Venturing Into New Industries

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

By day, James Wambugu is a Kenyan IT professional, but on weekends and evenings, he’s a busy entrepreneur with a love for the farming industry. In his day job, he works as an IT officer with a logistics company. At the same time, he is also exploring businesses in both indigenous chicken rearing and transportation.

He shares that, ‘I was brought up in a rural setting, where indigenous chicken was reared as a hobby as opposed to a commercial venture. I am venturing in the transport industry which has a lot of potential and at the same time rearing indigenous chicken at my rural home.’

To maintain his transportation business, he currently operates two motorbikes as taxi’s  purchased through loans from Zidisha lenders! He receives $7 USD everyday from his 2 riders. The remaining profits are put towards fuel, maintenance, and wages. In the future, he hopes to add a third motorbike to his business, which he predicts would boost his daily profit to $11 USD a day.

James explains, ‘My dream is to have 10 Motorbikes that will give me 30 USD per day, then make them 20 motorbikes, and eventually buy a mini-bus for passenger transportation.’

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Since joining Zidisha in 2014, James has successfully raised 4 Zidisha funded loans and maintains a 97% repayment rate, which is exceptionally high.

With his initial loan of $150, James purchased the raw materials to build a perimeter fence around his compound for his chickens. These materials included: ‘chain link wire, fencing posts, nails, and labor.’ This loan made a positive impact in two ways. First, this allowed him to reduce the cost of purchasing feed as he only needed to buy supplementary commercial feeds. Second, this fenced in his chickens, preventing them from disrupting his neighbors.

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Later in 2014, James was able to raise his second Zidisha funded loan. This second one, in November, was for $297. Most importantly, James was able to significantly expand his number of chickens, buying 50 additional day old chicks. The remainder of the loan was put towards expanding his chicken coop to allow for the new additions as well as towards four months worth of commercial feeds.

By May 2015, James was excited to update his Zidisha lenders regarding his progress, ‘Dear Lenders. Thank you so much for your faith in me. Your loans have been put into good use, and am happy to tell you that my flock is now expanding. I have attached a photo of part of my flock for you to see how your loan has helped me. I expect this flock to start laying eggs in August or September.’

The following year, in November 2016, James found himself ready for a third Zidisha loan. This time he was ready to turn his attention to the transportation business. With $70 of his own savings, he requested $394 from Zidisha lenders to help purchase his bike.

He shares his confidence as he says, ‘I am guaranteed that this is a workable business, since am already doing it and reaping the benefits.’

The following year, in 2017, he raised his largest loan yet of $691 from lenders. As James began to see the success of his transportation business, he felt that it was worth investing in a second motorbike. With this fourth loan, he purchased a second motorbike and shared his appreciation with lenders as he commented, ‘Thank you lenders for your faith in me. You have funded this loan in 30 minutes. It says a lot about the trust you have in my willingness and ability to repay. I will not let you down. ‘

On Dec 26, 2018, James was proud to update his lenders on his discussion page as he shared, ‘Dear Lenders, Thank you so much for the trust you showed in me by lending me your money. I was able to buy a new motorbike and its now operational. My income increased from 3 USD to 7 USD per day. God bless you all. Looking forward to your continued support.’

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With a day job, two Zidisha funded businesses, and a wife and two daughters, James has a full life. Plus, when he has free time he loves watching football with friends. In fact, he is a self-described, ‘diehard fan of Arsenal FC.’

Would you like to impact a business owner like James? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to learn more!

Forward We Move

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Bede Tebino was born into a humble family in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. When he was in high school and waiting to attend college, his father passed away. This forced him to start looking for a job immediately. Fortunately, after finding a job, he was able to save the money to attend university, where he earned a degree in Finance. After graduating, he got a good job as a Marketer. Sadly, the company was later forced to downsize, leaving Bede without a job.

Bede explains, ‘It was at this point that I chose to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, carrying out my own business ventures, to date. My current business is a combination of entertainment and essential service provision. I sell movies, both new and classic, which I purchase from distributors for resale to clients. Demand for this was realized on seeing that people undergo a lot of stress in modern society and seek an escape such as watching an appealing movie to relieve their stress. I also charge phones at a fee. With everyone having a smartphone that is always out of charge, I found it essential to provide a secure environment to provide this service. I am also currently running a small cyber cafe, whose demand is growing and prompts me to respond by increasing capacity to satisfy demand. I believe that our increased capacity will give us a platform to have a positive impact on our immediate environment by enlightening the community on basic computer training and the world wide web in general.’

