While Startup India has displayed government’s support towards entrepreneurs, there are many small startups or entrepreneurs who may not qualify for the benefits, since they are extremely small/medium businesses, including boutique businesses run by women in fashion, lifestyle and other services.
At Red Polka, we carry young brands and almost 90 percent of these are founded and run by women. Each has a strong personality, a unique story and of course immense potential to scale up. Only a handful qualifies as startups, but most of them are happy being a small business despite having the potential to scale. There are inhibitions, some conscious and some unconscious. And I am writing this to urge similar entrepreneurs to break the mould and think like a startup- one which starts small and has an ambition to make it big.
The ten-point guide to make your business soar:
Ambition – sky is the limit: Many women draw their own Lakshman Rekha while starting their own venture, influenced by their responsibilities towards the family. They draw a line even before they get started and pre-decide how far they can go. This is not because they do not have the potential but mostly because of the time commitment. And that is where the thought process needs to change. Each one of us has only 24 hours in a day and we have to manage that well. Not limiting your goals to boundaries you have drawn for yourself will help you dream bigger. So, sky is the limit and don’t restrain yourself.
Building teams: No business runs without a team; even a specialist surgeon needs a team. Even if you are running an art studio driven by your creativity you need people around. I recently heard of a lady who runs a profitable food venture from her home, where she depends on her driver, as he helps her in delivery and payments and her business is flourishing. We did see a brand not being able to scale up as the designer refused to trust people to manage the front end when she is occupied with designing and production. A team not only helps you expand your work, it also opens up fresh avenues.
Create processes: As you grow, it is important to define processes for yourself and the team. Production, order management, measuring experience are all part of the processes. Be matrix-driven on every aspect of your business.
Depend on technology: Don’t just depend on social media network for publicity, but also depend on varied platforms for managing back-end, opening a new front-end, communication and processes.
Explore funding: For small businesses to grow it is important to move from roll-over funding to timely infusion of funding to scale up. Many small ventures do not extend their arms to reach out, many times limited by ambition, or resources.
Fiercely protect your creative juices from drying: I have seen a saree brand grow too fast to handle. That is good news; the difficult part is that the entrepreneur is getting fatigued with so many orders. Women in creative businesses must learn to pause and stay away from time-to-time to allow their creative juices flowing. It takes just a few customers to change from a fashion designer to a tailor.
Grow a brand: This is my favourite subject and I am proud to say I have not come across even a single business that doesn’t have a brand name. It is heartening to see the consciousness of making an impact of your brand. But in many cases it ends up being a logo on the product and logos on social media. It is imperative to be conscious of your brand and make efforts in building it. Brand building requires execution across all stakeholders like a lady in the business of handloom fashion ensures she writes a note about the product for enhancing the brand weightage.
Harness co-learning: Many use the word ‘networking’. I would suggest ‘co-learning’. While you network and meet other people from different sectors of your work, prep yourself to learn and make a note after the session. The habit will consciously let you grow towards co-learning and while you learn, you also contribute towards the other person’s growth.
Interesting alliances: Build bridges, build mutually interesting alliances to cross the river. It helps everyone grow together.
Just #asktogrow: Ask to grow. Ask for help. Ask for favours. Ask to try your product, your services. Ask yourself what you love most about your work. Ask your peers their views. Ask. Do not hold back and you will find solutions to many challenges. Do you know, a tweet which says ‘please RT’, gets more retweets?
About author – Vishakha Singh is the founder of Red Polka, a curated fashion discovery platform that showcases and tells stories of several designers. Her prior experience includes brand and strategy for Times Now, Future Media- a Kishore Biyani Venture, and shopper marketing boutique Aurora Comms. She also serves on the board of International Advertising Association. She supports initiatives encouraging women in workforce and child adoption.