16 products to start a business in Sri Lanka

Starting a business is a tempting endeavor for many people. However, when it comes to establishing a business, most people are stumped for ideas. Questions such as “What industry should I pick?”, “Can I handle the workload?” and “How do I actually start it?” will most likely be running through your mind. However, before starting any business, the key is to do some research, pick on some potentially attractive ideas that can actually bring revenue and generate interest and then focus on ways in which you can build your business.

Have the capital to get you started, but running short on business ideas? Here are 16 business ideas for you to implement in Sri Lanka.

Number One- LED Backlit car stickers

Sri Lankans love their vehicles. A great way to generate interest and therefore embark on a business is by encouraging people to use innovative LED backlit logos instead of car stickers for their vehicle windows. These backlit logos will turn on automatically when people drive at night and shut down after parking. When it’s installed, it can really shine through factory tinted windows and don’t require any touching. Because people love to support a cause or an organization with a bumper sticker, they usually display it through a car sticker. However, to take that interest to a whole new level, these innovative LED backlit logos offer a wonderful business incentive. This is presently not availabile in Sri Lanka but it’s a promising possibility with a total market size of 6,302,141. Advertising agencies, NGOs, communities, companies and individuals are ideally the target segment for this venture.


Number Two- Handsfree Umbrella

Carrying an umbrella in a stormy climate could be a nightmare sometimes. This is an interesting innovation in which you can use an umbrella without having to hold it up. It’s simply designed to be strapped to the shoulders and you could talk on your mobile phone, take you dog on a walk, carry your shopping bags and so on with perfect ease while protecting yourself from the rain and stormy winds. You can watch about its efficiency here:


Number Three- Sunbath the comfortable way

Sri Lanka is a beach-lover’s paradise and lying by the pool or the beach is extremely relaxing and most tourists love sunbathing in Sri Lankan beaches as they work on their tan. When they need to sleep face down to get some sun on the back, the position could sometimes be uncomfortable because a towel doesn’t ideally make for a good pillow.

The ideas is a pillow that is creatively designed for the beach or pool. The design of it allows you to be comfortable, regardless of whether you are lying on your back or on your side. It can go a long way in making your tanning session by the beach a perfect one. This is presently not available in Sri Lanka but it certainly has the potential to grab the attention of tourists, travelers and hotels.

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Number Four- Heavy duty cleaning wipes

If you have kids around your house, then you know that they love creating a mess. Wiping the mess left behind by kids is a daunting task and something like these Wipes could come in handy. As individually packages cleaning wipes that uses non-toxic and citrus-based cleaning agents, it can handle even heavy duty cleaning. It’s a level higher than you standard antibacterial wipes and is eco friendly as well. Its portable nature makes allows you to take it with you to garages, compartments, drawers or anywhere you may encounter a mess.

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Number Five- Creative Bobbleheads

While bobbleheads are usually figurines that are generally made as a caricature of a famous person, making custom-made bobbleheads will be a great idea. Custom-made bobbleheads can be sculpted by hand from photos given by the client and this will be a much-loved gift. There are no doubts that this idea will be incredibly popular and high in demand. Fir further details visit http://www.webobble.com


Number Six- A folding Guitar

While guitars are perfect for a road trip or to have around a campire, it’s not something that actually built for travel. Even though there are travel cases for guitars, it’s usually very inconvenient to carry it around and having it with you on public transportation could be a horrid experience. And then, there is the fear of it being stolen or damaged. However, with a foldable guitar, all these issues would be solved effortlessly. Guitarists would certainly opt for this when it comes to ease of use and its portability.

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Number Seven- Branding Grills

These are ideal for BBQ parties because you can now keep track of your steak. Additionally, using equipment like this Grills Charms is helpful when it comes to distinguishing spices, flavors, allergy issues and even temperature preferences.

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Number Eight – No more embarrassing moments

Flatulence is an issue many people face and these digestive problems can range from intolerance to lactose to Crohn’s Disease that causes gas build-up in the intestine, making flatulence extremely hard to control. This creates plenty of embarrassing social situations and with a dress designed specifically for this issue, people with frequent flatulence can feel a little more at ease.

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Number Nine- Re-invented ice cream float

This incredibly clever attachment is loaded with flavors of ice cream that screws at the top of a plastic soda bottle. This allows the fizz to mix with the ice cream and takes flavor combinations to a whole new level.

You can watch this video to get a better idea:


Number Ten- Costume makeover for your old fridge

We get tired of our old refrigerators, particularly when it’s scratched or dirty on the outside. But still can’t seem to throw it away? This is a common housewife dilemma and if your fridge is in good working order but not polished on the outside, you can give your old fridge a cosmetic makeover instead of spending thousands in buying a new one. This will certainly be a very prosperous business venture considering how many people would dearly love to make their old fridge look brand new. To get a clearer idea, you can check here: http://www.fridgefronts.com


Number Eleven- Hygienic Play-pen

Every mother wants her child to have a clean and safe place to play. Something like a playpen or a play-yard is generally the solution but usually, toddlers drool or spill on their play-pens and because it gets dirty very fast, cleaning it is hard as well. So what’s the solution? A play-pen such as Coverplay, which, in addition to being easier to clean, also protects children from unhygienic conditions. This will certainly be a hit with mothers.