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In his business, Bebe’s typical costs include: rent, staff wages, stock purchases electricity bills, and general maintenance. With his profits, he is able to pay his son’s school fees, help friends and relatives, and help support the children in the village so that they can go to school.

Since Bede is surrounded by technology in his daily work, one of his favorite hobbies is appreciating nature. He loves growing plants and he also has animals as well.

Bede shares the difference that his business has made in the community as he explains to lenders, ‘I am happy to report that our cyber cafe has been a welcome idea in our community whereby we are able to teach some basic computing to many whom we realize do not know how to use a desktop computer yet own smartphones. We are opening up a whole new world for such, and bringing services closer for others.’

So far, in his time with Zidisha, Bede has successfully raised 4 Zidisha funded loans. His first loan of $150 was raised in August 2015 and this loan equipped him with the necessary capital to purchase additional stock of movies. With the remainder of the loan, he shared that he would purchase a sign for better visibility and advertising his business.

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The following year, in 2016, Bede secured his next loan, this time for $298. This time, he hoped that he would be able to pay for repairs on his 7 seater van. Having multiple streams of income, Bede also used his van to transport goods as well as people. With the loan he was able to pay for the following repairs: shock absorbers, suspension bushes, torsion bar, ball joints, tie rod ends, wheel balancing, wheel alignment, and labor costs.

On Jun 11, 2016 Bebe shared his thanks with his lenders, ‘Hi team. I trust that you are all well. As we continue working to better our lives, I wish to thank you so much for the boost.’

By July of 2016, Bede was ready for another loan to make some changes in his business. With $512 from lenders, his first goal was to have his van inspected by the government authorities. After that, he was prepared to set up an office solutions shop. Knowing that there was only one similar shop in the area, he predicted that this would be a great addition to his entrepreneurial arsenal. He hoped to cater to institutions such as hospitals and schools as well as to students. He planned to provide a higher level of service than the competition by being more efficient and adding lamination, binding, typing, printing, and web browsing.

For his fourth Zidisha funded loan, in 2017, Bede was able to raise, $980 from his loyal lenders. He divided the funds between technical items, including a back up power genset, voltage protection, and also branding and advertising materials.

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By April 30, he was excited to share an update with lenders, ‘I apologize for the silence but I have been working on expanding my business recently. After purchase of the photocopier, I witnessed demand for other complimentary services and went for it! I used the profit proceeds from the business and got some financial assistance from my elder brother and managed to start a cyber cafe. I shall send you photos of the set up as it is. We are now able to provide browsing services as well as photo printing services with a new color printer that we also managed to secure during this expansion. We are now up and running with only 3 desktops for the cyber and hope to increase them to 6 within the next 4 months or so as we recover financially. Many thanks as always for your support. I am putting my best efforts towards utilizing the funds in the best way possible to make the most returns for the benefit of my family, employees and society at large.’

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As 2018 came to a close, Bede shared an update and holiday greetings with his lenders, ‘I wish to express my utmost and sincere thanks for all you have done for this Zidisha borrower team. I also wish to report positive growth in my business. I am happy to report that I have grown in terms of customer numbers and therefore employed a young lady to assist. In this way, am happy to have grown personally with my family and also grown my community by employing a youth member, helping her improve her life as well. Forward we move, and my promise to you is diligent use of my loans, now and in the future, for the prosperity of self, family and community at large!’

Would you like to impact another entrepreneur and community like Bede has? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to meet our other inspiring Zidisha business owners!

Boosting Her Income and Her Impact

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Phibi Mwasi describes herself as a ‘hardworking woman with a sharp focus on raising her kids by providing them with a quality education as well as securing their future.’ Born and raised in Taita county, near the coast of Kenya, she received her college education in Mombasa where she studied Hospitality.

After finishing her studies, she got a job working in a transport firm. She continued to work there until 2010 when she quit to pursue livestock farming. She explains, ‘I decided to quit my formal employment to break the monotony of doing routine work day in and day out.’

When she started with Zidisha, she had been in business for 5 years and had purchased a parcel of land with her savings from her previous employment. She first saw the need when she realized that her neighbors were limited to purchasing processed milk which was both expensive and treated with preserving chemicals. Therefore, by providing fresh milk in her community, she would be offering an important solution.

