Damaris Wacera Sande is the founder and managing director of Extreme Interior Design, an architectural and construction company offering residential and commercial interior and exterior designs and construction services.
I save my money through Sacco. I have been saving through this method since I realized the power of dividends and money working for me instead of lying idle at the bank, and the potential of getting financing through the 3X multiplier effect.
I started my business with a capital of Sh. 150,000 in 2013. My inspiration to get into this line of business came from a friend who was doing well in the business and who wasn’t afraid to teach and mentor me.
This is why you must have a small circle of true friends and acquaintances who will not be jealous or afraid to let you in on how to make money.
It took my business four years to break even after getting started. Although I had someone to hold my hand when I started, I was very new in the market. I quickly realized that markets are not always welcoming to newbies when there are already established competitors, some who might have proven track records already.
As such, marketing, getting clients and referrals were my biggest challenges in the early days of the business. In fact, it took two years to really establish a client base.
When I started my business, I majorly marketed it through word of mouth and through social media. Social media is especially a critical business driver in the modern world as it opens your business to thousands of potential customers and can have a good customer conversion rate depending on how professional you present your pitches.
For example, my biggest milestone in my start-up days was a client I got on Facebook. We signed a contract with them and delivered the project within two months. We delivered beyond what the client had signed for and this single contract opened multiple business doors for us.
My biggest challenges when I started my business were mainly financials. I faced difficulties with access to credit and cash flow management. But these were not the only challenges. I also had challenges with internal control systems, delegation of tasks, marketing strategies, and hiring the right people at the right costs.
Every entrepreneur must learn to pay themselves. Don’t be the boss to your business. Be an employee who is equally accountable to the business as any other worker. I have also learned that when running a business, you must strictly adhere to personal and business budgets without mixing the two.
Also get an emergency fund and be careful of mobile banking applications. They can be a blessing but also a curse depending on how you utilize them. Avoid credit cards if you don’t really need them. I used to spend more than I made.
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I wasn’t tracking my expenses, and whenever I saved, I never invested the savings wisely. My savings was not goal oriented.
If I could start all over again, I would prioritize financial literacy. This would help in personal financial management and knowing where to invest from the get go.
I would also invest in marketing properly to push my services and in a more enhanced and effective way than I did when I started. Someone once told me that if you start a business and fail to budget for marketing, you’ll be winking at a lady in a dark room and hoping that she will notice you.
I would also invest in communication. I have learned that this is a critical component in how a business interacts with different personalities. I have also learned that it is not always wise to let people in on your business. Have boundaries, guard your vision jealously and don’t be too trusting.
Not everyone around you has your best interests at heart. People will switch up on you, take your knowledge and pass it on as theirs. Teach someone something you know that they don’t, but don’t teach them how you do it.
A version of this profile feature on Damaris Wacera was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.