What it Takes to Manage a Startup on your Own

Coming from a long career in Corporate Telcos, I imagined managing your own startup, alone, would be fairly simple. All you needed is a good product and route to market

Fast forward to my first ever startup and was I naïve about that! Looking back at the last 12 months, sometimes I can’t fathom what it took.

The first thing I was conscious of was the gratitude in the companies and some of the leaders I worked for, for the value they imparted on work ethic. A second-to-none customer experience, efficiency, trust, reliability, and proactivity are the building blocks of how Curatr was formed.

Along with the view that so many people didn’t really have access to original Wall Art due to pricing, and non-original, sensational Wall Art in South Africa that’s not ‘copy & paste’ dullness sold by the average Wall Art retailers.

With a very limited startup budget, there was no option but to learn new skills and do most of the work myself. This included content development, community management, website development, and loading content, importing, enablement of partnerships, and marketing on an extremely small budget.

There certainly are some elements that that with a lack of experience could be damaging to do oneself, and this is where investment trumps saving a dollar. Having some highly-skilled suppliers and partners is key and more importantly, to understand what they do at a high level to get the desired results.

Critical to profitability is to calculate margins, markups and to question each and every rand you spend, ask yourself, “Will this result in sales and/or improve customer experience?” Building up cash flows is what I learned. It can take anything from 1-3 years for a good business to become profitable.

In short, it’s a mix of:

  • Having a high standard of ethics instilled
  • Finding products that are of high quality and are desirable
  • Knowing your margins, cash flows, costs, and profit intimately
  • Being open to learning new skills and doing elements of the work yourself
  • Having some highly skilled partners and suppliers doing justice to certain elements of the business.
  • Be pedantic about admin
  • Look after your customers no matter what it takes