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At the time, her herd consisted of 4 cows, resulting in a monthly income of $650. In addition, her monthly expenses amounted to $350 leaving her with a profit of $300 a month which she used to support her family.

Since then, with the help of Zidisha lenders, Phibi has secured 5 loans ranging from $100 to $823. These loans have been instrumental in allowing her to build and invest in her business. January 2015 was when Phibi raised her first loan of $100. Her purpose for this loan was to buy a water tank to harvest rainwater. The tank would cost around $400, but fortunately, she had already been saving little by little. The $100 from Zidisha lenders would be just what she needed to help fund her project. Phibi explains the project as she shares, ‘I do my farming activity in an area where we experience two rainy seasons which last for about 3 months each. We experience a dry spell in between the seasons and we rely on rain water for our farming since there is not piped water in our homes. We normally buy water from vendors during the dry spells. This makes our operations very expensive and sometimes the vendors supply contaminated water which make the cows sick hence affecting the milk production.’

One of the challenges of entrepreneurship is that as soon as you solve one problem, another one quickly pops up, as was the case for Phibi. Once she had her water tank in place, she needed to turn her attention to her next problem which was feeding the cows during the dry spells. Even though she grew her own hay, it was on a smaller scale than what she needed to feed her cows. Therefore, for her next loan, she approached lenders requesting $187, which she successfully raised to purchase larger quantities of hay to last through the dry spell.

She says, ‘If given this credit, I will be able to buy 3 tonnes of hay for a total price of USD 200. This will last for three months which is enough to cover the dry spell period. By so doing I will save a lot (economy of scale) and ensure continuous feeding of my cows which are my main source of income. Thank you and please support my course.’

As Phibi saw the success of her dairy business, she decided to venture out and try something new. She began by starting a small vegetable garden and then started keeping chickens on a small scale. By April 2016, she was prepared to scale up both of these exciting projects. First, she requested $364 from lenders and used these funds to double her farming area. Second, she used the remainder of the loan to increase her number of chickens from 50 to 200. She humbly shares, ‘This cash injection will go a long way in improving my cash flow which will definitely mean a better life for my family.’

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On April 11, 2016, Phibi proudly shared this update on her discussion board, ‘Through Zidisha loans, I have been able to expand my farming business. Apart from my dairy cows, I have managed to start a vegetable farming and poultry project and both are doing well. Thank you so much for the much needed support.’

By the end of 2016, Phibi was proud of her massive progress in her business. At the time she had 200 chickens and also raised $545 from lenders to increase that number from 200 to 500! She was excited to see this large increase as she found herself with an ever increasing number of buyers.

Her largest loan yet, of $823 was raised in September 2017. At the time she shared, ‘My farming is going on well and I am glad my customers are equally growing exponentially. Demand for dairy and poultry and produce has gone up in recent times due to high growth of the population in my area. To address this demand, I want to lease more land and put it under cultivation. I have identified one acre of land which is not far from my place and this will cost me around USD 600 for three years. I need to use the remaining balance to prepare the land, buy fertilizer and seeds. I want to continue with my horticulture farming since I am well established in this area and there is a high demand for the same.’

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Following this loan, Phibi expressed her appreciation for her lenders and their support as she shared, ‘Thank you lenders for your unwavering support. You have never let me down and similarly I will return the favor by working hard and repaying as scheduled. This loan will enable me expand my farming activities hence boost my income.’

Would you like to impact an entrepreneur like Phibi? Make sure to check out our Browse Projects page to read other stories of our inspiring Zidisha entrepreneurs.

Empowering the Women of Kenya

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Rita Andeyo Enane saw a problem and wanted to be part of the solution! While she had grown up in Western Kenya, she moved to Nairobi as a teenager but still returned to her hometown with her two sons over holidays. She explains, “It always pained me to see how poor folks at home were, yet they had big farms. I desired so much to try and help change their lives.”

Therefore, once her sons finished primary school, she set about to help! She began by resigning from her job and moving back home to create a business in the farming sector. To start, she leased out farms and planted vegetables, cereals, and sugarcane. Then, she would sell what she grew to a middleman.

But, she didn’t stop there. She also reared indigenous chickens and would sell them to hotels in towns nearby. Rita shares a fun memory that, ‘They actually came to my village to buy the chicken and vegetables in their hotel cars and this surprised folks at home. Slowly I encouraged them to keep chicken and plant vegetables for cash and not only subsistence. My dream has always been to create employment and empower the rural woman.”

