Mind your own business

Mind your own business

Ever thought of starting your own business? Working for yourself is an attractive proposition – you decide what to do and when, and you can work in a field of your interest and in which you excel!

It also means saying goodbye to a structured routine and a regular income; moreover, you’ll find yourself working harder than ever before.

If you, however thrive on challenges and are not afraid to take risks, becoming your own boss could be the best move you have ever taken.



Successful entrepreneurs need the following skills and qualities

  • Adaptability – you will initially have to be your own boss, your own sales person as well as Secretary.
  • Self motivation – There’s no-one breathing down your neck to have something done, and on time – you will have to do everything yourself without being pushed.
  • Drive –   Success doesn’t come overnight.
  • Determination – Basics in financial matters – you do need
  • Some financial sense in order to survive.
  • Confidence –No-one will do business with a dithering, self effacing person – Believe in yourself first before others start believing in you.
  • Enthusiasm – you obviously won’t be able to sell anything – idea, product or service if you do not believe in it totally.
  • Positive attitude – in the words of the song “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
  • Being able to make a pitch – it is no use having a wonderful product if you do not have the skills to sell it?
  • Health – There is no paid sick leave when you are self employed.

Above all, you have got to be single minded to be able to run your own business.

You may also have to accept a lower standard of living when you start, including sacrifice of luxuries; eating out in restaurants; expensive clothes; expensive, designer, perfume; and all the other little treats and luxuries which you have been giving yourself!

Most newly started business women have to give up on luxuries, having invested all their money on the business.

Another matter to consider is whether you would be happy working alone with only an office attendant to help out.

Starting a business can be a lonely phase in your life. You will be working long hours, sometimes late into the night in order to meet deadlines. You will be operating alone and with the risk of not making it, many women opt for employment – by others.

Here is where supportive family members, friends, husbands and boyfriends come in. These may chip in and help out without payment – It helps if you have family and friends with skills like accounts, lawyers, book keepers who are often willing to put in some hours every week to assist you in the initial stages of your business.

Supportive family and friends are extremely important as apart from technical know-how, they also give you moral support, sometimes even financial support until you can stand on your own.

It is important that you try and harness the collective knowledge of all the people around you and then adapt it to fit your requirements.

As one famous business woman says “If you cannot get people to help you, you are never going to make it on your own”.

The best business for you

Though a risky option, starting a business from scratch can lead to great financial rewards and that nice glow “I did it!” You may decide to buy a business that is already running and work to improve on it or you may decide to start from scratch.

Franchising is one option where you pay for the right to use the name of a company such as petrol stations, restaurants and sell its products and services. This way, you don’t have to invest a heavy outlay on promotion as the name speaks for itself and is a popular option for people with sufficient capital to invest.

It also means you have to adhere to the mother company’s policy frame work and ethos which gives you less independence and scope. On the plus side, you get a tried and tested formula with support and advice thrown in by the franchise organization.

You need to find out details as how to get the franchise, what returns you can expect on your initial investment which could be anything from 30,000,000 TZS, or upwards, and what percentage of your turn over you’ll have to pay to the franchise organization.

New ideas

 Do not get frustrated if you can’t come up with a new idea for business, most businesses are a variation on an old theme or are based on tried out formulas. Look through the telephone directory – Yellow pages section – this will give you an idea of the type of business that are in operation.

Try and imagine what would work for you and for your prospective clients then design a strategy which should include the following:-

  • Structure of the company
  • Vision/ethos of the company.
  • Core values – for example, you may not want to sell products made by companies which use child labor.
  • Capital outlay
  • Staff – both full time and part-time
  • Equipment
  • Transport and communication
  • Promotional material

By now, you ought to have conducted a rapid market survey to determine who your clients are, and what you intend to charge for the products or services you are going to offer – these can fluctuate in line with current trends.

Ask yourself how far you want to grow and plan accordingly.

Making a forecast is a practical way of working to achieve your Goal.

Ask yourself “Would you rather do something based on your skills?”

Or would you prefer to try something you have never done before?

For example one woman decided to give up her posh job at a bank and started making and retailing children’s clothes.

The idea was borne out of a need, “I went shopping for my children for the Eid festival and found I couldn’t afford the imported children’s clothes. Instead, I bought materials and sewed them up on my sewing machine. They were praised by family and friends and the idea occurred to me that I could start my own business, making

children’s clothes. I bought children’s fashion catalogues, went to the mitumba stalls and bought a number of garments which I used as the working samples and armed with sheer grit and determination, I started making children’s clothes.

I did not give up my job at the bank initially as I was selling mainly to relatives and friends, but when word of mouth spread, I got more customers and had to get another machinist to help.

Eventually, I had to stop working at the bank as the orders poured in, even retail shops order from me. I now have a thriving business and have acquired bigger premises when initially I was operating from my house.
People ask about the secret of my success. I always say it is founded on “A genuine love
for children. I love to see beautifully dressed children” and of course, developing a Business acumen.” I never gave away anything for free. I even paid for my children’s clothes from the business so that profit is not given a dent.
However, the real secret is producing quality products, and, most of all, delivery on time.”

