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THE FOUNDERS FEATURE: MAUREEN AMAKABANE

 

Today we discuss fashion, employment and all things SMEs with this daring entrepreneur, Maureen Amakabane, Co-Founder of Beyond Colours Ltd.  Join us as she takes us through her journey, the ups and downs of being a woman in business, having a family and being in business, having partners in business and of course the joys and secrets of success in business.

 Founders-Feature-Maureen-Akambane

Briefly describe what solution(s) you offer to SMEs?  

My business offers a range of services to start ups. These include:

  • Business Development  
  • Sales and marketing strategies 
  • Sales and marketing trainings 
  • Social media marketing 
  • Outsourced sales  
  • Targeted talent placement  


I currently have a team that does this, but my vision is to eventually have a digital platform that will complement the services that I offer. 

What challenges have you faced in growing your business? 

My biggest challenge has been accessing capital to scale. Most traditional lending institutions require collateral to lend since SMEs are perceived as risky borrowers. And we all know you need money to make money!

Another major challenge is that of payments: Some clients pay late and others eventually disappear without paying. It can be quite frustrating. It became too expensive to chase payments and deliver services at the same time, so, I curbed this with strict payment terms that insist on up to 60% - 70% payment upfront.  I lost some customers as a result, but I have eventually built a quality client base, that gives me peace of mind.

Most businesses emerge from a person trying to fill a need in the market, kindly tell us how did this happen for you?  

One of my first clients was a gentleman who was heading an organization and had a side hustle that had enormous potential but he was not able to attend to it because of his demanding job. He asked me to help him out with a sales strategy, then train the young girl who was working for him at that time. I actually started working with him while I was still employed and therefore could only meet him on Saturdays. Once I left employment, I had time to work with his staff effectively and his side hustle began to flourish and thrive and he faithfully paid me at the end of the month. This led to two referrals, which opened my eyes to the professional skills gap in startups.

I had a meeting with myself, strategized, packaged and rolled out my consultancy services officially. Over time I have found my niche in youth and women-led businesses because I believe they hold the key in transforming the African Agenda and solving youth unemployment with their innovative ideas and high potential but need help to structure and transform into highly profitable businesses.

How does running your own business compare with being employed? 

My corporate experience set a foundation for my business ownership path. The strict corporate policies and adherence to guidelines and procedures come into play a lot when running your own business. On a more spiritual level, self-employment has given me a sense of true purpose and an opportunity to serve people using my professional skills. Did you know you can serve God this way too? When my clients grow their businesses, I get excited. Recently I was touching base with one of my first clients and she was telling me how she sold her business for several millions and she was quite proud and happy with the foundation we set.  

How has your fashion evolved from corporate employment to being self-employed, if at all?

I keep a lean wardrobe, with functional clothes and comfortable shoes. I cannot remember the last time I wore a suit and heels, which is what I mostly wore previously. I do not have the luxury of buying clothes for each event like I used to, but that doesn’t mean I have abandoned my style. I always like to look smart; in good fitting clothes that are classy and practical.

Founders-Feature-Maureen-Akambane

What would be a practical outfit for you?

A piece that is functional and multipurpose; something I can wear during the day and go into an evening cocktail with. 

Considering your passion in hygiene and sanitation, is this something you have considered exploring further?

I am very passionate about this and I have already ventured into it, albeit not at a very large scale. I am the founder of a sanitation start up, www.usafisanitation.com It has been quite a journey for this business. First time I set it up, my partner and I fell out. Second time, I shared the business vision and its blueprint with a family member and he invested in the business, only to kick me out later. He now runs a similar business and I think it must be profitable because he has grown.

The vision is still alive, I am only growing the business slowly now and I’m more careful with partnerships. This is a capital-intensive business and I am applying the things I teach other startups in this business, like boot strapping. 

Even in its current size and scale we have managed to make some good impact and for that I have won several awards, the most prestigious one being a finalist and beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program which saw me recently get appointed to sit on the Change Management Task Force for the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance- a global sanitation association (https://www.susana.org/en/). It was an extremely competitive position but I believe out of the many applications from different parts of the world, mine stood out as a result of the passion I have and vision to improve sanitation for school-going children in Kenya and eventually Africa.  

What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs? 

Just do it. It is okay to fail and ask for help. Speak up. 

Founders-Feature-Maureen-Akambane

 

  • Irene Aburi says...

    Quite inspirational

    On October 02, 2019

  • Mayieka Lilian says...

    Maureen, you inspire me a lot, Good job!!… You go girl!

    On October 02, 2019

  • Eve says...

    I love what you are doing Maureen… Keep soaring!! You inspire many of us…

    On October 02, 2019

  • Mary says...

    Keep it up Maureen. Remember your family background. All with business blood Tsia matsia

    On October 02, 2019

  • Meshack Olali says...

    Great read! Keep grinding.

    On October 02, 2019

  • Audrey says...

    Maureen doesn’t live half-half. Nope. She changes her world daily by instantly addressing injustices, defending and uplifting the victims, sharing information and helping people grow. She is fearless and on-point!

    On October 02, 2019

  • Lucky says...

    Maureen you are a star! I thank God for you.

    On October 02, 2019

  • Gatluok says...

    So inspiring

    On October 02, 2019

  • Gatluok says...

    So inspiring

    On October 02, 2019

  • Sarah says...

    Am inspired with your story Maureen and learn a lot different way to view business strategy thanks you

    On October 02, 2019

  • Kuve kuve says...

    The outfits are stunning and you look amazing. I love your positive energy its realy inspiring. Wishing you nothing but the best.

    On October 02, 2019

  • Deborah says...

    You inspire me big time…

    On October 02, 2019

  • Pauline says...

    Maureen is such an inspiration i tell you. She knows where to push, how and when. When you talk about women lifting women then Maureen is a good example. Thank you being you.

    On October 02, 2019

  • Beatrice Obonyo says...

    I get inspired by Maureen everyday. all that she does inspire me to be the best. Keep up the good work

    On September 28, 2019

  • Sich says...

    You go girl.

    On September 28, 2019

  • Sheila says...

    This is so inspiring. Especially to a woman in business.

    On September 27, 2019

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