Happy Birthday to Me!
Friday, April 26, 2013 at 08:36AM
Deepali Nangia

April 27th 2013:  It is one year today since I was reborn and reinvented myself as an entrepreneur with Empower (www.empowerbizsupport.com), a consultancy focusing on providing business support to women and charities.  I am so guilty of getting so caught up in the doing, that I decided to do some thinking.  What worked well in the past year, what didn’t, what should I do more of, what less of – at the end of the day, similar to corporates, I need to make sure that the way I run my business is efficient and measurable.  How I acquire customers, how effective are these channels in terms of cost and conversion, how I should price my services, how happy are my customers and am I meeting my financial targets? What are my goals for next year and how am I going to get there?  After a significant amount of thinking, I decide to diarize my learnings from my first full year as an entrepreneur.

What I initially struggled with, what is termed in the corporate world as pricing of services.  Also otherwise knowing the correct price to charge a client? My target market being entrepreneurs and charities gave me no real benchmarks to compare against.  I did not want to over charge given my ultimate goal of social upliftment but I also did not want to give my service away for free.  Giving it away for free not only de-valued myself but I also felt that clients who were the recipient of such services put in little effort into the engagement.  I did some thinking and over time began to bifurcate my market – I charged a rate for charities and a separate rate for private clients.  However, over the year, I continued to do pro bono work for clients that deserved such support.  I experimented with price incentives such as free first-time consults, special promotions with organizations I wanted to support and a slightly discounted rate for longer term client engagements. 

Over the course of the year, I needed to give some thought to my sales funnel and customer conversion rates.  I placed an ad on a website, joined a Women’s group, was regularly going to networking events and even took a stand at a women’s only event.  My funds were limited and I had to measure client acquisition through various channels versus the cost of these channels.  While I need to take a longer-term view and expense some cost in relation to brand building, similar to other entrepreneurs, my marketing funds were limited.  I learned very quickly that getting yourself out there is key.  I began with meeting everyone and for lack of a better phrase, their mother!!  Being social by nature obviously helped the cause.  When people referred me to others, I always made an effort to follow up diligently, whether or not that contact was going to bring in any immediate work.  I also learned that word of mouth (specific note to self:  it is FREE) has been my most effective customer acquisition channel.  So here’s a big thank-you to my friends, clients and others in my network, who have helped me a lot by referring women that I might be able to assist.  Looking forward, I still have a fair amount of work to do which includes spending more time on unexplored channels such as freelance associations, partnerships with organizations that have a similar goal of social upliftment, conferences and increased social media presence.  

As the year progressed and I did more work, I needed to make sure that I was building a trading history. I needed regular customer feedback to ensure I was providing quality service.  I also wanted to make sure I regularly captured this feedback for my website, asked for Linked-in recommendations and make sure I shared these on my social media pages.  While I had little time for admin matters and no assistance with it (I created and manage my own website), I took time out on holidays and weekends to do this!  I would definitely encourage everyone to do this.  No feedback is little enough and it never hurts to ask – getting turned down is the worst that can happen. 

Lastly, and most importantly was I meeting my financial targets? Give the caveat that every business takes time to build, I still had financial targets in my business plan that I had to meet.  Was I setting realistic targets?  My initial target was believe it or not to be able to pay my babysitter – I needed to take baby steps with the big picture in mind.  Over the months as my charging model sorted itself out so did my financial targets.  I tried not to let daily disappointments bother me as much and I continued to believe that if I do my best at something I am passionate about, the results will follow suit. 

To top all this learning, over the year, I met many successful entrepreneurs and many women who are gearing up to start new businesses.  This past Easter, I finally managed to create the Empowered Club (http://www.empowerbizsupport.com/the-empowered-club/), a directory of successful women entrepreneurs who could assist others with all aspects of their business outside of my expertise – legal, accounting, PR, marketing etc. as well as their personal needs (health & well-being, food & nutrition, motherhood etc.).  I worked on many interesting projects and while working on these, learned about industries such as health & fitness, nutrition, jewellery, the arts and more.  I am not sure I have managed to spend more time with my children since I work twice as hard as I did in a corporate job but I definitely have more flexibility to work around them now. 

Twelve months later, I feel more “Empowered” and can stand tall and proudly wish myself a Happy Birthday!! 

 

You can also read this blog on http://www.workingmums.co.uk/working-mums-magazine/blog/diary-of-a-mumpreneur/6880718/happy-birthday-to-me.thtml

Article originally appeared on Empower (http://empowerbizsupport.co.uk/).
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