Now, Rita is currently living out her dream of creating jobs as she has 1 permanent employee and 4 part-time workers. She explains, “The journey has been tough, not to mention fighting tradition and illiteracy, but the struggle continues. Financing from banks has been depressing and I believe Zidisha community will help me continue to put smiles on my village folk faces and myself.”

Currently in her business, Rita is farming sugarcane, beans, and vegetables. In addition, the chickens that she raises are used for both meat and eggs. She shares that, “Chicken is a delicacy in western Kenya and is the main meal cooked for an important guest. Eggs are a cheap source of food.”

Rita continues to find success with chicken as it’s a faster source of income compared to sugarcane, beans, and vegetables, which are seasonal. Eventually, she hopes to purchase her own incubator!

Even though Rita is relatively new to the Zidisha community, she is already making big strides! In November and December, she was able to raise 3 Zidisha funded loans ranging from $1 to $41. Her first loan of $1 and her second loan of $19 were both used to purchase nipple drinkers for her chickens. This would help to reduce water contamination and prevent diseases. She also explains that refilling water drinkers can be hectic.

A month later, in December 2018, she raised her third loan, this time for $41. This loan allowed her to buy PVC pipes and a tank to create her new water system. Rita describes the importance of this as she shares, “With a good water system in place, my profits will increase because I will cut down on money spent on treating chicken. The coop remains clean, dry and hygienic hence minimum spread of diseases.”

On December 6, Rita shared this inspiring update on her discussion page, “You have really given me hope in my business. It’s good to know there are great people standing with me. From my profits I had ordered some fifty 1 day old chicks which came in on the 1st. They are now 6 days old and doing great. The festive season has kind of began here and kukus (chickens) are in high demand. Thanks so much Paul and the entire Zidisha community for your great support.”

Through her partnership with Zidisha lenders, Rita has been able to alleviate so many of her previous concerns about the spread of diseases and clean conditions. With the extra hours that she has gained, rather than cleaning and changing water, she is now able to devote more time marketing her business and improving her farm.

Would you like to make a difference in the life of a female entrepreneur like Rita? Make sure to check out our Browse Projects page to read about other inspiring business owners.

Making an Impact in the Mobile Money Business

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Elinam Sekya has a work ethic that has gotten her far in life! Growing up as the youngest of seven children and raised by a single parent, college and a good job were not guarantees. As a child she helped her mother sell clothing and footwear to earn extra money for the family. While it didn’t come easily, Elinam was able to attend and graduate from the University of Ghana and obtained a degree in Psychology and Information Studies.

After completing her university studies and her national service, she was ready to start working. However, unable to obtain a permanent job, she decided to try out entrepreneurship as she shares with the Zidisha community, ‘I am very grateful to you for your support. With your help, I am doing my own business which otherwise would be difficult for me to start. Not being a salary worker, obtaining a loan from the banks is difficult.’

Elinam runs a mobile money business which includes deposits, cash withdrawals, and calling cards. Now, in addition to being a business owner, Elinam is also a wife and mother of two children, a boy and a girl. Her firstborn would like to be a nurse someday when she grows up and her son dreams of becoming a lawyer.

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So far, in her two years with Zidisha, Elinam has raised 5 loans, with the help of Zidisha lenders. She used her first two loans in January and May 2017 of $95 and $143 to get started and to then increase her capital. Her business center is conveniently located near a high school which has a population of around 5,000. She explains, ‘Currently I offer mobile money service to just a few of the students. The community also benefit from this service. Parents in the community receive money from their children, through mobile money.’

As business continued to grow, Elinam requested her third Zidisha funded loan in September 2017 for $204. This was used to have additional money on hand in her mobile money business. As people in her city became increasingly interested in mobile transfers of money, Elinam found that she was in the right business at the right time.

By March of 2018, Elinam was ready to make a big change, and hoped that her Zidisha lenders would be ready to help with a $393 loan! She shares, ‘My business has reached a point where I needed to expand into a wholesale of recharge cards alongside the Mobile Money since customers demand for this recharge cards is increasing. Other sales guys has also be informed of this decision to make it was easy for penetration into the market. I therefore humbly appeal to aid me in funding this loan for a good cause. Thank you.’

