What you need to know:
Mariam Said is the founder and director of Tashakay Parties and Events, an executive events business based in Nairobi that specialises in corporate and private events planning and hosting
I started my business as a free service to my friends and family. Whenever a friend or relative had a birthday party, a graduation or wedding, I would offer to plan and oversee the event. One of these friends was impressed at how their event panned out, especially because she had rejected multiple events planners. She challenged me to turn my skills into a business and said there was a good market for planners with attention to detail. At the time, she pitched the idea, I had only Sh300. I had to either wait until such a time when I could build up capital or I could utilise the amount I had. I walked to a cyber café and paid to have a business brochure designed in soft copy and sent to me. My plan was to leverage on the power of the internet to start marketing my skills.
It was not easy to get business. I was a newbie in the industry. Many clients would make enquiries but none would give me an opportunity. It took close to two years to get paying clients. One of the main challenges I encountered was the lack of understanding on what the role of an events planner is, why an events planner is a critical cog in any successful event, and that an event planner is not an afterthought to be compensated in pennies.
Under quoting is major challenge in every startup. It can easily lead to huge losses. I once fell into this trap and gave a client a low figure without factoring all the extra expenses and installments that needed to be paid for in advance. I was forced to book the baker, photographer, videographer, and the DJ, and pay for transport from my pocket. I also had to foot meals for them during the event because guests were using meal cards. All these bills left me with a loss.
There are times when you will need to enlighten your target customers about your business. This has been a continuous process for me. The business of events planning and hosting is in its infancy in Kenya. To break even, I have had to continuously market my services. This has opened a stream of referrals. However, I have learned that enlightening customers about your business solutions must go hand in hand with delivery. You must live to your word. Events and planning touch on personal lives, and if you are not careful, one bad customer report can run you out of business.
I was in employment before I ventured into my current business. I was a fitness consultant for gym wear and equipment. It was only after I lost this job that I managed to fully give my attention to my current business. Looking back, my job loss was a blessing in disguise. Although I am doing well as an entrepreneur, I do not favour entrepreneurship over employment. I believe we are all blessed differently. It all boils down to being effective in your current role.
I previously used a mobile wallet to save and transact. I used this account for both my personal and business financial needs. The ease of tapping in and making withdrawals ruined my financial discipline. I have since changed tact and I now use a business account to handle my business transactions.
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