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A growing business needs a plan

Female entrepreneurship

Women in business create opportunities for inclusive, sustainable economic development. As well as contributing to equality and emancipation, female entrepreneurs can play a key role in creating employment, generating income and boosting innovation. Sarah Findlay Hamilton is one such female entrepreneur. Her business Outdoor Workz, that she runs together with her business partner Barry Smith in Cape Town, produces cushions for garden chairs and parasols.

Business partner Barry has developed a fabric that is resistant to rain, wet swimsuits and the sun. He is responsible for sales and customer relations while Sarah is CEO. “I hold the reins, deal with the finances, organise human resources and handle the IT department.” She sought assistance from PUM to take the business to the next level. During a brief mission, PUM expert Ingrid Molenaar worked intensely alongside Sarah, Barry and their employees to turn the Canvas business model into a workable plan. 

‘If we grow we will be able to offer employment to more people’

Unique project

“Since the beginning our business has succeeded in growing each year, some years more than others. We realised that we have a real impact on the economy and the local community and for that reason wish to raise our business to the next level. If we grow, we will be able to offer employment to more people”. To do that, Sarah, Barry and their team of twelve employees need to draw attention to their unique fabric particularly within the hospitality industry. “It is a huge advantage for hotels and restaurants if they do not need to take their cushions inside every time there is a shower of rain. What we lacked was knowledge of how to tackle this new market. Over the past week and a half, Ingrid has offered us tremendous assistance in arriving at a sound plan.”

Business plan

‘Ingrid’ is Ingrid Molenaar, a PUM expert with thirty years’ experience in retail and wholesale. This is her eighth mission for PUM. “Sarah needed assistance in generating more turnover and learning how to grow her business. In such a situation the perfect tool is the Canvas business model, a clear and efficient one-page model that explains the entire business. During the first few days I organised interviews with key staff members, customers and suppliers. They all often provide valuable input with their vision on the business. These interviews also give me a quick insight into the local market and the sector. The other starting point for the process is a financial analysis of the figures, if any are available. I then use the Canvas business model to sit down for two hours every day with the people at the business to discuss with them subjects from the business model. Effectively, they fill in the gaps in the business model because they have experience with the country and their sector. I guide the process that helps them create their own plan.”

Female entrepreneur and female workforce

The majority of the employees at Outdoor Workz are women. The CEO is a woman. What does that mean for a business? Ingrid explained, “When I look at the role of a female entrepreneur, I often see the impact reflected in the social fabric of the company. Women pay attention to such aspects as ‘How should I interact with my workforce, how should I deal with the social facilities and can I organise teambuilding activities?’ By considering these aspects alongside commercial aspects, female entrepreneurs have a huge impact on the company. At the same time, Sarah is a very sound and commercially oriented businesswoman. Does Sarah ever feel she is treated differently because she is a woman? “When people meet the two of us, Barry and myself, they often seem to assume that he is the boss. I think it’s the same all over the world. Apart from that, as a woman in business I have never experienced any particular obstacles. I have two young children and am the chief breadwinner at home. The same applies for our mainly female workforce. It is good to be able to make a contribution. Over time, we have observed that female employees remain with us longer, are more reliable in the sense that they turn up for work every day, and sickness levels are lower. Quite simply, we have concluded that employing women is better for our business.”

The future

And how will Sarah and Barry make use of the business plan now that Ingrid has left? Sarah continued, “We are still in regular contact. We are hard at work with Ingrid translating the Canvas business model into a specific list of jobs so that everyone knows what he or she needs to be doing, when, including a complete timeline. We plan to focus on drawing attention to our products. Our aim is for them to become known to everyone. We intend to double turnover within the next two years. Growth on that scale will have a huge impact on employment opportunities and our suppliers.” Ingrid added, “In the two weeks available to you as an advisor, you can do little more than set out a course; it is up to them to follow that course if they are to reach the destination.”

Ingrid Molenaar is PUM expert in the sector Retail: Business to Consumer and has finished 7 missions for PUM.
Text & Photography: Opmeer Reports