It started with a bling thought! The day I have decided I need to have my own business was the same bad day at work, where I felt I was not happy and I hated my job. I wanted to quit my job few times and I have not found a reason to do so unless I have a business. The feeling I felt during that time drove me to look for something to start with. The thing I was obsessed with at that period of my life is having my own SPA. It was a dream of mine or at least what I have believed at that time. So, I thought of starting with baby steps as they have always said, something which I have said over and over, but never really felt it or understand it. I read an article once called, “The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps”. One of its main outlines was: Being patient is the key to achieve your goals. Therefore, I wanted to start my SPA with baby steps and I have decided to have my cosmetics brand first, then I would definitely open my own place. I believed that If I chose a successful brand to start the SPA with it will be a good shot. And here was the mistake and wrong calculation.
When I chose the beauty brand, I did it based on my personal experiment of the products. I have always believed in the effectivity of organic and natural ingredient and that was enough for me to pick this brand and have it as a key of success for my future SPA. Then, I started big and I asked for a franchise. The word itself is big and wide. I negotiated the contract with the desired brand for 15 days only, which was not enough to make this big decision. On 11th of October 2015, I signed the contract which I have read many times to make sure that all the things I have discussed with my lawyer is already written and approved without thinking it through and absorbing it.
Here, I got my first mistake. I chose the brand based on experimenting only two products from their line. Then I thought of bring it in my country under my name. In fact, franchise means that I will not have any decision or control of the brand packaging, ingredient or any major improvements. Because I do not own the brand but I only use its name in my country and not much more as I thought. It was a major mistake to start with and it was not easy as well. Also, that was an indicator that I will have a rough road ahead of me. The contract was very demanding as it should be and I was an individual dreamer rich, not with money but with enthusiasm. The first step I did after signing the contract was searching for a place. This place will be my main shop so it has to be with a certain criteria’s, such as having it inside a big mall and with a specific measurement to both shop and mall. The journey of searching for the right place was not easy at all.
And that was a very risky situation. I have contacted all the big malls and discovered that there is a waiting list and I should wait for my turn which could take a year and that was very shocking to me! I was thinking how can I wait for a year and I have already signed the contract to start the business within a month and here I would highlight my second mistake. Because if I have ensured that the contract could start after a year of signing it, then I would have time to find the right place according to the agreement. What I have done is I found a mall which was below the standards and the desired brand requested to have pictures of the mall to match it with the criteria in the agreement. At first, they were not totally convinced but I managed to negotiate and get the approval to proceed with it. At that time, I thought I have saved a good amount of money by having this shop half the price of the other shops I found before which were very expensive and above my budget. In fact, that was not a good move and it was a mistake which caused me a lot. I have not thought of the customers who are shopping at this chosen mall and how they were not my target. So, that was the third major ingredient for my recipe of disaster.
Not having a clear idea whom my targeted customers had cost me to fail. That led me to a different direction in the market by shifting my targeted customers. Thereby, I undervalued the brand which made me floundering in the market and that was confusing to me and to the customers. I learned that being stable in the market and building your grounds is the first step you should think of. During that business experience I have changed my targeted customers without recognizing it. I have shifted from targeting individuals to salons and beauty centers and that was a mistake I made, because the products are designed for individuals. Therefore, they come in small packages and containers and I am selling it to a large Beauty centers and that what I meant by having no control on the product.
I have entered this business alone and I do not have a partner nor a mentor to look up to or even consolidate through this journey. This mistake has cost me time, money and energy. My mom was the only reason I was able to go through this. Despite her lacking the experience, she was the one who designed my shop to be same as the agreed one in the contract to match the exact main shop abroad. Also, she is the one who was running around to get the governmental approvals and the license of the shop. My Mom was the only asset I had in my whole business experience. Having a partner is not only having someone to help you but having a person who shares the same dream, same goal, but different background and experience and that is how it should be in my case. With your partner, you can split and divide the tasks as well as the money. My financial plan or my budget was my biggest challenge. I had a bank loan and it was a very large amount and I chose this method based on what is the maximum amount I can have. It was not based on a search or a feasibility study in order to understand what is the right amount I should start with. Maybe there is no right or wrong amount but at least this will show me an indicator if I am on the right track or not.
I should have searched for the fund of the business differently. Whether it is with an investor, a partner or even different companies that can provide loans with less benefits than the heavy bank loans. The financial plan was not studied or correctly planned. My main focus of this business was not how to manage my finance but what was the market plan and only the market plan. The mistake I did that I started by hosting a famous influencer to try a few products of mine and advertise it in her social media by sharing her personal experience to the public which was beneficial for a small period of time. But as soon as this influencer talks about a totally different products, all of the followers will forget about your product and focus on the new hit. This wasn’t the correct marketing technique I should start with.
Coming to this point I would shed the light that during my marketing plan, I have not thought deeply on who were my competitors. They were big international brands and they have been in the market for many years and they are targeting the same customers. The thing that will help you to shine and have your business recognized among your competitors is knowing your added value and, in my case, I believed that having organic and natural products was my advantage value. But if you think about it, many brands have presented an organic line in their line with a great price. The added value can be more than one, it can be one magical ingredient that you have used in most of the products or it can be the affordable prices or even a social cause you believe in. You just need to think of what you really believe in and then this powerful tool you have can be turned into an advantage. In business, you need to think ahead always, Explore the market continuously and look for what is new and not be overwhelmed to the point that make you the last one in the race. Yes, it is a race! The market is changing fast and you have to cope with it and always be ahead.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced was the shipping plan. To ship a large number of products from the other side of the world can be a bit difficult. Having a plan and study all the shipping methods is a must, along with the shipping companies and start comparing the prices, the quality and more importantly what is suitable for you should be considered. Also, consider the best quality shipping method. It’s okay to spend some money to test few methods and then decide based on the quality, time of delivery and prices. Remember the three Ps: People, Process and Profit. You have to achieve all the three to make your business successful. They need to be equal and you can't weight one in importance and leave the others.