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Most recently, in November 2018, she was ready to expand again with a $399 Zidisha funded loan as she found the demand larger than what she could provide. This loan was used to purchase MTN Call Cards, Vodafone Call Cards, Tigoairtel Call Cards, and Mobile money. Elinam explains the importance of offering these services to her customers as she explains, ‘Clients buy Sim Cards of various network like MTN, Vodafon and Tigo to communicate with loved ones. They also register for Mobile Money account to access Mobile Money services. With the Scratch cards, clients top up their phones to stay connected with family and friends. Am very grateful to you all, stay blessed.’

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For Elinam, being a part of the Zidisha community has truly transformed her life as she shares with lenders, ‘Zidisha loans are a savior to me and my family. Having completed university without getting a job after completing national service, it’s through Zidisha loans I’m able to start my own business of selling call cards, mobile money, transfer of credit. I’m able to support my husband pay for the bills, pay the children school fees and put food on the family table. Always grateful and thankful to Team Zidisha and to all lenders for your show of love and care. God richly bless you all.’

Would you like to empower another Zidisha entrepreneur like Elinam? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to learn more!


Viewing the World Through a New Lens

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Hezron Mwangi grew up in Nyahururu, Laikipia West County, Kenya, with his mother and three sisters. He shares that his childhood was not easy as he watched his mother struggle to support her children and send them to school. Because he was the only son and the eldest child, he was forced to start working right after high school to help support his family. After lots of saving and working in casinos, he was able to put himself through college where he earned a degree in Graphics Design.

He shares, ‘As fate would have it, I later got a job opportunity in Juba, South Sudan as a graphics designer. Unfortunately, I was forced to come back to Kenya after chaos broke out in the country. Amidst my struggles to establish myself in Nairobi, I met a former high school friend who introduced me into the world of photography.’

Hezron now has a freelance photography business where he attends events throughout the country. In addition, on Sunday’s, he works at his local church where he takes photos after the service. He also works a variety of events from burials, weddings, and school graduations. In a single month he is able to earn about Kshs. 30,000 from his business which allows him to support his household, his daughter, and paying school fees for his younger sister.

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So far, Hezron has been able to raise 6 Zidisha funded loans with the help of lenders ranging from his first loan of $16 to his most recent of $2,445.

With his first $16 loan in January 2017, Hezron was ready to prepare for an upcoming event that he would be working. He used $6 of the loan to purchase photo papers and the remaining $10 to print some banners. He expected to make about $80 at the event. However, he would need to subtract his expenses of transport ($7), Revenue fee ($5), Assistant ($10), Photo Paper and Banners ($16). This meant that his total expenses added up to $37, leaving him with a final profit of $42. He shares, ‘This profit will enable me run my day to day household operations as well as support my daughter’s financial needs.’

A few months later, Hezron reached out to lenders for his second Zidisha funded loan, requesting, $338. Because he runs a photography business, Hezron really wanted to upgrade his camera to a good DSLR camera. He hoped to purchase the Canon D70 model and also wanted to buy a 32GB SDG card.

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By July 2017, Hezron was ready for his next Zidisha loan of $512. He shares, ‘I intend to open a new branch for my Mediart Business which is a printing business dealing with online services delivery, general printing, graphic design, photocopy services, stationery supplies etc. The branch will be located at race course road Nairobi. The loan will help me venture into new opportunities.’

As he continued to grow and expand in his business, Hezron was ready for another Zidisha funded loan. In September 2017, he requested $1,366 from lenders in order to purchase a digital printing machine. He knew that this would allow him to help diversify his offerings.

In April of 2018, he requested his next Zidisha funded loan of $1,747 and shared with lenders, ‘With printing and cyber business gaining a lot of relevance in the Kenyan market, I have gained a reliable customer base in the heart of Nairobi city. There is a need to process their jobs faster and more efficiently if I am to maintain them. With this in my mind I will need a digital printer Konica Minolta – Bizhub C280 and an extra Epson photo printer model T50 to process print jobs and photographs. The cost is broken down as follows, Purchasing digital printer, Konica Minolta Bizhub C280 $1750 and Purchasing an Epson Photo Printer model T50 $290, I will top up the money I receive from Zidisha with my savings to enable me to meet the purchasing cost.’

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Hezron felt that by purchasing these two printers he would be better able to meet the needs of his customers and also increase his profits. This would allow him to do less outsourcing than he had in the past.

Most recently, in November, Hezron raised his sixth Zidisha funded loan, for $2,445. At this point, Hezron is looking to better his workflow and use high quality products. As a result, with this loan, he planned to purchase a new camera, specifically the Nikon D850 full frame camera which would cost $1,600 and extra batteries, and a camera lens amounting to $700.