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Number Twelve- Educational Flash Cards

This is more of an educational tool that is a fun and fast way to learn and the flash cards can help boost better exam scores. Based on Sri Lanka this can be customized. This product is a hit in USA.

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Number Thirteen- Inspiring messages in the gift products 

There’s nothing people love more than personalized messages along with any product they buy. For example, if your business is selling accessories or gifts, it’s always a good idea to include a card / print with a positive and inspirational message. Or you can take creativity to a higher level, such as the product line, “Inspirella”, which is an umbrella with a positive message printed on it saying “You are my Sunshine”.

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Number Fourteen- Pushups the right way

Sri Lankans are now showing greater interest in fitness, meaning there is now greater potential in workout training tools and equipments. A device such as Lift Assist will allow people to do pushups the correct way and with far greater ease. The correct alignment also ensures that no injuries occur and it can especially be helpful for those who find it difficult to do even a single pushup.

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Number Fifteen- Chopstick Baskets

DIY projects are rising in popularity and research has proven that billions of chopsticks are used every year, requiring 25 million trees of bamboo plants for this demand. This means that a lot of energy and waste goes into producing something that people use for practically only fifteen minutes. To ensure that it’s recycled in a creative way, there are some great artworks that could be done using chopsticks. The basket below is made out of chopsticks collected from restaurants but you could use it to make an array of patterned artwork.

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Number Sixteen- Make your kids love medicine

Kids hate taking medicine and mothers spend an awful lot of time in trying to get their child to take the medicine. From the last-minute turn to a dive under the table, parents use so many techniques but, more often than not, the medicine ends up in all places except inside the child’s mouth. A creative way of making you child drink the medicine with minimum fuss is by the method outlined in the image below. Feeding medicines will no more be a nightmare for mums again!

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WORKING MORE HOURS WILL NOT LEAD YOU TO THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

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All too often, you can easily discern a soon-to-fail entrepreneur by the weary and exhausted look in their eyes. Despite covariance in the rate of startup collapses with overworked CEOs, the dilemma persists. Some are fanatical when it comes to boasting about working 60 to 80 hours a week. Their logic of building ’sweat equity’ blinds them to the sacrifices they make, for instance, their marriage, their health, their families and their social responsibilities.  What they perceive as a successful lifestyle is, in fact, a massive failure.

Let’s talk about personal fatigue

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We humans are not designed to work for 80 hours per week, at least not in the long term. Numerous studies have shown that humans function efficiently for approximately ten hours a day and that’s only if you sleep well, eat healthy and exercise regularly. Attempting to operate for more than ten hours will have diminishing returns because it keeps you from being at your peak even for those ten functional hours.

We humans need a solid eight of hours of undisturbed sleep to rejuvenate. That leaves 16 waking hours in a day. The majority of that time is spent in physical maintenance like eating, bathing, walking and other everyday activities. Then you have t take out time from those 16 hours for family interaction and other duties and events as well as our commute time. At the end, you only have ten hours in a day to do any real work.

The only way you can do more is by either working for seven days a week or you forgo doing those things that are called life. Working for seven days a week only gets you a maximum of 20 extra hours of productivity and that’s not much. Skipping all your normal duties and activities will make you end up with no family, ignored by the community and possibly with deteriorating health.

Why entrepreneurs work too hard and push themselves too much

It’s a known fact that impatience is a universal trait of entrepreneurs. They have a vision and want to achieve it overnight. Entrepreneurs also tend to be perfectionists and pay too close an attention to the minutest of details. Between wanting the work done now and done right, they usually chose to do all of the work themselves.

But life doesn’t work that way, you don’t scale that far. Entrepreneurs start on the road to overworking themselves because they make these common mistakes:

  • They don’t prioritize- entrepreneurs have to understand that not everything is equally important. Prioritize the work and give precedence to what needs attention at first.
  • They don’t delegate- fear of others not performing their tasks the way it should be done usually causes entrepreneurs to micromanage and add other burdens to their already growing workload.
  • They don’t deal with tough things first- dread of big problems and distasteful work keeps entrepreneurs from launching important initiatives.
  • They obsess over insignificant details- entrepreneurs focus too much over the unimportant details and ignore the bigger issues that need attention.

Don’t put yourselves through undue pressure. You don’t need to be your own slave driver. 

The only people who can help overworked entrepreneurs are themselves. Only they can undo the damage. Knowing that a person’s best performance diminishes after ten hours, what entrepreneurs can aim is for working 50 hours or less each week. After all it’s preferable to work well than work hard. If entrepreneurs work efficiently for ten hours, then it beats working poorly for 20 hours.  Remember to:

  • Work smarter- it may sound cliché, but entrepreneurs have to be smart about every move they make. One excellent, well thought out decision makes everything great and one single bad decision requires a lot of hard work to undo it.
  • Redesign responsibilities- if entrepreneurs feel like they can’t keep up, then they need to redesign responsibilities accordingly because it’s possible that some work that others are supposed to be doing is landing on their desks.
  • Learn to let go- if entrepreneurs hire capable and efficient people, communicate with them their vision and the business missions, then entrepreneurs have no need to micromanage.  Entrepreneurs can let these employees do great things for them.

