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Building business and personal resilience

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Now more than ever resilience is a vital component in building a successful business. At the UK Black Business Show in London, HSBC’s Temi Ofong was joined by inspirational business owners, Wycliffe Sande, of Blue Turaco Coffee, and Ama Ago-Agyei, of haircare business Plantmade, who shared a few insights into their journeys and how resilience has underpinned their achievements.

Entrepreneurs have passion, purpose, and a desire to succeed running through their veins. But starting, maintaining and growing a business is not easy, especially in today's challenging environment.

“Black entrepreneurs often encounter a distinct set of hurdles in their journey towards scaling their business,” says Temi Ofong, Head of Customer Channels, HSBC.

“The three biggest barriers are access to funding, access to mentors and networks, and of course, access to new business opportunities.”

So what is the secret to building a resilient business and how vital is personal resilience in the mix?

A video from Black Business Show with interviews on the topic of resilience

Find opportunity in the challenges

After losing both his parents by the age of 12, Wycliffe Sande had to fend for himself from a young age – picking coffee beans in Uganda to pay for his school fees and food. Resilience is at the heart of everything he does and through Blue Turaco he’s bringing Ugandan coffee to the world, while also supporting coffee growing communities in Uganda.

“Resilience is the ability to take all the challenges together and, through that rubble, pick an opportunity and focus on it, regardless of how hard things are,” says Wycliffe.

“You can allow those moments to break you or use them to create something powerful and important.”

Grasp the moment when it comes

Ama started her haircare business when she was made redundant from a recruitment job during the pandemic and within a year she was turning over £1m.

“I’d tried various different jobs and ways to make money. I was stopping and starting without really going anywhere,” she explains.

“So when Plantmade had some early success I told myself ‘I’m going to do everything I can to make this happen’. I went for it and those are the kind of opportunities you need to take 100%.”

Every time you get knocked down, don’t run away but ask yourself ‘what is the alternative if I stop now?’

Wycliffe Sande | Founder, Blue Turaco Coffee

Don't rush… but don't delay

Building a business is a long-term commitment, you need to be in it for the long haul, but you also have to start somewhere and make that commitment.

“I've been on the journey of entrepreneurship for a very long time,” says Wycliffe. “I started out because I believed first of all in the purpose for which I was building the business and that’s what drives me.

“Every time you get knocked down, don’t run away but ask yourself ‘what is the alternative if I stop now?’”

Ama echoes that sentiment: “From a cease-and-desist notice to huge orders being lost in shipping, we’ve had some serious knockbacks but you have to bounce back,” she says.

“If I was to quit now, what would I do? This is what I love to do. I'm passionate about business and creating amazing brands. This won’t be my last business but it is my first and I'm putting everything into it.”

Right now, community for us is sharing the plumbing behind the scenes – the good, the bad and the ugly. Let people see what makes the business tick.

Ama Ago-Agyei | Founder, Plantmade

Build your community by being open and honest

Getting your customers’ attention during the pandemic was easier in some ways because everyone was stuck inside and had fewer options to shop around. Now you have to work even harder to convince someone to shop with you, so you have to build loyalty to make your business more resilient. Part of that is having a great product but you also need to build a community, says Ama.

“Right now, community for us is sharing the plumbing behind the scenes – the good, the bad and the ugly. Let people see what makes the business tick,” she explains.

“That honesty has helped strengthen our customer base. If I was starting a brand now, I would share the process of starting the business and why I’m doing it so I would have a fan base before the product even hits the market.”

Get the right people around you and focus on the fundamentals

Passion, drive and personal resilience are crucial when building a business but so are the more day-to-day elements such as operations, marketing and logistics. Not every business owner will have the right knowledge in those areas, so you need to get the right people on board.

“I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room,” says Wycliffe. “As long as I have the vision and can help drive that vision then I don’t need to be the marketing or the accountancy expert, I can bring in the right people for those jobs.”

For some elements of the business, it might be worth considering outsourcing, suggests Ama.

“We source all the raw ingredients ourselves and that can be a headache,” she says. “If you’re starting a business, do everything you can to get the operational elements – the logistics and supply chain - lined up and in your favour. If that’s not possible, I would say try and outsource as much as possible from the beginning and then focus on doubling down on building a great brand.”

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