Alison Ngibuini is the CEO of Al Is On Production Limited. She is a two-time Top 40 Under 40 Women winner, and has shot over 400 commercials and produced over 20 drama series.
The challenges I faced when I started
I started my business in 2014. I single-handedly manned all operations, from cleaning to accounts. This became too chocking and I quickly hired an accountant and an office assistant. Getting word that I had started a company and needed business was not easy. Nonetheless, the burden was less tasking since I had built a network of good work relationships within the marketing and advertising industry that really helped me stump my foot down. I have discovered, though, that fresh challenges are always lying in wait. For example, making a break in the media space has been a constant hurdle. The business needs to evolve daily. But I am glad that I have mastered the art of re-invention. Also, working in the business instead of working on the business was a major problem at the beginning. For example, work could become so obsessive that I would forget to carry out inventory reviews, cash flow, payroll and employee analyses.
I did not take a loan to start my business. Having gained work experience in employment, I had great insights on how money was made and moved in the communication sector. For example, TV production was very capital intensive and the client had to pay 50 per cent down payment. It would be impossible to do the job because industry-practice was that actors must be paid before the product went on air.
The period it took to break even
Gaining traction takes time, and for me, it took three years before I broke even. I did not make money in the first year. Also, customer acquisition was a real time consuming process. Midway through the second year, I started breaking even. By the third year, I had made back my initial start-up costs. Always be patient and eventually, the money will come.
My finest moment in business so far
I resigned from employment aged 27 to start my Al is On Production business. Armed with a laptop, a mobile phone and high heels, I started knocking on doors. Many did not open at all, but remaining focused really helped me stay afloat until I started getting a ‘Yes’ amidst many ‘Nos’! I learned that the world is a stage on which you must be bold and memorable for wealth to follow.
What holds women back
Owning accomplishments is not easy for women. Many of us seem to unintentionally downplay our worth or achievements. We are too cautious not to be labeled braggarts. But this is a necessity, especially when pitching business proposals to investors. Personally, I have come to appreciate my value and own up to my accomplishments. If we could all do this, access to funding would be much easier. I also believe that we must create a viable work-life balance by identifying personal goals, and priority people and activities. I have learned to say no to what doesn’t serve my priorities.