Are you a successful person? Stereotyped myths about a successful person

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Every entrepreneur wants to be successful in whatever field they are interested in but most of us don’t actually believe that we have achieved a level of success. Success is defined differently by people and everyone has their own ideas as to how it can be achieved. Sadly, most of these ideas are based on common lies that we have been fed upon either by stories, movies or media. Owing to this, most people have a very distorted image of what success actually is, how it is achieved and what it brings to us. Below, I have listed the biggest lies we tend to believe about success.

  1. If you have all the answers, success will come

    People tend to procrastinate trying to achieve success by saying that they can only be successful if they have all the answers to their questions. And until they find all the answers, their journey to success is at a standstill. The truth, however, is that successful people don’t start off with having all their questions answered; rather, they have simply learned how to find answers to what they know by taking to road to achieving success.
    People who have achieved the success they desired have done so through trials and learning from their mistakes. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Rather, take action today. Mistakes will happen, but don’t give up.

  2. You don’t need to earn money to be successful

    People define success when they earn lots of money. Entrepreneurs set they are successful when they see money, working class tends to pretend success when they earn more money in their job. Listen don’t just define success with just monetary term. I have seen most of the people tend to act strange when they didn’t earn something. Remember success is not always what you see.

    As an Entrepreneur you may not have earned what the society thinks as success. But the experience you have earned is more precious than money. The lessons from the struggle you go through, a satisfied client, a small news about you in a paper are some that matters more than money.

  3. You don’t have to make any changes

    There is an old quote that says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. This is true but it should be noted that there is actually a very fine line between insanity and perseverance. To be successful, you have to be aware of when you need to makes changes. You have gone through a lot to get to where you are right now and if you want to be in a higher position, then you have to make changes whenever the need arises. Adaptability is key.

  4. Success comes without sacrifices

    Does everything you want in life come to you? Yes, if you try but not all at once. You have to make the choices about what you want right now. Our life is never going to be perfect so we need to choose what to sacrifice in order to have what we want. With each phase in our life, our priorities shift and with this shift, we should also make some sacrifices on the way. If we believe that success can come without having to make any sacrifices, then we’re only in for disappointment.

    I have seen hard working entrepreneurs who have scarified their personal lives, friendships and relationships and much more. They have even reduced the tie spent in sleep, shower, food, health and much more.

  5. Success comes overnight

    There are movies and media stories that talk about overnight success and we all love reading a good story about how someone with basically nothing achieved success overnight. If we imagine the same thing will happen to us, then it’s a delusional. What we need to understand is that overnight successes are only achieved by those who have been struggling to refine their skills, trade and business for a long time. And then finally, they received recognition, which in that particular context, refers to success. To be successful, you have to work hard to get there.

    As an Entrepreneur, building a company from 2 people to 20 people in 5 years time, I can firmly tell nothing comes over night.

  6. Only rich people can be successful

    Are successful people born only into rich families? Of course not. In fact most people who have earned success have actually comes from ordinary or even difficult backgrounds and toiled hard to get to the position they are in now. Every ordinary person can be successful. All it takes is to develop habits to bring about consistent improvement, day after day, year after year.
    There are many stories out there about people who succeed without even a single cent. They worked hard, focused fearlessly, faced challenges and kept only the target in their minds.

  7. Success will take all our problems away

    Every single person has to deal with their own share of problems, and this includes successful people. People who are successful face their own problems but they generally have the strategies and resources to help them deal with it better. On the road to success, there will be problems and in order to be successful, you need to learn to solve your own problems. And while most of us probably won’t believe it, the more successful you are, the greater your problems will be. The bottom line is that life isn’t going to be easier when you are successful. You will only be more capable in dealing with problems.

  8. If you are successful, people will like you

    It’s very common for people to criticize others because of their success. Because in a way, your own success can make others uncomfortable with the fact that they aren’t as successful as you and that naturally causes envy. So will people like you more after you are successful? The truth is quite contrary; you are more likely to lose friends after you have reached success but there is good news too- with your success, you will now have the opportunity of making new friends.

  9. Success will make you happier

    Can money buy happiness? To a certain level yes, but it’s only for a short-term. There is only one way in which success can make you happy and that is if you are grateful for every moment, good or bad. Only people who are deeply satisfied can be grateful, regardless of their circumstance. So don’t wait until you are successful to be happy. Choose to be happy now because success won’t always make you happy.

​Taking 100% Responsibility for Your Life

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I was having a chat with a young boy who had completed his A/L’s 2 years back. While in the mentoring process, he was complaining about his parents for not giving proper education whilst not supporting him financially and not guiding properly. He did not stop with that, he continued saying due to his basic education he did not get a proper job with which he is not happy at all. Within a shorter period he has switched few work places and was blaming about his income level. He was not happy with himself either. He is not outgoing and do not have sound English and communication skills as he attended a government school. Further he said his personality is not built enough to network and get socialized with people which resulted in poor achievement of targets and no promotions.

