Starting a low capital business is already taunting in itself. If you have social impact included, get ready for a more strategic journey. First of all, let’s understand why social impact is excellent. Social impact allows you to give higher social value to the people you serve and it could be your USP (Uniqueness). It is not a traditional business approach where maximising profit is the sole motivation. Social impact businesses often start with the WHY. Oh, there is this excellent book from Simon Sinek you have to read about the topic called “Start with Why”.
I also have a video about “Money for the Mission” where I explain how to raise funds to start a social business. And by the way, yes a low capital business with social impact also needs a business plan. Check out my blog to know what you need to create your own business plan. In my Free Q&A sessions on zoom every friday, I answer specific questions from entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their business ideas. So let’s dive into questions from my session with Akala Batik on how to start a low capital business with social impact.
About Akala Batik – changing the world with Batik.
Akala Batik is a social impact driven project where a group of Austrian volunteers financially and logistically support Chantal in Togo. Chantal is the founder of the project and she is an excellent batik artisan. The entire production done by hand from wax stamps, dye, sewing and construction – Help support this women-owned business and their community of Kpalimé, Togo 100% Made in Togo – 100% Handmade. We are always excited to use their batik for our fashion, like the one from this jacket in our online store. So Chantal trains women in her training center called akala batik to produce these fabrics and some accessories as well. Check their website.
The pandemic has made things even worse for many businesses, let alone social businesses in Africa. Chantal and her team in Austria are looking for ways to navigate the pandemic, build their business and get to the next level. For them, they feel that getting their business online is the next step. I totally agree but how should they go about it? Let’s start by exploring some basic strategies that they can employ on their journey to the next step and I hope you too can profit from it.
Look inwards, not outwards!
We often make the mistake to follow what we see and hear others do because we have the perception it is working for them. Look, face it, people often publish just the good or “fake it, make it” stuff on social media or online. You actually do not know what is behind and how they are really faring. Nobody loves washing their dirty clothes outside.Thats a saying in Nigeria and it’s true. So stop judging by watching others platonically. Look deeper. Are they really selling? How would you know? For example, if it’s fashion, is it still the same old collection or stock available since the past 100 years? Have they released new pieces? Who are they targeting? Can you identify it? If not, then forget looking outwards, look inwards.
Be clear on who your target audience is!
Every low capital business needs to focus first. Who do you want to target? Define who those people are. Doing this will help you structure all your activities to actually be able to approach these potential customers. It will let you know what the right communication will be and the right channels to distribute this communication. It will help you identify which product will work and which might not. How do you identify your target audience? By researching! Start online, then go into the market. For Akala Batik, I would actually visit some big fabric stores. Sit in a coffee shop in front or 3 hours and watch who goes in and out!
Start with one market audience
This is so important. Anyone that has very low capital business to start and a very small team capacity cannot target two large markets, especially in 2 different countries. It is often the best idea to target where you live because of the reduced cost to navigate around, you know the language, you know more people etc. So I advised Akala batik to target German speaking Europe as no one literally hand crafts batik fabric in Europe anymore for retail. So the target audience would be more like DIYs, independent designers and labels, retailers of authentic fabrics etc.
Start with one product, one collection
I know it is tempting to want to put it all out there and show what you have or can. Yes, but remember not to overwhelm the audience. Also, think about it. Do you not want to learn from your mistakes and always get better? So if you focus on one fabric collection and learn how to release it properly, you would do a lot better in collection 2. Often many entrepreneurs do not maximise the potential of one first before dumping to go to the next. For example, you can release a collection by either posting the product pictures on your website, instagram and facebook and that’s it – you claimed to have launched a collection! I am sorry for you.
Developing a low capital business to succeed takes time.
Or you can release a collection by creating varieties of pictures – editorial, advert, graphics, product pictures, and then post them on your website and different social media platforms. Then you can go further to write a well crafted blog on the collection where you talk about the making process, the quality, how to use the fabric, the style, who it is for, what makes it special etc. This is already have more than 5 blogs to write and if done technically well with keywords and so on, you get google traffic for free. You can make short videos about the collection as well following the blog outlines.
You can package gift boxes and send to influencers to unbox, create a sample card and send to retailers, you can research a list of retailers and invite them to an online presentation, you can make some sample accessories from the fabric and add as products online one can buy. In this sense the accessories are a side product to push the main product “fabric”. You can release press kits, organise home parties, develop direct sales, develop collaborations etc. These are just 11+ things you can do!
There is much more work to be done right? Yes, but you might just end up learning, sharpening your skills, creating a release routine and selling more products. That’s maximising your release, instead of jumping to the next. By the way, this principle applies to business in general. When someone says something did not work, that’s why they jumped to the next, I wonder if they actually knew how to maximise and if the next will work!
Low capital business online strategy to start
Before you create your online website, start thinking on how you will pull people to that website? To put two price categories on one platform is a technical issue. Depending on the software behind your website. If it’s wordpress for example, you have plugins that allow you to change the currency and price for any geographical target audience. The question is more about how to promote the website to the target audience. Start by blogging, tagging your picture “alt”, backlinking, interlinking (Research these 4 free things you can do to boost your website. Maybe I will write about it, let’s see).
How do you price if your cost is high already through production
Oh, I know this. When we started Joadre fashion product, we had to train the tailors for more than 3 years. That was hundreds of thousand investment in naira and we were not selling much at that time. So what we did was to communicate this on our platform. The idea is to make the audience understand your journey. They have to understand the impact. They have to understand the quality of your product. What makes it stand out.
You can do this by creating graphics, stories that communicate this. You can have a link on the product description that takes the customer to a blog or video where they see the work you do. Most importantly, you have to create a brand worth the money you are asking for. So if you want them to pay 100 Euros for a pen, then let the website show the value of 100 euros for a pen. Get what I mean?
Calculating your selling price is never a coincidence!
And by the way, oftens social businesses fail to factor all expenses into their cost. Here are a list of a few expenses you should never forget – training cost, production material cost, production time cost, fixed cost like rent, utility etc, transportation, shipping and clearance cost, any vat, marketing cost to include distribution channel like even your website hosting. These are just a few, there are ways to calculate the annual cost and divide them into monthly and even per product cost value. Eg. Rent can be 5% added to every product if you already know how many products you made last year. Get what I mean. Wao, there is so much business building to be done by my people. Let’s get to it and nail the social impact work with our competence. Need a special coaching session? Contact us here.
Akala batik asked so many great questions like how to know which collection and colors to use, how to target two markets where I recommend that it’s a technical issue. So you can watch the video extracts on my YouTube channel to see more answers. By the way, during this session, we had to translate between french and english as Chantal speaks french and I english. It was a 2 hour conversation and I was very excited and motivated. I admire the Akala Batik team and vision. If you are a social entrepreneur or want to venture into social business, go for it and connect with us. Hope this session gave you some value. I am on facebook as well, would be nice to connect. Please share with anyone you think might need this information.