Bravery. Ticking the box.

Bravery. It’s not a word that I’ve ever associated myself with. I’ve never done anything big enough to be in that category. Until last year, that is.

I was filling out a survey recently where I was asked to tick as many words I associated with. The word bravery jumped out at me and made me think. Actually, you know what? I think I have been brave. In fact, I know I have!

After 17 years, I walked away from the comfort and (false sense of) security of a job in the corporate world to start my own business. With hundreds of similar agencies popping up and offering the same services, in a struggling economy, with no guarantees, I decided to give it a go.

The first few weeks were hugely disruptive. It was year-end when I started my business (is there ever a right time?).  Most people were exhausted and counting down to December holidays. People would agree to meet with me but wanted to kick off only in 2019. Made sense.

So as I also started to relax, to clear my head and take a break into the festive season, there have been days (many of them) when I have felt incredibly guilty. Guilty for feeling such a massive sigh of relief. Guilty for allowing the anxiety to disappear. Guilty for reading or sleeping or walking Emma. Guilty for finally being happy.

No one tells you when you start a business that there is so much admin to sort out! What’s kept me busy?

  • Sorting out admin such as registering my company with CIPRO, opening up bank accounts, finding a bookkeeper.
  • Sourcing an accounting package so that I can invoice clients. It took me 4 hours to send my first invoice via Quickbooks. I am so thrilled my bookkeeper is back from holiday.
  • Coming up with my own branding and mapping out my business’ marketing plan.
  • Developing a content strategy for Conversation Station.
  • Meeting with prospective clients which I realize is tough. In between cappuccinos and chai lattes, there is a lot more education and convincing that needs to be done to get them on board.
  • Writing up proposals but knowing my audience does not expect the Rolls Royce version that I am used to after my years in corporate.
  • Buying office furniture, stationery, a printer. Office National in Cramerview Bryanston is a gem folks!

Heading into 2019 and I’m ready.

Do you like my office? Man, I’m proud of it. Thanks KK for hanging up the whiteboard (behind my desk) and your patience with me trying to find the perfect couch, which I promise is not for afternoon naps. It’s for thinking time. *grin*

office study

My office. I actually love it. Notice the medal hanger with all our running medals up behind me. Inspiration.

It hasn’t been easy and there’s a long journey ahead, I know. But I feel brave. Braver than I’ve ever felt for a long time. I’m confident in my abilities and I know I’ve got something different to offer. More importantly, I love what I do and I can make a difference.

For now, I have the luxury of time on my hands. Time to think. Time to relax. Time to sort out stuff. Time to regain a bit of the confidence I lost towards the end of last year. Time to love “me” again. Time to re-invent and find myself.

Working from home and not sitting in traffic also means I have more time to run. And this is usually where my best thinking is done.

For more info on my new business, check out www.conversationstation.co.za. Let me know what you think!

Supporting in the right way

My ankle has taken longer than I had expected to heal. In the back of my mind, I was hoping to be ready to run Two Oceans half marathon this coming weekend but that doesn’t look realistic now.

It’s been okay when I run shorter distances but standing in the starting pen, waiting for the race to start, and then hitting the road for 3 hours, carefully dodging 16 000 other runners doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. For the first time in almost 10 years, we’ll be giving Two Oceans a miss. *FOMO alert*

I’ve been doing my rehab exercises and taking extra care of my foot in general. I’m fully aware that an injury and pulmonary embolism doesn’t just heal overnight – the daily blood thinners remind me of the nasty ordeal.

One small way I’m giving back to my ankle is by wearing comfy, supportive shoes. I can’t believe the pairs of shoes in my cupboard that offer almost zero support! It’s ridiculous that women still buy such dreadful shoes!

But then, I happened to spot gorgeous sandals on Instagram and had to have them! They’re imported from Greece and kinda remind me of Birkenstocks (another one of my favorite brands).

I tracked down Maxie Moda & bought these two pairs. I couldn’t resist!

I bought both the black & tan pair. The black look fab with jeans. Photo credit: @khoslene_photography

These are my feet in the tan pair. Super comfy!

To be completely honest, I wasn’t just thinking about my ankle and a new pair of shoes. But since we’ve been running with our small business, CW-X, it’s become very important for me to support other entrepreneurs.

Just knowing how incredibly tough it is out there, to get your name established, to attract customers and make a sale. It’s hard work! So I’d rather buy from another small business and support their vision than buy yet another uncomfy sandal from Woolies with no support for my ankle.