Most of us are in the same mentality, we always blame the circumstance and the people around us.  If we didn’t get a good job, we blame the company, if we didn’t get good education we blame the parents, if a project went failure we blame the client, always we BLAME others. We always tend to forget that the real problem is not people and circumstances around us, it is OURSELVES.

We might not have achieved what we expect, income level, relationship goals, educational backgrounds, wealth and properties and much more. It is time to stop for a while and rethink why we have not attracted any of our expectations?Here I have used the word “attracted” instead of “get” is because, in this universe everything is there and we attract what we think. If we think positively we attract the positive ones and vice versa.

Ninety nine percent of all failures comes from the habit of making excuses, says Geroge Washinton. If we have working towards a common goal we have to leave all the above excuses. If you want to succeed and achieve the dreams of your life you have to take the responsibilities and do not blame others for not supporting or hindering.

Take for an example, if something doesn’t turn out as planned, its time to ask yourself “how did I create that?” “what was I thinking” “what were my beliefs” “what do I need to do it differently next time to get the result that I wanted.” Based on Jack Canfield’s Success Principles book, a simple formula of life is given as below:

E+R = O (Event + Response = Outcome).

Every outcome you experience in life is the result of how you responded to the events. If you are not happy with the current situation of your life, you have left with two choices:

  1. Blame the event for your lack of results – You can blame the economy, lack of education, weather, parents, life partners, boss, friends, relatives so and so forth.
  2. Change the responses to the events. Respond in a way that ultimately gives you the outcome you wanted. Change your thinking, change the inner imagination, change your behavior and gradually the results will change.

If you keep doing what you have always been doing, you will keep on getting what you have always getting. If your thoughts are so negative, its time to look for new set of people who can motivate you or new place that energizes you. If you are failing in exams now its time to increase the time and practice. If your business is not performing well, its time to re-look at the strategy you have got.

Jack Canfield says continuing the same behavior and expecting different results will not happen. If you are an alcoholic, and you keep drinking, your life is not going to get better. The day you change your response is the day your life will begin to get better. If you want something different, you have to do something totally different.

If you are not happy with your current income level, its time to look for alternative ways of earning income. If you are not happy with the current work place, search for a better one. If your parents didn’t give you proper education, its your time to seek by yourself. Remember worrying about the past and current will destroy your future.

Imagination is everything and all your today’s action will become tomorrow’s events.

  1. Stop blaming others and events
  2. Stop complaining about what you have got / attracted
  3. Pay attention, the results don’t lie​

Mondays give Happiness and Fridays make no Changes!

Normally Mondays are supposed to give the blues and Fridays are supposed to trigger off cheer. This phenomenon is usual unless otherwise you are an Entrepreneur.  For an Entrepreneur there is not much of a difference between Mondays and Fridays when compared to an ordinary Corporate Man.

I always wanted to write something for the younger generation, for those who want to become Entrepreneurs. Before that, it is better to know the recent trends emerging among these youngsters in Sri Lanka. Below given trends are widely noticeable:

  1. People starting their own businesses (it may be a formally registered business or something that is started on their own at their home etc.) is increasing at a rapid pace but at the same time the number of close downs or discontinuations are also increasing.
  2. People leave their jobs and start something on their own, wait for some time, if nothing goes as planned or expected they simply quit and start working again.
  3. While working there are many individuals and groups of friends and families who run their own businesses, this includes many top leaders in the corporate world as well.

When compared to the previous era the urge to do something on your own is increasing. One of the biggest proofs that I have is my own blog. I wrote a blog post with the heading “Small Business Ideas for Sri Lanka” in 2009. The post got listed in the Google first page for relevant keywords like “Small business ideas in Sri Lanka” “business ideas Sri Lanka” etc. The visitor stats for the above post are as shown below:

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Remarkably over 500 requests have been sent to the Google doc linked to the post requesting for new business ideas in Sri Lanka, investment ideas in Sri Lanka and guidance for start-ups.

I also receive calls asking for guidance and help, sometimes up to 2 to 3 calls a day.

Surprisingly Sri Lanka is Enterprising!

It is prevalent that Sri Lankans who are living here as well as expats who want to invest in Sri Lanka need more guidance, support, advice and help in order to start something on their own in Sri Lanka. It’s a really loud call for all big / highly successful Entrepreneurs out there.

So here are some tips and thoughts that I can share with you which I have learnt and experienced.

This post is not only for someone who is planning to start something of their own but also for people who are planning to start a business but are in two minds whether to do so or not.

1- Start only if you have the Passion

“One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.” – Jeff Bezos

Let me start it off with my story. The reason for me to share my story is unlike any other phenomenon, Entrepreneurship has never been built based on any theories and principles. It’s all about experience and that is why sometimes it’s considered as a black magic and avoided by people though they would like to pursue it. Only if you have the right passion can you explore it and discover the magnificent wonders hidden inside.

You can read my blog which I wrote after completing my first year as an Entrepreneur. “Life as an Entrepreneur” Many of my readers appreciated this post.

My business, Epitom Consulting is in its 3rd year of journey along with its co-brands Epitom Trinergy and Epitom Training. I have seen lots of up and downs and what makes me happy now is when people recognize my company.  Epitom Consulting handles all marketing consulting, marketing planning and market research services whilst Epitom Training handles workshops, internal training programs, courses etc. catering to over 300 clients in a short span of time. My other infant that is just 6 months old is Epitom Trinergy has started operating in four different countries as a registered legal entity in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Nederland and USA.

