7 Lessons From Scaling (How We Grew Afrocenchix to 6 Figures & What We Learnt Along The Way)

A year and a half ago I shared the story of our pre-seed raise of over $650k. I did this to demystify fundraising. The problem is, it was a little sensational. Most investment rounds won’t include pitching to celebrity judges including Diddy, Ashton Kutcher and Gary Vee.

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We’ve been asked lots of questions over the last year or so including:

  • What’s the best way to manage cash flow?
  • How do you grow a community and keep everyone engaged?
  • How do you handle your mindset and emotions when things don’t go to plan?
  • When should you outsource work?
  • What does a good sales funnel look like?
  • How do you approach content marketing?
  • When do you cut your losses and pull out of an investment into a new tool?

Start With You

Whilst scaling your business, you will get tired. You’ll constantly be improving the products, fighting fires and focusing on issues to the point where sometimes problems are all you can see. A shift to working on rather than in the business means a focus on management, processes, financial structure and operations. Scaling means less of the fun creative and immediately rewarding work and more strategic and operational heavy lifting. Whilst doing this work you’ll be head down and busier than ever. People may get upset that you don’t have time for them as your priorities change. It’s a marathon, not a sprint but nobody tells you how to train so it’s not only exhausting, it’s also likely you’ll get injured.

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet. You are worth the time it takes. Let your food be medicine and never let your medicine be food, as they say.
  2. Exercise. A healthy body begets a healthy mind.
  3. Family and friends first. if your business goes down it is sad but someone will take your place eventually. To your loved ones, you are indispensable. Show them they mean the same to you.
  4. Stick to your hours unless it’s an emergency. Boundaries are everything. Respect yourself enough to honour them.
  5. Remember your vision. The path you’ve chosen for yourself is far harder than most other things you could be doing, remember why you’ve taken this road.
  6. Expose yourself to your impact. Read customer reviews, speak to those you’re helping, get your hands dirty and remember you started to help people, and you’re doing more than you could have imagined. Taking photos and writing down your experiences along the way will help you look back and see how far you’ve come, and also motivate you at the low points when business gets tough. We have a joke in our team for whenever something goes wrong, someone will ask for “pics for the book” it reminds us all that hard times will pass and the process makes a great story!

Lessons From Scaling

1. Hiring And Team

Scaling is all about people: your customers, your team, your investors. Product is key, but good product fits into looking after your customers. I truly believe that if you make it your business to look after your people, your people will look after your business.

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2. Community

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3. Mindset

The one thing guaranteed when scaling is that things won’t go to plan. Whether on a minor level, a Brexit level or a Global pandemic level, we don’t know what tomorrow has in store. What we do know is that each day has enough trouble of its own. So keep first things first and focus on things you can change.

4. Operations, Finances & Logistics

The product can always be improved, waste reduced processes made more efficient, copy clearer and more compelling, customers given a better experience, teams more cared for and cash flow better managed.

5. Sales & Marketing

When it comes to marketing we take the approach that if you solve problems for your customers, they will spread the word for you. In fact, 75% of our sales come from word of mouth and direct or organic traffic to our website. People usually read a few of our blog posts or watch a few of our YouTube videos before buying.

6. Strategy/Processes

If you don’t yet have a process folder and an employee handbook, get to work on them now. Lay a strong foundation by determining how you will run your company and sticking to it (whilst making needed tweaks and adjustments along the way.) For managing the team as a whole, we recommend OKRs and I wrote a guide on OKRs to help you out. To scale your business you need to create strategies and frameworks which will form the basis for execution, then step out of the way and focus on giving your team the resources they need to shine.

7. Other general lessons from experience and books I may or may not elaborate on in future:

  • Everything takes longer than expected.
  • Hire carefully, fire cautiously (team is everything, morale is fragile, be fair and be shrewd.)
  • Growth is gradual when it is sustainable, this is a good thing even though it doesn’t feel that way.
  • What you fail to measure, you’ll fail to change. (Good intentions do not get stuff done. Careful attention gets stuff done.)
  • What you permit, you promote so sweat the small stuff (this will prevent it becoming big stuff.)
  • Perseverance is 80% of what you need. (There will be days you feel like you don’t want to work and it’s hard to get empathy when any show of weakness could threaten your company. Take a break then firm it. Rest and continue.)
  • Give credit. Take responsibility.

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Mum of 2 & Afrocenchix Co-Founder. Into ethics, sci-fi, food, tech & books

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