I’m keen to look for other nuggets hidden across Jo’burg!

This is an unsponsored post and my own opinion. But I urge you to support your family & friends who are trying to grow their businesses.

We’re closing down

When KK read me the email, it truly felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. For a couple of days, we both floated in a bubble of denial, hoping our contact in the US would reply to our list of frantic questions with a solution. It never came.

The news was not what we were expecting to hear. They have decided to restructure and stop the international distribution model. Basically, our supplier will not be supplying us with anymore stock and advised us to close down the CW-X SA business.

Gutted. Angry. Relief. Disbelief. Hurt.

The timing was bitter sweet. After spending so many months getting our business up & running, we had just engaged in negotiations with a few partners to start advertising in top notch media. After a great evening hosting a stand at the Valentine’s Day Night race at Harriers, we had made plans with a few other clubs to sell our goods. Business had picked up! The tingling excitement when my phone beeped signaling a new order had come in never grew old!

Now we are sitting with the dilemma of swapping our growth strategy for an exit strategy.

It’s the weirdest thing. I’ve ping-ponged between feelings of complete sadness to days when I look back and at how much KK and I were able to accomplish in the last couple of months.

There are no regrets.

The purchasing process, registering our company, opening up bank accounts, setting up the website, learning about the product, selling to customers, the late nights of prepping social media posts and running campaigns on Facebook & Instagram. Every day I felt more alive than ever!

KK and I learnt so much about ourselves and one another too. Want to know how strong your marriage is? Run a small business part-time with your spouse! We’ve grown tremendously during this journey together.

The pic is dark but it was a selfie we took the evening we had finally signed offer & loaded the car with stock. We were entrepreneurs!

The first delivery! After being held up at customs for 5 weeks, this was one of the highlights! Unpacking boxes of our very first order of stock!

The Sunday afternoons practicing setting up the banners and gazebo in our garden.

We can’t thank our family & friends enough for the support during the last couple of months. You have been part of the success and the fun. The excitement you showed, the stories you listened to, believing in our vision. It has meant so much!

Thanks especially to all our brand ambassadors and loyal CW-X fans: Dan, Kirsty, Gwynn, Timaya, Advocate Karen, Julia and Zara, Carl, Isabel, Jonty and Portia. It was a hell of a ride!

So where to from here? A huge clearance sale of the stock we purchased. Updating the site to reflect the sale prices and trying to get back as much of our investment as possible. The learnings continue and I suspect it’s preparing us for our next business venture.

As readers who follow my blog, you’re the first to hear the news before we send out official comms to our customer database. The good news is that you’re also the first to take advantage of the sale prices. Head over to the site to grab first dibs on the most amazing running clothes you will soon not be able to get locally before we shut down the site.

We reluctantly came. We nervously saw. OMW, we sold!

The choice of touch points or channels has always been quite a strong focus of most of my career. Where to target customers, on which channel, when and how. So when we launched our small business CW-X SA, I seriously thought that I would be able to lure customers to the website via a range of beautiful imagery on Instagram and engaging stories on Facebook.

Sales have been slow. 

We realized that the brand had dipped into very low awareness levels, the competitor environment was fierce and that unless we put money behind our social media posts, no one was really seeing our brand.

We decided to get our faces out there and approached Randburg Harriers Running Club asking if we could promote our goods at their Thursday evening time trial. I won’t lie, a social media collaborator and an engineer, face-to-face sales was not our strong point and we were dreading it.

The nerves ran high!

But here’s what we learnt:

  • Our brand needs to be seen in the real world. Once people saw the banners, it suddenly felt real.
  • Our faces need to be seen and recognized by fellow runners to make the connection between our brand and ourselves. Why? Because trust sells. Relationships sell. Networking sells.
  • And most of all, word-of-mouth is key! Once people realized its was us and they knew our faces and names behind the brand, they were really excited and started to tell other people.

Mini brand ambassadors were born.

I’m all for eCommerce but it doesn’t allow for much human connection. With the face-to-face interaction at time trial along side the track, it was easier to question and probe. We showed an interest in people and their stories.

It created a comfortable space for people to share their running injuries, their eating struggles and their choice of what running tights suited them more. People opened up to us about personal stories they would not necessarily do online.

After one evening, we’re no experts. But what an eye opener.

And here’s one more nugget. We fell out of our comfort zones and rolled straight into realizing that maybe, just maybe, we can do this thing called sales.