On November 28, Hezron wished to show his gratitude to his Zidisha lenders as he shared on his discussion page, ‘Hello my lenders, I take this chance to thank you for being with me this far, the sky is the limit for me. I have managed to acquire new machinery and more to maintain the running capital of my Photography and Printing Business ensuring that the business is smooth. I thank my lenders for believing in me.’

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Would you like to empower another entrepreneur like Hezron? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read the stories of our other inspiring business owners.

8 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from Tech Startups

Guest post by Rohit Mittal, cofounder and CEO of Stilt

Small businesses are the lifeblood of a growing economy, and they are popping up faster than ever. Whether it is a stay-at-home mom running her own business out of the family basement or a local grocer opening up a shop–small businesses are a big part of the economy.

More often than not, though, small business owners do not see the overlap with their businesses and tech startups. Your hand-made clothing business feels worlds away from Silicon Valley. You operate in different markets and face vastly different challenges, so what can you possibly learn from them?

Quite a lot, actually.

Basic business principles can be applied to any business, no matter where you are or what services you offer. Just because you greet your customers by hand and know them by name, it doesn’t mean your business can’t be built on the same business practices as tech startups.

Let’s take a look at some of the lessons you as a small business owner can learn from tech startups.

1. Learn from Other’s Mistakes

Learning from other people’s mistakes is one of the ways startups ensure they stay ahead of the game and are always moving forward. Your business, market, and niche may be unique, but the mistakes you’re likely to make are more common than you’d think.

If someone else has already learned a lesson the hard way, there is no need for you to do the same.

In the modern world, business resources are all around us–from blogs to video tutorials to books. Business owners share their advice on how to go about building a successful business, what they’ve learned, and things you should avoid–and a lot of it is out there for free.

The basic lessons available in these resources aren’t only applicable to startups, but all businesses, big and small. So dive in and make learning your new sport.

2. Don’t Worry About Perfect

All business owners want the same thing: for their business to be the best it can be. For it to be perfect. Unfortunately, the desire to launch the perfect business is what stops most would-be business owners from ever getting started.

Seeking perfection will lead to you over analyzing every situation and outcome, ever business decision. In the end, rather than building a successful business, you’ll find yourself crippled by perfectionism.

This is called analysis paralysis.”

To prevent analysis paralysis, startups use the “lean” approach to building business and make use of “minimum viable products”. Rather than waiting for a product to be perfect, a startup will build the best possible version of the product with the means it has, and launch with that.

If your product isn’t perfect, but it’s great, you can always continue to improve. Stilt (a Y Combinator backed fintech company) launched their product the same day their company was registered.

This is a great method to apply in your business whether you are launching, or planning new expansions or avenues. Don’t get stuck in the details. Rather, make it happen and continue to improve as you go.

3. Develop and Know Your Business Model

Most founders of successful startups suggest that you should not look for investors, do market research, or even design your website before you have a basic business model in place. You need to know what problem your business will be solving and how you’ll be solving it before you go any further.

Your business model is the blueprint of your business. In it, you identify your sources of income, your revenue model, your market, your customer base, the details of financing, and so forth.

So, how do you develop a business model?

There are great resources out there, like Business Model Canvas, that will help you step by step in creating your blueprint for your business.

And #2 applies here as well–your business model doesn’t need to be perfect before you launch. A simple, working business model is enough to start.

4. Stay on Top of Your Finances

Finances are the oil that keeps the machinery of your business running smoothly. If you’ve set up systems to do your financial recording and to keep your books in order, you’ll have more time to focus on other important aspects of growing your business.

Luckily, if numbers aren’t your strong suit and you can’t afford a top-notch accountant, you don’t have to worry. Most startups utilize simple-to-use, inexpensive accounting software to do their books and you can, too.

We’ll take a closer look at some software solutions available below, but, the point is, having your finances in order is really important. Nothing kills a business quicker than mismanaged books. It’ll cost you a lot of time and money to get the books in order, so make it a point to keep them in order straight from the start.

5. Adopt Software to Become More Efficient

Any worthwhile tech startup is using software to streamline its processes and tasks. Software is a tool that helps to automate the tasks associated with your business, freeing you up to work on other, less menial aspects of the business.

As we explained above, accounting is one area where software is a great business solution. Zoho Books is a prime example of this.

