Start-Up. Find out ways to improve your products and services by taking surveys and feedback from your customers regularly. New Mobile Apps can be frustrating with frequent upgrades but every time you upgrade that app, something new has been implemented. This is how you should run your Start-Up: upgrade your products or services as often as possible.

A lot of great companies have failed as a result of not improving on their products and services or adapting to new trends. One good example is the Kodak failing to adapt to new trends in the world of photography. Keep records of your finances and growth, this would come in very handy when it’s time to expand and scale up your Start-Up.

Little drops, they say, make an ocean. It is advisable to start small and within your control, then build on what you have step by step and watch an empire unfold. Sometimes having all the funds and customers at the beginning can be overwhelming. You even stand to lose more when you don’t get things right. You need to figure out what exactly your business needs at Start-Up without breaking the bank or taking on more than it can handle, which is similar to the principle of a Lean Start-Up. We launched Smoothie Express with a little over 1million Naira. Safe to say we were tight with cash but looking back I’m thankful we started out that way. Over the last two years, we have been able to figure out the best set of equipment to invest in, the exact workforce needed at every time and how to manage cash flow.

There are many business owners fresh out of the best business schools in the world but actually failing in business. This is because they use a one-size-fits-all approach in tackling their businesses. You have to learn from your business directly in as much as you have learned to operate it. Every business is unique and even more unique in different terrains. The take home business nugget today is to take advantage of being a ‘Start-Up’. Learn the curves, strengths, and weaknesses of your business and work with them. You will eventually grow that Start-Up to a successful business venture to the admiration of many.


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