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Yesterday I was asked to share business lessons with aspiring seamstresses in Lusaka Zambia as part of a week of sewing & tailoring training we’ve organized with a local community group.The twenty enthusiastic students hadn’t ever used a sewing machine before. They had no computer skills or computers. No Internet access. As a group they had four sewing machines – four donated from BabyLock (thanks BabyLock) but one of those didn’t work because we didn’t have the right adapter.
They also had one very old treadle machine, (that still worked nicely).
What they did have was a strong desire to improve the quality of their life, provide for their children, and work together to learn new skills. They had enthusiasm, joy, and friendship.
Where Do You Start?
As you might guess – I wasn’t sure exactly how to help them. They have none of the advantages of aspiring entrepreneurs in the U.S. or other first world societies. I felt like my “bag of tricks” was useless. eBay auctions? No. Online selling? No. Email marketing? No. Social media? No.
I was going to have to get much more primal – and go all the way back to the beginning. I decided to share lessons that every successful entrepreneur knows.
6-Steps To Being A Successful Business Woman (or man)
As you might guess we started our time of sharing with our own personal story. The story of us needed more money to pay our bills. The story of Cinnamon being good at making doll clothes. The story of us wondering if that could be a business. The story of our first sale. The story of us working together to build Liberty Jane Clothing. Then I told them that we had learned six lessons that we wanted to share – as well as a list of three challenges that they’d have to learn to overcome.
Looking At The King Of The Jungle In Zambia
Step #1 – Perseverance, (never giving up)
I told them that most ideas don’t work. The job of the entrepreneur is to learn from every failure and to continue to try new approaches until they discover the things that do work. Sadly most entrepreneurs give up before they find success, but those that have perseverance will embrace the struggle and learn to find success.
Principle #2 – Optimism
I shared with them that friends and family will call you crazy. That I have a relative that questions the soundness of our business every time we talk about it. If I listened to that family member I would have given up a long time ago. But optimism means I believe for the best – even when things are hard.
Principle #3 – A Learning Attitude
We discussed the importance of having a learning attitude and taking advantage of every opportunity to get trained on the aspects of a sewing business. I told them that a sewing business is not just about sewing – it’s also about sales and marketing. So there are lots of lessons to learn in several areas.
Principle #4 – Goal Setting
I highly recommended that each of them write down a personal financial goal. We discussed how goal setting shapes your actions and gives you a way to hold yourself accountable.
Principle #5 – Striving For Quality
I encouraged them to focus on quality in their work and to strive to learn new things that would allow them to master the different aspects of a sewing business.
Principle #6 – Building A Brand
We explained how a reputation in the marketplace turns into a brand over time – and how a brand is the most important thing a seamstress can develop.
3 Challenges Entrepreneurs Have To Overcome
We also encouraged them to prepare to encounter several very hard obstacles. Including,
Challenge #1 – Failure Is Normal
We discussed the fact that most of the time an entrepreneur is trying to make something work – that doesn’t work. Products fail. Companies’ fail, ideas fail. Failure is totally normal. Entrepreneurs keep exploring until they finds success.
Challenge #2 – Competition Is Normal
When an entrepreneur finds success you can be sure that others will quickly copy the idea. That’s normal. Don’t hate them, be mad at them, or try to stop them. Simply realize they are trying to succeed too – and they see the value in your ideas..
Challenge #3 – Small Steps Forward Are Normal
Most businesses grow very slowly – through hard work and little incremental improvements. Don’t expect fast growth. Plan for slow steady progress.
Do You Have A Question?
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Jason & Cinnamon