Ayanda Gail Khumalo: Be consistent, creative and open to change

After a lustrous career in the travel and tourism industry, Ayanda Gail Khumalo decided to pursue her dream of being her own boss. With the help of her father, she started an Internet Cafe while also helping out with the family business, Vukuzakhe Supermarket, a small general dealer in KwaZulu-Natal. In this interview, Ayanda talks about lessons she's learned in running her own business.

Tell us a bit about your business? 

I co-own an Internet café with my father in Kwandengezi called “The Incredible Internet café and CV Store. We specialise in consulting with our clients on how to put together the best and most informative CV’s to help job seekers make the first impressions. We also provide free mentorship and tips on job seeking, preparing them for the interview, dressing for success and having a great mindset. We also offer services such as printing and typing of documents, electronic invitations, business cards, laminating, scanning, sending and receiving of emails, binding of documents, etc

What are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?

The benefits of running a family owned business is that I have more time to spend with my son and family. My parents are also business people so this means I have 24/7 access to advise, guidance and support in the daily running of the business. I have siblings that I personally trained to run the Internet café which really helps because if I can’t be at the business I have great support to manage everything.
The challenges of running a family owned business is that you need to learn how to survive on days when the business is not going well. This requires you to keep motivated constantly. Sometimes my parents send me to run errands last minute and I have to close my business and do that.

How did you raise your start up money?

My father gave me the initial capital for the business.  All I had was an idea. I have always wanted to be a business woman and never wanted to be a working mother.

Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?

A very basic business plan. I sat down with my dad and told him the idea and what I wanted the Internet café to be like. I managed to convince him to agree on a 50/50 profit split as I would be involved on the daily running of the business.

Who did you hire to help you with your business - bookkeeper, an accountant, lawyer …? Would you suggest others do the same?

No I don’t have anyone assisting in the business like a bookkeeper or accountant. But I think it would it's important when the business has grown and you can afford to pay those who assist you.

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? And has that worked for your business?

Yes I outsource printing huge orders of colour business cards. Colour ink is extremely expensive and when I don't have it, I don't chase away my clients, I use another Internet café which I have built a relationship and I do the cutting and packaging for the clients. This helps with keeping a good relationship with my customers.

How do you compete with larger retail stores like Shoprite to get customers in the doors of your business?

By ensuring that my store offers most products that the customer needs and this encourages to keep coming back to me instead of traveling to town. And all our products are sold at a market price.

How has technology helped the business to thrive?

Technology has helped a lot especially with regards to my customers being able to swipe instead of using cash all the time. And also my clients are able to search and apply for jobs online instead of going to town to drop off their CVs.

How does your business differ from the competition that's out there?

In my area we are the only Internet café which also offers a short computer course. At the Incredible Internet Café & CV Store we pride ourselves for ensuring that we produce a professional CV for our customers. Furthermore. we provide free mentorship and tips on how to secure employment.

Do you have rainy-day savings for your business?

No (embarrassed).

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

I created a Facebook account to promote my business. Word of mouth has also been very helpful.

What's a financial mistake you made in the beginning? And how did you bounce from it?

Due to the lack of research I bought the equipment from an expensive store because I was in a hurry to open the café. At the end I was left with no money for shelves which were meant to display some of the stationery I sell. I managed to get old furniture from home that I repainted and we currently use that for now.

With the current economy slump, what cost saving tips would you share with new entrepreneurs?

I do not switch on the printer until someone requires printing or photocopying in this way I save on the electricity bill.

What advice can you offer female business owners on making sure they're being compensated fairly for their work?

Never sell yourself short, whatever the cost for your job is, stick to it. Yes we all have those regular customers. Be kind to them just once and surprise them with a discount but never allow them to take advantage with the “I’ll pay you back later story”. Just remind them nicely that you are running a business. 😊

Were there ever times when you had doubts about whether you would be successful? How did you stay positive during the lean times?

Yep,  in fact I still get those moments. It's natural especially when business is quite. My son is my motivation. He reminds me ever time why I opened up the Internet cafe. At times things become financially tough and I think of going back to being full time employed but I don't want to fail myself, so I hold on.

What new challenges have you experienced now that you are an established and growing company?

On rainy days and weekend its dead quite. People are too proud to admit they need assistance, for example, I realised that a lot of people here are not computer literate so I came up with a short course to help them but since June nobody is coming for the training. I’m not really sure why.

Do you have business mentors, and if so, how have they helped you develop as an entrepreneur?

Not really.  I just have my parents because they have years of experience in managing their own businesses and the challenge is that they can only assist me to a certain extent. I would love to have a business mentor though because I know that will help me a lot.

What have you learned from starting your company that might be useful to would-be entrepreneurs?

Having self-disciple is important when running a business. That is one of the main things that can make or break your business. Be consistent, creative and open to change.

This interview was made possible by Mastercard. Mastercard in partnership with mobile commerce provider, iKhokha is empowering thousands of small businesses like  Vukuzakhe Supermarket to accept digital payments using Masterpass, its digital payments service.  
Click here to see Ayanda's Story on the growth of her family business through innovative payments technology from Mastercard and iKhokha.