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 Waking up the entrepreneur inside


 Sometimes it takes a difficult, life changing event to wake up the dormant entrepreneur inside of someone. Manovie Isaacs had only ever worked for a single company, a large hairdressing group, for seventeen years. She was at the top of her game as a hair stylist, with several industry awards to her name. Then her marriage fell apart.

In January 2007 I left my husband. By December I had my own salon,” says Manovie, who over the past eight years has built the business into a thriving 13-employee high-end hair salon in the heart of Claremont, Cape Town.

The personal trauma had made her realise that she didn’t need to depend on someone else to fulfill her dreams, and this new awareness gave her the wings to take the leap into starting her own business.

All business start-ups are difficult, but Manovie’s seems to have gone more smoothly than most.

She puts it down to support from her family and excellent preparation. An accountant cousin helped her with her business plan, and in the months leading up to her launch day she spent many hours at night refining it and making it her own.

As a sought-after hair stylist with a strong bond with many customers, she already had the clientele of her new business lined up even before she started. Her deep network and top reputation meant that she was also able to arrange a very advantageous deal with one of the top suppliers to the hairdressing industry, who believed that she would make a success of her own business.

All that remained was to find a location for her business and finance to start it up.

She took her business plan to the banks, but soon found out that they had very little appetite to finance a start-up, no matter how promising the prospect, and despite all the television ads purporting to show how much the banks understand small businesses. She offered her house as collateral, but to no avail. “When you need the finance, they won’t give it. As soon as you don’t need it any more, you get all sorts of offers to increase your overdraft,” she says.

A visit to a government small business finance agency also proved fruitless, and rather demotivating. The official told her to “get her head out of the clouds”, criticised her aim to start a high-end salon in the middle of Claremont, and advised her to start at cheaper premises in a lower-income area. But such a strategy would have been disastrous, because none of her existing customers would have followed her to cheap premises.

Manovie kept on searching until she found Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), and for the first time she felt that she was talking to financiers who understood her dream. They were prepared to look at pure potential, not only of the business plan, but of her as an entrepreneur, and risked R500 000 on her new venture.

Only when Manovie found the right premises next to the upmarket Cavendish Square mall did she give notice at the company where she had worked since her days as a hairdressing student. She planned to open her one-stop beauty salon in the new year, but in the first sign that her business was going to fly, many of her customers insisted that she do their hair before Christmas, “even if it is on a plastic chair at home”. She hastily had to pull a make-shift salon together even before her ordered furniture arrived.

Manovie never looked back. She found that her wide experience in her previous job, including a salon-management course, stood her in good stead in dealing with the business side of things.

BUSINESS/PARTNERS ‘ support also went far beyond just the finance, mentoring her and always being available for practical advice on everything from insurance to administrative systems. “They really have the perfect name. They really are ‘business partners’,” she says.

She found that her most difficult challenge was staffing, and she learned through trial and error to choose employees who were not only technically capable, but also had the right personality to fit into the team that she wanted to build.

Manovie was always worried about being dependent on a landlord, and she kept a keen lookout for an opportunity to buy her own premises. She had her eye on a cottage near the centre of Claremont, owned by one of her clients. When he finally told her that he was ready to sell, she jumped at the chance.

Manovie is currently preparing for the move which will take place in the next few months. The new premises will not only give her security of tenure, but will allow her to expand the number of workstations slightly.

Not surprisingly, she went straight to BUSINESS/PARTNERS to finance the purchase




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