I admit that the journey of Entrepreneurship is hard, hectic and sometimes isolates you from the rest of the world. At some point you feel you have lost many things compared to your colleagues and friends. But the positive side of Entrepreneurship is the feeling of having the complete freedom of doing what you like and think as right. Simply the passion that you have towards your venture keeps you moving forward. That is why I have titled this post as “Mondays give Happiness and Fridays make no Changes!” when you start working with passion you do not panic about Mondays and are glad about Fridays.

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There are big difference between working under someone while helping them to achieve their dreams and being your own boss. I am not implying that there is anything wrong with corporate life compared to becoming an Entrepreneur.  All I am saying is the perspectives of looking at life is totally different in these two viewpoints.

If you are passionate you will not quit the journey no matter how hard it is.

Do not purse an entrepreneurship life if you only want to:

  • earn money
  • get respect in society
  • build an image as a risk taker

and

  • imitate someone simply because he or she is doing a business  successfully

2- Be ready to come out from Your Safe Zones

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If you are comfortable in a place or at a particular state-of-mind there is less chances of enterprising and risk taking. You should be prepared to forego the comfort and safety.

I am out of the safe zone now. I do not have a job or a fixed monthly income. Epitom is my life. So I work day and night for the growth of my own brand.

When you see you have a team working for you to achieve your dreams, when you see you are fighting for your own survival, when you realize you have to answer people who laughed at you at the beginning, when you see you have a better half supporting you at maximum, when you see your parents waiting for your business to grow and when you see each day your efforts boost your brand, you will not expect a comfortable life with weekends and holidays. There is not much of a difference between Mondays and Fridays for you.

I have not taken big risks while I was working, but my risk taking expedition started when I started my own business. As an Entrepreneur you have to seek for big returns that gradually end up in taking big risks. Entrepreneur life is not about sitting and watching whales leap. It’s all about becoming a Whale yourself.

3-How you are going to Measure your Success?

This image is enough to show how success should be measured. Success is not what you see. It’s what you will get down the line. Success in the entrepreneur life is not immediate. You will have to wait while watching others pass you. Do not measure your success in terms of monetary value.

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  • Value it based on the level of freedom that you enjoy being an Entrepreneur
  • How much you are content about your current growth
  • The brands that you have created
  • The number of people who work for you and how you look after them
  • How many customers are happy with your products and services
  • What is your contribution towards your society

4- Self-Satisfaction Drives Everything

I know money is important but not everything is related to money. I have seen many of my friends complaining about their work even though they are paid well and given all sorts of fringe benefits.  They are frustrated and badly want to get out of their jobs. But once you become an Entrepreneur you will never hate your life because that path though it’s difficult was chosen by you. You will start loving it. When you see your infant (I mean your brand J ) is growing day by day, you will have real self-satisfaction which cannot be compared to anything else.

Even when working I got a very good salary. Failures were not part of my life when I was schooling, graduating or following my professional studies. But when I started to be on my own, I started to taste the sweetness of failure (I say it’s sweetness as I chose it whole heartedly). Entrepreneur life is not easy as you think. The failures will craft you like a statue. When you move forward you will become competent in handling failures, disappointment and challenges easily.

Whatever it is ultimately if you are self-satisfied with what you are doing, that state-of-mind will drive your business towards success.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden

 

5- Monotonous way of Thinking will not Work

New ways of thinking is a must if you want to become an Entrepreneur. You should be always determined to think out of the box and implement new ideas to take your business forward. Dare to think differently even if it’s criticized or convicted.

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If you are working under someone, unless you are the decision maker it’s always difficult to implement what you think as correct. Your immediate boss might say NO, or the top level decision makers might criticize your ideas. At the end of the day you will become a confused person and wonder whether you are really capable of doing things? What if my ideas are dump? But when you become your own boss, this is what your role is. Strategize and implement whatever your gut feeling says as correct. Even if you fail you finally end up with a study point.

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” – Benjamin Franklin

 

6- Finally Understand and Accept the Black Side of Entrepreneurship

During your tenure as a start-up Entrepreneur sometimes (not always but generally) you will travel along the path of uncertainty. Sometimes you will not even have single cent to take a bus to go home. Or you may have some other commitments like paying a supplier, paying your bills etc. which may force you to spend nothing on yourself.  You may face situation where you will have to walk to your home till you gradually wear out the soles of your shoes.

Despite the hard times, one day your passion and determination will start paying-off in the way that you may have not expected. These difficulties will model you little by little and make you cable enough to think strategically and innovatively.

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Wake-up the Entrepreneur Sleeping Inside You…

There are youngsters who have dreams of becoming their own masters and proving themselves as successful entrepreneurs. However most of them just keep quiet and take no steps forward towards their dreams due to several reasons. The main reasons are of course either the lack of financial recourses to start initiating their dream or the financial uncertainty at the initial stage of the business until it creates a momentum and starts earning profits.