Another successful business woman says “You have got to be careful with the freebees. Most people want free stuff or services especially friends and relatives. You have got to be strict or you’ll end up giving away your children’s inheritance”.


Lists, Lists, Lists

 Keep lists of your requirements; your potential customers; your expenditure; your support network; your annual rent (if you are renting the premises to house your business); and a list of indicators to guide you so you could assess on whether your business is not making any loss.

List your interests and consider your business potential. Ask your friends for their opinion on your talents they may be able to give you a new perspective, one you weren’t aware that you actually possess.

Be Creative

Start something that has never been done before. Too many copy –cat businesses tend to flounder as the market is limited. For example, the catering business is saturated to the extent that some businesses have decided to pay a commission to agents who find them business, which is OK but you may find yourself paying a lot of commission and end up with a tiny profit at the end of the day, which does not make for success.

Proper research may give you an idea of what is needed in the market, for example a friend’s sister wanted to do catering but found the market is flooded with catering companies and by then, she had already invested in buying the equipment like utensils, table cloths, napkins, flower vases, candles etc. but instead of giving up, she decided to go into renting. Now catering firms rent her equipment and utensils and she has not suffered a loss.

Another friend went into the real estate, business and has become a “dalali” an agent for home owners and is constantly seen talking on her mobile phone. This way, she gets a hefty commission whenever she gets buyers or tenants for homes.

You should identify your competitors, and their strengths and weaknesses. If there isn’t any competition, ask yourself why? Is there really a gap in the market? Or is there no demand? What will make your product/services better than that provided by your rivals?

For starters, you should consider providing products/services with better prices, guaranteed fast service and longer opening hours – just to be one up on your rivals.

Getting it right

 Do a survey of your competitors’’ prices remembering to take all overheads into account.

Make a decision on who your customers are –age bracket; sex; occupation; leisure interests; income; where they live and do their shopping; are they corporate or individual clients? Will demand for your product/service be steady or seasonal?


 How do you plan to attract your buyer’s attention? If you choose to advertise, you must target your market properly, a focused business paper may be more suitable than a larger, general interest one. You may try leaflet distribution; word of mouth through your network of supporters; or hoardings i.e. a typed photocopied information sheet about product/services which you could paste on shop windows; beauty salons; boutiques; bookshops; restaurants. Remember to ask the owners for their permission.You could also get wider publicity if you send out a short, well written press release to radio and TV stations and to newspapers. Consider taking a stand/kiosk at trade exhibitions like the Gender Festival coordinated by the Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP) or the Saba Saba Trade Fair.

Visit shops and stores which sell the kind of product you plan to produce or offices which need your services and promote your product. The secret is in being sufficiently persuasive to them to agree to stock your product in shops or to use your services in the case of offices or your menu, in the case of a café or a restaurant.

Reliability and recommendation from public figures are good for business. Several of my friends have large framed photos in prominent positions taken with public figures hanging on the walls of their shops/offices.

Finding premises

The question to ask yourself is “Where will you operate your business from?” You may start by working from home which will mean fewer overheads and saving money for transport, but you may require permission from the licensing authority as you
would need a business license to operate a business.

If you are buying or renting business premises, choose carefully.
Location is crucial to retail shops and restaurants. Visit the area at different times to get the pace of the business.

Ask yourself? Is the location close to a bus route? Taxi stands?
Are the roads good? Does the area have parking facilities?
Are there other people running a business like the one you intend to start nearby?

Ask the city/town planners if they intend to expand the road in the future because you may have to move when that happens.

Legal matters

Businesses need a license in order to operate. If you are intending to start a home catering business, your kitchen must adhere to health and safety regulations.

Do you plan to operate as a sole trader? Do you plan to have a limited company or a cooperative? Your decision will have legal and financial implications, so seek professional advice.

The name of your business is another aspect that is important,
As there are certain restrictions. For example, no two companies can have the same name.

If you are planning on employing staff, find out about your responsibilities. You may wish to visit the trade union council or the labor centre to get details on issues pertaining to employment.



Being self-employed doesn’t exempt you from paying income tax.
So you must inform the Revenue Authority about your work and ask them to assist you on tax remuneration.

Business plan

You now need to draw up a business plan. You will have to put together all the information you have gathered and use it to make projections.
Your business plan should have details of your product and its market, your objectives, your business and financial forecast.

The business plan could attract investors. It could also assist you if you are seeking a bank loan.

Take into account the fact that you may face obstacles and jot down how you plan to overcome such obstacles in your business plan.


Your business plan may be able to get you a bank loan, but you have to convince your bank manager that your business would be a viable project.

Your friends and family may be willing to invest in your business and if you borrow money from people, draw up a clear agreement on how and when you will pay them back.


At least one third of all businesses fail within the first two years.
You will need to nurture yours constantly.
You should keep records of your cash flow for tax purposes and also to monitor your finances at all ties and be gradual in your expansion. It helps if from time to time, you refer back to your original goals and projections.


You will succeed if you are hardworking, are motivated, enthusiastic, seek support from family and friends and are honest!








“Together We Can Make it Happen”

Leila Sheikh

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