Shipping has always cost me because I have not decided on one method. I found that Air shipping is the most difficult one where it is time consuming along with the bad quality. My products got exposed and damaged through the process which cost me more than what I have expected. One incident happened to me, I was waiting to receive my shipment and I did not agree on what shipping method I preferred and I have already given my decision to the brand company to choose and send me the goods. My major concern was just when I will get the goods not caring on how it will be delivered. So, they have decided to ship the goods by air and here comes the trouble. I have waited to receive a message that my shipment has arrived for more than two weeks and then when I went to get the shipment the process was not smooth as well. I have been going back and forth for a week to the airport and the flaw was that I haven’t considered that the Air shipping will have a different clearance customs documents not as same as shipping through the port. This mistake had cost me money and time. If I had chosen the right method this will never happen, but yet again, what doesn’t kill you make you stronger.
Having a network can be both ways. It is either through the business you will be lucky to meet a lot of people and build a strong connection with others in the same field or you can start by having a strong basic of connection and network that can help you to reach your goal faster. Having a great network before starting your business is really important and it is a way of marketing for your business. For instance, if you know someone in the events field, they can help you to be notified of all the events that could make you recognized and reach a large database of clients. One of the networking blessings, I have someone who worked in the port of the customs clearness this has been always a benefit which guaranteed receiving my shipment at the right time and not getting it exposed nor damaged. Never ever underestimate any connection you might have because you never know when and how can they help you or even facilitate the road for you to succeeded. An HR consultant MR. Mahmoud Khan always said to me: Networking is what helped him to open a business of the HR Consultancy Company and succeed in that business. Every time he traveled he always meet new people and find something in common with them whether they share the same passion or even same message in life. I have carried his advice with me in my life and that's what really helped me to survive when I had my down moments.
Timing is everything. Because the time I have started this business was only a year before a lot of economic changes and a large gap in the market was happening. Taxes and governmental rules were new to the business owners and if you are not strong or stable you will not survive because bigger fish will eat you alive. Starting big is not always the right move and this will cost you a lot. Some people they have entered the business big and it turned out to be one of the most successful decisions they had in their lives and others were an epic fail. The only important rule you should carry with you through any business journey is always search, study and do your best. Never believe that luck is only what you need, Instead, knowledge is a very important tool and weapon that you have to carry out throughout your business journey,
Before starting any business here is the checklist I have come up with to make your business recipe far away from disaster:
Find your passion. What drives you to success is being passionate about your business in particular. If you are passionate about an idea you can work this to be a successful business and you will have a value which is the love and ambition for this idea. Choosing what field, you can establish a business in should be driven by desire and passion along with knowledge. For example, if you are passionate about cars and you have a sufficient knowledge you can think of a business by finding a solution on how to improve a certain issue or solve a problem in the world of cars. The passion is what will help you to come up with an idea, then you should do your homework by searching and exploring the market.
Study the market well. Before entering the business, you have to understand what is the market you will enter and how it will react to your business idea. Ask yourself, is this business desirable in the market or serve a specific need? Sometimes the market is not ready for any new business due to the ups and downs in the economy. Studying the market should be sufficient to recognize any changes or indicators for the coming Three to Five years. This is only to make sure that you are not going to face any market crisis in your future business.
Understand and define your targeted costumers. When you present your business to the market make sure you know to whom this product. Make sure you put yourself in the shoe of the customer. How well you would benefit from this product and how can you improve it to be more beneficial. Shifting your targeted customers can be harmful in the beginning of the business because this will show a weak sign and can ruin the business. This way you will lose the trust of the consumers and what you really need is to earn their trust.
Create your own advantage value. What makes you special and why customers can buy from you and see you as the right fit for this product. Having that added value is the key for success and more important is the sustainability. When you establish your business, you want to be sustainable and have a ground rule to expand more and improve more. The added value can be a service or a product.
Work on a clear financial Plan along with the feasibility study. Start by searching for the right fund and by this, I mean the right finical method for you what suits your business. Always look for less risky options.
Do not start big. You need to test the water. It does not mean you should start with only idea or one simple product but for example franchising is big and in order for you to do it or succeed you have to be aware of all the risks of this big investment. Therefore, you can start with a franchise for one product and then have a full franchise later. Franchise is very demanding, you should think of many details such as how many shops you will have along with the different lines of products you should consider and the number of employees you should hire.
Think of partnership if needed. Some people think that partnership can only cause problems and it’s better to do everything solo specially if the idea is your idea. In my case and my experience partnership was important. I needed someone to be concentrating on the financial part which I knew that I lack experience in and that affected me very badly. Find your strength and focus on it and find someone to help you with your weakness to avoid making harmful decisions.
Find a business Mentor/Consultation. When you make the decision that you want to establish your own business and specify the field the first thing you should do get a consultation and not only one but a few. This way you will expand your thoughts and you maybe adjust your idea or change it completely. If you have a business mentor, then you are lucky and you should keep the mentor every step of the way till you can find the result of your success.
Learn from other experiences. Reading about other people`s experiences is very useful because they can save you the effort and money. Do not follow their steps but only learn from theirs.
Networking before and during the business. Networking is a key you can have to help you move to the next level in your business. If you have a good network then you have a great tool to expand your business.
And by this recipe it is your choice if you want to cook your disaster or get the right ingredient and make it a recipe for success.
AlAnoud H. Bin Saeed