However, if it becomes easier to start a business and take it towards success with no cost or with very low cost, I’m sure that our country would see many young entrepreneurs with massive talents and big dreams. Normally it is very difficult to get the momentum unless you have a big marketing budget and a strong strategy. That is why I am sharing some general tips and zero cost marketing tips to market your dream and create the necessary momentum to enter the safer zone of a sustainable bottom-line.

Some of the tips are from my own experiences. As a young entrepreneur with big dreams, I feel it’s my responsibility to share what I know and what I have experienced with my fellow entrepreneurs. Some of the tips are from my 2 years of entrepreneurship experience in the business of consultancy and some of the tips are from what I have learnt throughout my marketing profession.

Managing Funds

1-      The starting and running of a business should be supported by enough funds. But make sure that you do not enter into loans with high interest rates. If you are starter and if you have a good business plan I would recommend approaching public banks. They would probably consider your proposal. In contrast if you approach any private financial institutions you might have to answer many questions and finally you might not end up with a positive answer. In general private banks are good for established businesses rather than for start-up entrepreneurs.

2-      Managing the funds is again an important aspect to have a grip on your business finances. Whenever you spend an amount, it may be for an office purpose or sometimes it may be for a personal reason, no matter, just note it down. Always have a small pocket diary with you. Most of us tend to think “I don’t need any records / pocket diary, I can remember all my expenses”. But literally this is not the case, in a few days many small expenses vanish from our memories. Finally when we run short of money and start trying to find out what we spent on, we go crazy as we cannot remember. It is always good to maintain a record of expenses, even incomes too and at the end of month prepare a summary. Accordingly you will have an idea of the amount of funds available for you to make plans, give commitments etc. Also this helps to monitor your monetary progress.

3-      If you have various sources of income make sure to evaluate which are performing well, and what is not. Especially when you get loans and buy an asset for the business which is not productive even to earn the interest that is being paid for the capital tied up in that particular asset; simply it resembles a poor fund management. There are plenty of options available in the market but it the responsibility of the entrepreneur to evaluate them and choose the best which is apt for his / her financial situation / business nature / capabilities etc.

4- Below given are the “don’t” that I would suggest for starters. Generally entrepreneurs do the following mistakes at the very beginning of their businesses;

  • They tend to manage a large employee force. They try to show the success of their decision to start a business by the number of employees which will gradually eat up the liquidity of the business. Recruit people if necessary only. Another smart way of reducing the staff cost is getting freelancers to work for you. You have to pay them for the work done only which is very cost effective. In general the under graduates / school leavers etc would be the ideal freelancers. These people will be highly interested in learning new things and very energetic. Also payment wise you do not need to pay big amounts since they might not have enough work experience to demand more.
  • They tend to rent a large office space with expensive furniture and set-up very nice cubicles for themselves which are not essential at the very beginning of the business. Do not spend unnecessarily and instead spend it in income generating options. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money on these things. What we spend on should make sense. For example if you are going to start a salon / beauty parlor it is a must to spend some money on furniture as that would definitely generate business. However, if you are going to start an online business where a physical office is not that important it is wiser to spend some money on SEO activities, Social media campaigns etc rather than spending money on renting out an expensive office space etc.
  • They always try to purchase more assets which reduce the liquidity of the business.

What I would like to emphasize is do not spend money unnecessarily on items which you want to show others to convey that you are successful in the business and that you have enough money. This would ultimately ruin the success of your business. Here I would like to share an interesting image which I came across in facebook recently.

Your success doesn’t depend in managing unwanted employees and assets, but in how you effectively manage your funds and saving it for future growth.

 

Marketing Your Business

Use simple marketing to boost your business. At the initial stage of your business you can use the below given tips to market your business / product.

1-    Always be in touch with your customers, do not forget them. Try to please them as much as possible. Gift them in a small manner. Talk nicely, get inside their shoes to really understand them and think of what they actually need from you. The word of mouth is an important promotional tool for any small business. Send greetings during special events, time to time come up with some sales promotions to reward your loyal customers. Coupon cards, loyalty programmes, theme selling, discounts, free gifts etc are a few examples for sales promotions. Always remember there are many competitors waiting outside to grab your customer so do not give a chance to your competitor.

2-    Occasionally try to have some competitions for your clients and others. It should be interesting and on the other hand it shouldn’t eat your money. For example if you are in a service related business the gift for the winner can be a few of your service hours free of charge. This type of promotion raises curiosity about your business, people will start to research about you which would create good brand awareness and helps you to stand out from the crowd.

3-    Use free emailer tools which are available online. These tools have message delivery rates, open tracking rate etc. This brings me at least a certain lead each time I send out newsletters. Keep building your email base and send out interesting newsletters.

4-    Regularly tweet and update your fanpage to get some improved search engine rankings. Having a strong online presence like social media interaction (facebook, twitter, linkedin, youtube, foursquare etc), search engine friendly contents etc would benefit your business.