Zoho Books is a simple, subscription-based accounting software that has all the features you need to keep your small business books in order without having to pay a hefty fee. Zoho Books links with your bank accounts to keep track of your transactions and can also help you create and send invoices. Which means you’ll keep track of them more efficiently.

Not exactly what you are looking for? There are many other options, like FreshBooks and Waves App out there, too. Some are even free.

Using software to streamline basic tasks and processes in your business will save time and allow you to focus on what is most important–growing the business. If you have an online presence, think about using online-chat tools like Zopim to interact with your customers. E.g. When a new user comes to Stilt, they are greeted by a live customer support agent and are available to answer questions.

6. Seek Out and Welcome Feedback

Feedback is one of, if not the most crucial tool needed for your small business to grow. And it’s not just a one-time thing–we mean consistent feedback from different groups of people at different stages of business growth.

No one starting a tech startup knows everything about building a business. That’s why startup employees–whether they’re the CEO or the marketing guy–rely on feedback from more knowledgeable people.

If a small tech startup needs to improve its website’s store, the CEO might sit down with an expert website designer, eCommerce expert, or even another startup CEO who’s had the same problem in the past. The benefit here is that, rather than a constant process or trial and error, you can walk away from a conversation with the distilled information and feedback you need to improve your website.

This ties back to #1–learn from others’ mistakes. You might be considering a way to grow your business that someone else has already tried. Someone who’s been down that road already can give you insight on what may actually work, instead, and you can save time and money.

But this kind of valuable insight only comes from seeking feedback.

An obvious place to get feedback from is other people operating in your field and niche, especially those who have also started their own businesses. You can also ask people you respect for honest feedback. You’d be surprised how open people are to give their input if they see you only want a little time.

7. Become Data Driven

Better decision making makes for a better business. And in the 21st Century, it’s easier than ever to make good business decisions by becoming data-driven.

Data-driven decision making, in short, is using data to make better business decisions. This method of decision making has changed the way businesses, both big and small, operate around the world, saving them time, money, and improving how efficiently they operate.

But how do you get started?

The first step to becoming a data-driven decision maker is figuring out what aspects of your business you want to improve.

Once you’ve figured out where you can improve, you need to decide what data is important to look at to understand how to make improvements.

For example, say you want to improve in the way you order feed for the chickens you sell. You order six bags of feed every three months for your chickens, and some of it always ends up spoiling before it’s used.

Now that you’d identified the problem that needs solving, you can gather the necessary data to make a better decision.

At the end of three months, you would weigh the spoiled feed and purchase that much less next time and save money by not throwing it away on feed that will go bad before it can be used.

With this data, you can also understand how much feed a single chicken requires and scale your ordering up to account for more chickens if you want to grow your business.

Now, this is a simple example, but it illustrates clearly how making data-driven decisions can improve and help grow a small business. All you have to do identify a problem, ask the right questions and collect the data.

8. Test Your Market

Even with all your planning and preparation, there are some insights you’ll never know with experimenting. But it can be risky (and expensive) to launch a new product or expand your business.

One technique startups use to negate some of that risk is to do what’s called a “soft launch.” With a soft launch, you expose your business to a small group of customers or clients who you can easily engage with and get feedback from.

Then, you can use the data collected from the soft launch to readjust your business plan and projections.

This principle can apply to any industry, too–even a neighborhood grocery store. Say you want to offer a new brand of bread, but you aren’t sure how your customers will take to it. Rather than making a bulk order, you can order a few loaves, see how well it sells and how the customers are reacting to it, and then adjust your orders accordingly in the future. If they love it, order more. If they hate it, move on to the next offering.

The biggest questions you’re looking to answer when testing your market are:

  • Is the customer experience positive?
  • Is there room to improve the product?
  • Are the customers willing to pay for the product?

The benefits of a soft launch are that you get feedback and insights into how a product will perform without a time-consuming and expensive full-scale launch and you can use that data to adjust your plans if need be.

Whether you are the owner of the groundbreaking startup or you run a small business from your home, the principles discussed above will help improve and grow your business. And these are all things you can start doing for your business today! So what are you waiting for?

Have you tried some of these tips and have some feedback? Or do you have a few extra tips you want to share? Drop us a comment below and share your thoughts!

Bio: Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Stilt is a fintech company focused on improving access to credit for immigrants and the underserved. The core mission of Stilt is to improve financial inclusion and help people live financially healthy lives who are shut out by the current financial system.