I am grieved because this week one of my WINC Graduates died suddenly. I can’t believe that it was only last month we were all together celebrating the end of the WINC Acceleration Program and sharing how everyone had benefitted. Anna Gill was one of those graduates and today I pay tribute to her while, hopefully, encouraging people who are considering entrepreneurship or, who are already on the journey but feel like giving up, to pursue their dream.
At the start of the program Anna shared that she started her business, Classy Raggs Interiors, because she liked to sew and whenever she made soft furnishings for her own house, people would say how good they were and started asking her to make things for them. Eventually her hobby evolved into a business that is fifteen years old. One way you can start a business is by using your gifts and abilities.
Anna always said that she never advertised; all her business came through word of mouth. That is a testimony to her quality of work. Everyone in business knows that it costs money to get new clients. With the advent of Facebook and other social media platforms, marketing and advertising costs have been considerably reduced but nothing beats word of mouth. Word of mouth means that your customer was so happy with your product or service that they told people about it. It is imperative that your product or service be of such high quality that your customers can’t help but talk about it.
As the business began to grow Anna realized that she couldn’t do everything herself so she looked for staff that could help with production while she focused on meeting new clients and getting work although she often helped with production as well. Your business cannot grow if you are doing everything yourself and if you have to leave the business for any reason, the business has to close. Every business person should aim to create an organization that can operate without them for periods of time so they can take time off to be refreshed and return with new energy and new ideas. Finding the right staff is imperative.
To be in business for any length of time, far less fifteen years, means you have to be constantly innovating. In the program, Anna taught us a new word – upcycling. In recent times, she added a new service taking furniture and accessories that customers were about to discard and gave them new life by spray painting, changing the fabric and other creative methods. That was great for the environment by reducing the garbage going to the landfill and provided savings to her clients.
At the end of the program, Anna said she was glad she participated. One major benefit was being able to connect with other like-minded women entrepreneurs. To quote her: “Being around other women entrepreneurs and sharing within a confidential group of like-minded women has been very stimulating and encouraging. All in all thanks to all the various sessions, conversations and advice received in the past 8 months, I now have a better balance on both my professional life and my personal life.” We can’t do it alone. Every entrepreneur should try to network with like-minded people who can encourage them on the journey and vice versa.
Anna also spoke very highly of her mentor Vivian-Ann Gittens and thanked me more than once for pairing them up. Her mentor helped her take a fresh look at her business and create a four-year plan. Having an experienced mentor who can offer valuable advice and a different perspective from outside the business is key.
As with every entrepreneurial journey, there are mountain top experiences and there are valley experiences where things are just not going well – whether it’s with the business or your personal life, which inevitably impacts your business. When Anna started the program she was in a valley with her business but she persevered and finished. I was so delighted that by graduation, she was well on her way back up the mountain and excited about the business again.
Anyone who has been in business for any length of time can relate to the challenges of operating a business and staying motivated. When I tell budding entrepreneurs that perseverance is key, I am not joking. In order to persevere, you have to be strong and you need support systems to help when you feel weak.
Anna was strong, but she also had support from her husband, Mark, her natural and church family, her friends and the entire WINC team and she was able to overcome her challenges. She did not just take; she gave advice and encouragement to the other ladies on the program as well and she never stopped giving of herself. She was a great example to us all and she will be truly missed. May she rest in peace.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014-2016) and is the Barbados Facilitator for the WINC Acceleration Program.
Contact her at [email protected]