Sibongile Booi: Having a good understanding of the needs of your target market is crucial

Sibongile Booi the founder of Second Office, the first shared workspace in the Eastern Cape that offers cost-saving, flexible business and serviced office solutions. She’s been recognised as one of the Top 100 Women in the Border Kei Region and her company has been recognised on various platforms, including achieving First Runner Up in the 2016 Eskom Business Investment competition and becoming a recipient of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Fund. Sibongile is a big life enthusiast, a long-distance runner and a pilot in training.

Tell us about your career path. How did you get your start? 
My career path as an entrepreneur started when I realized that I had more to offer than I could as an employee. I had gained a number of skills as a Senior Management Consultant that I was able to leverage in my entrepreneurial journey.

What prompted you to think this is the kind of company you should start?
The observation of the absence of on-demand office support services in East London prompted the thought of establishing Second Office. 

How do you setup a business like yours – what’s involved in setting up a business like this?
The model consists of two elements, a furnished and equipped office space to which shared services are added. Shared services come in the form of office automation, internet, meeting rooms and various other services that when shared are more cost-effective. Because of the apparent low cost of entry, it may seem an easy business to start but it does come with its own challenges. 

How is Second Office primarily financed and how will you continue to remain financially sustainable? 
Second Office was primarily financed by cashing in savings and support from family. Today we are a thriving business that has received funding in the form of valuable business education, training and mentorship, marketing and access to markets from entities such as the SAB Foundation, Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). 

What are your opportunities as a company?
An opportunity exists for Second Office to establish strategic partnerships with service providers that have the expertise to help enhance and speed up the growth of businesses. 

How do you make money from your services?
We add value to workspaces and make them conducive for productive work. We allow clients to pay for what they use and we provide ample flexibility in the access of our services. It is important that we are in tune with the new modes of work.

How many months or years did it take before became profitable? 
Four years.

What have you learned in terms of marketing your business and getting it to your target market? 
It is important to take the time to dissect the target market. If one doesn’t, resources are spent unnecessarily and there is little or no return on investment. In addition, it is important to constantly monitor for marketing activities that are working by asking how new clients got to know about the business. It is also important to engage existing clients as they are likely to refer new business especially if the kind of potential clients they are targeting is disclosed.  

Which entrepreneur/person has inspired you the most & why?
Vusi Tembekwayo, entrepreneur, business speaker and author of The Magna Carta of Exponentiality. He inspires one to focus on the things that matter in building organisations that will last.  Worth the read! 

What has been your biggest waste of time or money in business?
Following up on debtors.

Do you get help from our government or from other organizations? And what kinds of help do you get?
Second Office has received assistance through various avenues including assistance with marketing from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and from the SAB Foundation who provides Business Management training, mentorship and financial support. We also receive assistance from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) in the form of Financial Management System implementation, training of staff and marketing material. Second Office also participated in their Women Entrepreneur Coaching Program where business skills were imparted.

Do you have any tips or advice for women who are looking to start their own up-market office space company?
Having a good understanding of the needs of your target market is crucial. As they grow, their needs will change. Continuously being aware of their needs will allow you to continuously add value. Another piece of advice is to maintain a low operating cost model where your expenses are closely monitored. This will also help you to sustain your business.

 You can get in touch with Sibongile via Twitter or email 

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