Headline article image 11 entrepreneurs share the advice they wish they'd known

11 entrepreneurs share the advice they wish they'd known

Need inspiration? We asked successful entrepreneurs about the lessons they wished they had known when starting their business.

Get a bookkeeper sooner 

“I took on a bookkeeper about 2.5 years after I started my business, and I wish I had done it sooner. For the longest time I tried to do everything myself - partly to save money and partly because I love to continuously learn. 

But I’ve learned that the DIY approach doesn’t always save money. For example, it took me four or five times as long as a bookkeeper to do the accounts. It’s better to ‘get over yourself’ and outsource to brilliant minds - otherwise you’ll end up paying in time and quality.

Another area I believe in investing in? Self and professional development. I see my mentor regularly, and he really gives me clarity and direction.”

Rumbie Mutsiwa, Rumbie & Co.

Work hard – but take care of yourself

People will probably tell you, ‘You’re too much’. When you’re [working hard] with tunnel vision, they’ll observe everything you’re doing, and be negative about it. They’ll say, “You’ll get burn out”, “I don’t get how you do it all” or “Calm down”.

“Ignore them and listen to yourself and how you really feel. If you want to work in your spare time, then work. Don’t let anyone else make you feel bad for working towards your dreams. Having said that, if you have a spare hour and you feel low on energy, take a bath, watch Netflix – whatever you need to do to recalibrate.”

Keely Parsons, Sassy Shop Wax

Build a website that converts  

“Most of your website visitors want to buy from you. However, there are likely a number of points in the user journey which is stopping them. UX (User experience), design, copywriting and your checkout all have a major part to play on conversion rate. Invest as much as you possibly can into CRO (conversion rate optimization) and prioritize this before you attempt to run paid traffic. “

James Bellis, Balance Coffee 

Be yourself 

“My whole life, people have wanted to tone me down, and then I realized being bold was my super-power.

Let your personality shine through your work. If you embrace who you are and what you love in your business, you will always stand out and be unique."

Dani Nagel, Dazey LA

Ask questions

“The one piece of advice I wish I’d had from the get-go is: don’t be afraid of asking questions, reaching out to people and connecting with people outside of your network. 

“It's amazing the opportunities that can arise by building your network and asking questions, you never know what the answer will be! Whether it's someone you look up to in your industry, a potential business partner or a collaboration, you never know what will come of it.”

Robbie Ball – Uncle Jack watches and Athletikan

Watch your cashflow

"The biggest lesson I’ve learnt along the way is keeping tabs on cashflow - check it regularly (not just every six months!) and be conservative in your forecasts. The fashion industry is notorious for fluctuation, and it’s important to have space to accommodate that.

"Plus, you need to set aside enough for growth - so that you’re ready to pivot strategy ASAP. You need a strong and structured way of working, to give flexibility to change and test ideas quickly, and thoughtfully. 

"I really credit a strong focus on cashflow with keeping us on track during times that could have otherwise been really damaging for the business."

Elisabeth Harvey, NICO 

Reframe failing

"I've learned over the years that to grow your business you can't be afraid to try new things. Not everything you do will work and that's ok. Repeat after me: "It's ok to fail." 

"Because when you fail - you learn. Just pick yourself up, apply the knowledge you've gained and move forward - just never go backwards - go forward in a slightly different direction."

Dale McCarthy, Bondi Born

Hire for your weaknesses

“I recommend hiring for your weaknesses right away. Hire for skill not pedigree. Don't hire someone just because they worked at a big-name company. Hire the person that shows they can get the job done and add value.

'Once you’ve recruited them, set monthly/quarterly/ yearly KPIs for each team member so they know what they are optimizing for." 

Olamide Olowe, Topicals skincare 

Don’t skimp on photography 

“As an e-commerce business, content is everything to us as it shows our customers our product. In the early days of the business we paid a lot of money to shoot content, including a three-day e-commerce shoot to photograph every color of each product SKU. Unfortunately, they didn’t nail the lighting and the colors looked fake.

"My advice is to hire a trusted photographer and stylist; creatives with runs on the board. I’d also advise having a session beforehand to discuss examples that you like and don’t like, and to draw up a clear shot list, too. 

"Overall, I’d say, just give it your all. It doesn’t matter if you fail as there is always tomorrow. It’s amazing to watch something grow from scratch, building it yourself! Worth every piece of fear!”

Georgie Cavanagh, Carlotta and Gee

Seek advice from mentors

“I have found throughout my entire business career that if you discuss any business idea with friends and family, they will give you a dozen reasons why it’s a bad idea and how you will lose your money.

“They’ll say: “You’ll waste your time”, “There’s too much competition”, “The economy looks challenging”, “COVID-19”... The real reason is that they are projecting their own fears on to your business concept - not offering a sound appraisal.

“Trust your intuition, but also find a truly successful business mentor to help guide your decision making. They will critique your idea and challenge your concepts in a useful way, having been in your shoes previously.”

Rob Arnold, Simply Bike Stuff

If in doubt: outsource

Do not underestimate the value of time - your time is your greatest asset.

"I would say to really invest your time wisely, if you don’t have that ability, find someone to help you with those types of things. Don’t bother learning how to code a website if you don’t know how to do it; hire experts in the fields in which you’re not equipped.”

Ava Matthews, Ultra Violette 

You can’t do it alone

“Business is not a sole venture, not one person knows or can do it all. It takes a team, a community. My advice is to build a culture of empathy within your business. Be flexible, be kind, move with purpose, don’t overthink things, and make decisions that feel right for your team and the community you serve."

Ted Vadakan, Poketo

Discover the power of partnerships

"Something I wish I had focused more on when I first started was the power of partnerships and collaborations. I thought we were 'too new' and 'too small' and that no one would want to partner with us. In fact collaborations are a relatively cheap and easy way to grow your customer base and increase brand recognition - something I wish we started doing earlier. 

"When picking the perfect partner, your industries don't necessarily need to align, but your values, ethos and target market should. Be bold and don't be afraid to send a cold pitch to a brand explaining how you envision the partnership working and keep following up and chasing them until you get a response. 

"Aside from that? My biggest piece of advice would be to just do it! I am a perfectionist and when I first started out, I was so concerned about everything being perfect, beautiful and seamless. In hindsight, I wish I'd been less hesitant and just jumped right in!" 

Lottie Dalziel, Banish


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