5-    Create a blog and update it regularly. I would suggest wordpress (www.wordpress.com) for blog writing for your business. It’s very user friendly, professional and attractive. Here are some examples to start writing your blogs; something interesting about your business, some general content which is relevant to your business, some of your customers’ feedback or their experience with you (ask them to share the experience and you can publish it as a blog), some local as well as economic and social facts affecting the business etc. This blog would gradually help to increase your search engine optimization. Especially google has its own personalization tactics. When your customers start interacting with you through mails, automatically you will understand google’s contribution for your SEO. I always get many leads through my blog. Just try typing the keywords like “Small business ideas in Sri Lanka” and “Business consultancy in Sri Lanka”, “business ideas in Sri Lanka” . See the search engine results.

6-    Use your business card as a promotional tool. Try maximum networking. Attend external events, talking points, seminars, workshops etc. Build your network. Tell them what you do but in a different way. Create your own brand awareness to your network. Leads automatically come. Make sure you are creating an interesting business card which grabs the attention of people. Recently I got a card from my friend which looks like below, really an interesting and innovative card (Courtesy – Shehan Kumar).

7-    First impressions matter a lot. If you are service provider make sure you are not dissatisfying the client. Always give a service which is above the excepted level. I have seen people who never answer the calls of their clients. If a task is given to you finish it on time. You should call the client instead don’t expect the client to call you. These are small things but matter a lot.

8-    Business is always about making money I agree, but if your client is in a struggle in terms of its monetary situation, help out. Try to give them cost effective solutions. You might waste your time, but treat it as an investment for your future growth. You never know who will become what. If the same client later becomes successful, if he / she remembers that he / she received a great service from you that would definitely help you to get better business, good contacts and strong word of mouth etc.

9-    Always try to get free publicity; it’s just a call away. Contact the media in Sri Lanka (newspapers in all three languages), build a rapport with them and request them to publish free PR article for you. The initial relationship I built with the media gives me certain exposure and publicity to my brand.

10-  Try to approach business magazine and write about current business trends. There are lots of magazines in Sri Lanka expecting these types of writers. Call them; give them your sample write ups. Continuously write for the magazines. This creates good brand awareness for your business.

11-  Do not make unnecessary promises to the client. But if you promise something try to make it happen.

12-  Make partnerships with other brands. If your business is not offering a part service which is offered by someone else create a partnership. If you give the lead you will get a lead back from them.

13-  Always do satisfaction surveys with your customers to judge your product or service level. They are the best people who give valuable advice. Filter those and implement the same.

14-  Plan the future from now onwards. Your future customers would be the current students. Do events or any other promotions to position your brand now itself.

15-  Get endorsements / testimonials from your existing customers. When I posted one of my client statements about my brand, I got one new referral who viewed the comment. Have a separate section for testimonials in your site. If it’s a product, get some experience testimonial from the users. Publish and distribute it everywhere.

  • Add it in the site
  • Use it in the marketing communication materials
  • Distribute it in the social media / tweet it.

16-  Make sure your brand is everywhere in all external materials.

  • Make sure your email signature carries your brand logo and other social media sites and your web URL. If you are writing to a potential client, this would help you to build credibility. The potential client might visit your site / social media channels and would get to know about you more. When I met one of my clients last week, he mentioned that they got to know more about our consultancy services through clicking the email signature links to our site and Facebook Fanpage.
  • If you give any proposals to your prospectors make sure your branding is in the paper (either as a header or footer) and in the file cover. This won’t cost you much.

17-  Always reply to the communication mails quickly. Set a standard time for reply. I have got several appreciations from my clients for a timely and quick reply. Use your phone as a marketing tool. Set up your email there.

18-  Differentiate your brand from others. As part of a portfolio my company does corporate trainings too. There are a lot of other companies in the same business. When I branded my training series with a character the response was superb (www.workshop.epitom.org). Try to differentiate your brand in many ways; it could be via what is offered, marketing communication etc.

I hope you might have found some interesting / worthy tips from this post. Feel free to contact me if you need any further information.

Life as an Entrepreneur

Challenges, sorrows, failures, disappointments, success, risks, recognition, satisfaction etc etc these words are always entangled with an entrepreneur’s life. As much as you gain you lose the same. Sometimes joys, sometimes sorrow, sometimes confusions, sometimes challenges, life is not easy as you think. When travelling in this path, after sometime if you turn back and see you will realize what you have earned as well as what you have lost.

Now I’m an entrepreneur. It’s nearly one year since I started to be on my own and just thought of writing this post today to share my difficulties and experience I underwent during this period.  I’m sure I would not have learned so much if I had worked for a company because I wouldn’t have taken such risk if I worked for someone. As an Entrepreneur I faced so many challenges and there are heaps of risks accumulated in my list. I was always willing to take challenges not only these days even when I was schooling.  I guess this life further strengthen my challenging ability.

When I was working for a company I was in two mind i.e. a year back, whether to start my own venture or not. I know the decision I’m going to take has an opportunity cost. If I continue to work on my own definitely I can earn more than what I would have been getting by working in a company per month. However I knew an entrepreneur’s life is not an easy one. I realized that always I cannot be in the safe zone. So many advices from people circled my mind. Some advised positively and many negatively. Some looked at this as an immature decision and some laughed at it. When I told I’m going to be my own, the biggest question people asked was “how you are going to survive?”. However my gut feeling didn’t allow me to keep quiet and quit my decision. I know I can make it, but the big concern I had was about my parents and my girl. Even my parents were not in favour of my decision. They told me to try and see.  Generally girls wants their guys to be in a decent job with a safe zone life. It’s rare that they want the person whom they are going to marry to be an entrepreneur at his very early stage struggling to achieve the victory.  When I told the decision to my girl, “You can, we will rock “, that was the reply she told me. All the questions I had about my decision vanished away and I started to be on my own.

