Last night at Bongohive we got to be graced by Emma Sinclair, a woman so passionate about entrepreneurship you could feel it in the air around her. She told us her startup story and now I get to share it with you.
At an early age, she grew up watching her father keep an eye on the stock exchange in the UK, which companies were doing well, which ones weren’t.
This stayed with her up to University where she bought shares in the stock market, investing in companies she believed would show share price growth. She made a profit on her investments, paying back her student loans faster than she originally anticipated. Her understanding of the stock market, thanks to her father, led to her landing an internship in the trading team of a major bank and ultimately, a graduate position in investment banking. She had no banking background, just practical experience of how stock market work and internship experience.
Emma always had had an entrepreneurial mindset, always aiming to ultimately have her own business. She first worked for other people to gain experience and knowledge. and network in professional circles.
Emma’s first business plan was very organized before she even started it. She had a whole outline of every aspect of the business; profits, interest rates, wages, what acquisitions and disposals to make, new moves/goals, everything. Then she went on to form her business which she later managed to float onto the London Stock Exchange at the age of 29, being the youngest person ever to do so. It wasn’t a smooth ride but she had a support system of people who appreciated what she was doing and offered their help when need arose.
Her next business, Target Parking, responded to the need for management of car parks in the United Kingdom where it is costly and space to park can be hard to access, much like in Lusaka. As well as managing car parks, Emma launched ineedtopark.co.uk a web portal which connected people who needed parking space with people who had had spaces, taking a small fee to connect both parties. Because the way they handled their service, it was different from the rest, the company grew fast due to the increasing demand and popularity. She later sold it in May 2014.
Emma now works full time at EnterpriseJungle, a tech company she co-founded with her brother James which according to their website ‘is a Social Discovery and Knowledge Extension for enterprise intranet/ESN/HRIS platforms that drives employee adoption and retention to the social platform, increasing engagement and value, delivering content, tools and knowledge to users when they need it.
The solution sits natively within the users existing ecosystem and identifies the best people/groups and content outside of their current network we think they should already know (but don’t) or are relevant to the project and work the user is undertaking.”
It is designed for business customers but also has a consumer platform which is free of charge and focuses on the recommendation element of their service. People with a LinkedIn account can sign up for the service via their website.
QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
What makes a good business plan?
There are no set rules to define a good plan, ofcourse there is a structural framework, but the biggest part of your plan is how YOU want to do your business. It should be personal, how you thought your idea would respond to a need that you noticed around you. It should come from your gut. If it feels right, go ahead, if it doesn’t, pull back and re-do it till it feels right. There is a quote that ‘sales is sanity, profit is vanity’ so you should ask yourself the questions “What’s my profit like?” and “What do people want/need?”. Find a niche market that you can provide a solution for. Always be innovative.
How did you build your business infrastructure?
I started small, which was better because I kept costs low initially. The problem with starting large is you spend money on things you don’t need even before you start making profits.
How does one find time to balance both a job and a business they have started?
Driven people do whatever they have to do to make sure their businesses work. Life itself is business school in a way because we learn how to cope with things. We must learn to manage time and if you’re doing what you love, it won’t even feel like work!
What sector would you invest in Zambia?
As long as it’s a profitable venture, anything! People invest in people they believe in.
Is it advisable to start with nothing except an idea?
Yes. Just start. If your idea is solid all the right people will come on board, and I’d encourage you to network.
How do you capture your target audience?
Do your research before you venture out with your business. Toss your idea around a focus group. It doesn’t have to be a paid focus group: You can get opinions even on the street e.g if you’re planning to launch a line of women’s shoes with bells on them, ask every woman you meet anywhere what she thinks. That’s already a free opinion from your target market, which will help you in your decision making for your business. Also be active on social media and engage yourself with people you think may be valuable.