She’s got a great business idea out of her culinary skills. While most of us keep defaulting to already existent menu templates to prepare special dishes especially for special occasions, she has the gift of coming up with unique recipes that are based on the actual tastes of an individual.
Lisa (not real name) has been at this game on a voluntary basis for some years now. Friends and family all tell her how marvelous she is at coming up with unique surprise recipes. At the same time, she has always been bothered by the fact that she has no ‘side hussle‘ (personal business) she can call her own or even fall back to in the event of being relieved of her job. Eventually she figured out that instead of trying out what she didn’t know like; setting up a baby clothing shop, operating a Mobile Money outlet and Events Decoration, she was better off doing something that came easy with her and that she loved from first principles.
She then begun prospecting the market and trying to find out what clientele base lay out there. She talked to some people and while they found the idea interesting, there was no ‘effective demand’ generated. She needed to get people to start paying for her services if this business idea was to make sense. That’s when she came for advice.
After a detailed discussion, her key challenges lay in two areas;
Reaching out to a wider base of potential customers
Getting people to actually pay for her services
Reaching out to a wider base of potential customers seemed such an uphill task considering that she had been trapped in the traditional mindset of customer acquisition. She complained of lack of money to market herself at events e.g. through printing fliers and the word of mouth approach wasn’t yielding the expected results. This is when I probed her presence on Social Media and how much impact it has on her and her community of friends. To my surprise, she turned out to be an avid Social Media user with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram taking the lion’s share of her time. With over 7000 followers/friends across the three networks, she had such a rich resource to tap into. When we reviewed her communication, it was always responded to by the friends/followers. Unfortunately, she had never imagined Social Media to be a business tool for her nascent business idea. My advice to her was to utilise this network of friends online and start tickling their interest through a number of different approaches aimed at suiting the different networks. Instagram for example would be good for her to profile photos of her prepared foods while Facebook can be used to generate discussions on her recipes and even highlight some of her satisfied customers.
Then came the challenge of getting people to pay for her services. Changing from a pro bono arrangement of service offering to a paid one is always a challenge since it has a lot to do with mindsets of the people. On this one, following a lot of debate, we agreed that among others she’s going to have to do the following:
Brand herself in line with the service she wants to offer. This she can do through physical networking with people, talking about what she does, carefully crafting posts for her online community aimed at promoting her new found brand among others.
Opening up a blog that she can use to share some recipes with the rest of the world as well as stories of how she has approached various requests for her services and how things turned out.
Client Recommendations. She can seek these recommendations from those she has already offered services and profile them on her blog, and through her other social media outlets like Facebook.
Formalising of her communication to potential clients. Verbal or carelessly written communication has a way it doesn’t elicit the right responses from potential clients. There is a need to make it formal and straight forward in order to show that you’ve got what it takes. The middle class who seem to be the major target of her business dwells a lot on formality.
Are you out there procrastinating over a business idea and thinking you might not have customers? The customers are always there. You just need to look around you. From family, to friends and eventually to the unknown people out there, you can grow your idea into a business that thrives.
I did the same for my Silver Fish (Mukene) business which started off by providing the products to my brothers, sisters, aunties, cousins and friends only to later get into the supermarkets after perfecting. We’ve now been at it for Six years.
Wake up / Zukuka !!!