After struggling for 8 months I’m a happiest person these days with the smile thinking about my company. Now I have a brand of my own. I’m not going to say I have earned money but I’m happy about the growth of my brand. I can proudly say that I’m an owner of a brand.

I never compare my life to any others. Because I know each individual’s path of journey is totally different. I know now I’m no more in the safe zone. Now I have taken my brand to a certain extent. I have clients both locally and internationally. Apart from that “Epitom” is a quite a known brand in the HR sector of Sri Lanka. Those days handling foreign clients was a nightmare to me. Because it was very difficult to understand their language. These days I feel it’s pretty easy, one thing always there in my mind, all are human. Deals are done.

I’m very grateful to my cousin because he is the one who encouraged and supported me to get in to the business with him. Now we both are in to two different fields. We both meet up regularly and discuss the progress of our brands. Though we are not partners today still we share our experiences.”friend in need is a friend in deed” this is a common saying and I realized it as 100% true because of my friend who helped me to start my journey as an entrepreneur. Also I’m thankful to my previous bosses who helped me and guided me in many occasions.

Whenever I’m disappointed and say “I’m totally fed up” I had an encouragement always. The words from my girl “Don’t worry we will rock” keep myself motivated which I feel as the real motivation exists in the word. It carries lots of value and energy. Still a long path to go and  I know I have to answer so many people who are around me but I will try my best and work hard to keep the spirit going.

Few things I would like to share with people who are thinking of start something of their own.

1-      Always keep in mind that money is not the ultimate thing, it’s the experience you earn.

2-      Try to avoid partnerships, but get good assistance and guidance from someone.

3-      Do not have second thoughts of what you are going to do.

4-      Always value your gut feeling, If it says yes for anything “GO FOR IT”.

5-      Careful about your competition, always monitor them.

6-      Hard work matters a lot, but you should believe in god too. Always start the day with a prayer.

7-      Make sure you are not away from family and friend. Be in touch with them (This I failed to do).

8-      Though you are struggling do not give up. One day you will succeed. It is always dark before dawn.

9-      Do not get discouraged by others words. Only action can win arguments. Prove them and show that they are wrong. Do not argue with others. You will lose your precious time.

10-  Always remember people helped you. Even a small help matters a lot.

11-  Do not reveal your secret to anyone. One day it might destroy you.

12-  In business you will start something and end up in some other. Thats the entrepreneurship nature. But love what you do.

13-  Take big risks, the return is always high.

14-  Manage your cash flow properly .Keep reserves for future growth.

15-  Try to attend as much as external events. It will help you one day. Create your own network. Don’t place yourself in a short circle. World is too big.

16-  If you think the negatives in your mind are beating positives try to speak to someone who encourages you. Try avoiding speaking to negative mind set people. Because their thoughts can destroy you.

17-  Listen and watch motivational videos and read articles about entrepreneurs. It will keep you in the game. That’s why people say if you want to get the real motivation speak to an entrepreneur because they are the people always motivate themselves.

18-  Give rest to mind and thought. That is important for more productive days.

19-  Pay your overheads on time, do not keep any balances.

20-  People might say “You cannot be a Bill Gates”, Even if you cannot be you can have a try. Speaking from the safe zone is always easy. Forget about them.

21-  Create a clear vision and work towards it. When you see the success the best happiest person is always “YOU”.

22-  Always look for opportunities. It’s all around you.

23-  Until you establish yourself strong enough try to do one thing at a time. Do it correctly. Do not consider too many options at once. It will diversify your effort and bring you less success.

24-  Save some cash for marketing.

25-  Never fall into debts. It will destroy your liquidity.

26-  Try to get the help from others but give the return back. If you didn’t do that then you will be stucked in the middle.

These are some key learning points I have studied during this one year. I didn’t lose any but instead I gained so much. New set of people, new pattern of thinking, new ways of implementing things, international contacts, out of box thinking, understanding of so many people, market, the taste of failures etc etc.  It’s not about money, it’s about experience which are worthy than money. In the entrepreneurship life you will lose money. Money won’t come as you expect. It will take its momentum first to get the control.

“The Secret” and “The Power” those are the two books given me the control over this life. Sometimes mind works in the negative way. If you feel so, just take a deep breath and continue your work. You will see the real different. I would recommend you all to read these books / even you can buy the movie at Liberty Plaza. Listen / read these, your world will change.

To get the outcome of your hard work it will take time. The negative thoughts might take you away from your vision. Do never give up. Walt Disney took 10 years to come up with the world loving character Micky Mouse and even he had pulled off from the company he worked for saying he is not having creativity. Steve Jobs got pulled from his own company later again he became the CEO of the business. It’s all about hard work, but in the entrepreneur life it will take some time for you to get the maximum out from the hard work.

Entrepreneurs remember one thing,

“Winner Win by pushing their limits until the limits becomes the norm

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