#star­tup­di­aries

When you start a busi­ness, you soon learn that you have to spend money to make money, writes

CityPress - - Busi­ness - Fol­low @AmargiMe­dia on Twit­ter for more on the #StartUpDiaries

Nei­ther my part­ner nor I is a trust fund baby. We’ve both worked hard all of our pro­fes­sional lives. In fact, we started work­ing to­gether as cub re­porters on ex­actly the same day at Cape Talk Ra­dio in 1997 and have both been com­fort­ably en­sconced in var­i­ous other jobs since. There is a great sense of se­cu­rity in be­ing em­ployed, as the pay cheque whis­tles through on pay­day with­out much thought given to it.

Other peo­ple pay for your flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion when the job re­quires you to travel. You copy, print and send doc­u­ments with­out a sec­ond thought about whether there’s ink in the car­tridge. It’s likely you don’t even know where the car­tridge is.

When we de­cided to start our own busi­ness, we had been out of for­mal em­ploy­ment for quite some time and do­ing free­lance work – which, as you know, isn’t steady and barely touches the deep vor­tex that was once filled by your salary. But that’s the sac­ri­fice you make when you want to go it alone and build some­thing to call your own.

One of the big­gest de­ter­rents to en­trepreneurs not only start­ing their busi­ness but stay­ing the course is that the mea­gre funds one had or man­aged to cob­ble to­gether do even­tu­ally start dry­ing up.

There is the cost of legally com­ply­ing by reg­is­ter­ing your com­pany. This could add up to a few thou­sand rand. The costs of scan­ning, copy­ing and send­ing doc­u­ments hither and thither also build up. I re­mem­ber the 100-page le­gal doc­u­ment I had to print, scan, copy and email to a client from PostNet. I al­most wept when I saw the bill.

You can’t open a busi­ness ac­count with­out at least R250 to de­posit into it. What hap­pens, I won­dered, if you don’t have R250 – does the bank turn you away? I de­spaired, think­ing of those who of­ten don’t have a cent, but need to pro­vide proof of the ex­is­tence of a bank ac­count be­fore any­one does busi­ness with them. It all seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive and de­bil­i­tat­ing for a start-up.

Once we got started, it be­came clear that we would have to do a lot of trav­el­ling. We did this with en­thu­si­asm and went all over the coun­try, pitch­ing like base­ball play­ers aim­ing for a home run. Word to the wise here, you al­ways take a meet­ing, re­gard­less of where it is, but all of this needs money.

And you soon learn that you’ve got to spend money to make money.

Take the fol­low­ing in­ci­dent, for ex­am­ple.

We hus­tled and scram­bled to get into the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) for Africa in Cape Town in May. I took a gam­ble by book­ing a flight to Cape Town, de­spite the fact that I didn’t have any ac­cred­i­ta­tion for the event. It’s not as if I had loads of spare cash, but I had a strong gut feel­ing that be­ing there and soak­ing up the same rar­efied air as the likes of Pa­trice Mot­sepe and Ashish Thakkar would some­how pay off. And boy, did it ever. Here, the gods con­spired with us be­cause just a few days be­fore the event, I was in­vited to mod­er­ate one of the pan­els, which meant ac­cess and ac­cred­i­ta­tion to min­gle with some of the con­ti­nent’s top busi­ness lead­ers. We shrieked with de­light and dug out some change from the emp­ty­ing war chest so we could make an im­pres­sion. We had busi­ness cards made just a few days be­fore, and were lucky they were ready on time. With help from friends, our web­site looked func­tional and semipro­fes­sional the evening be­fore we hit the WEF.

Had we not spent money do­ing all this, who knows when we might have had an op­por­tu­nity to spark the in­ter­est of Mot­sepe, who now fa­mously said to us, “Let’s do busi­ness, my dear,” af­ter I handed him my barely dry busi­ness card.

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