This month’s interview series focuses on small business start-ups. Are you wanting to start your own business, or have you taken the plunge already? If so, then this series is for you!
In this series, we have interviewed three people who started their own companies from the ground up, with some running for over a decade, while others are still fairly new. Here you can find some amazing insight into the life of being your own boss.
Our first interviewee is Mariska Mc Donald from Mosaic Funeral Group. Mariska and her family all had good jobs before they decided to start their own business – but all it took was a sign for them to resign and jump right into this business opportunity. This is their story…
Can you tell me about your business and what you do for your clients?
We are in the funeral service. We strive to deliver the most respectful, professional and personalized funeral services to every client, catering for all religions, cultures, and traditions.
How long has your company been operational?
From the 1st of April this year we have been operating for 11 years.
What made you decide to start your own company?
My parents had friends in the funeral industry and had asked my parents to join them within the industry. At first, they said no because they had decent jobs in Joburg. They then made a decision after a lot of prayers and just went for it. My dad resigned and then went to my mom’s offices to tell her the news. She asked what he was doing there and told him that she was about to resign – the funny thing is that he was there to tell her that he had just resigned! And so, their funeral industry journey began.
With the South African economy being what it is, what were some of the challenges you faced when starting up your company?
It wasn’t always sunshine and roses. You have to put in a lot of hard work and time. You must be committed to working hard – you can’t just sit back. A lot of people think that you have a lot of money and you have it all by owning your own business but that definitely wasn’t the case. The challenges we faced in our industry had a lot to do with, what you call, “fly by nights”. So, you have to build up trust wherever you are, especially within the communities before you can do anything, really. No one will do business with you if they think you will be gone by next week. We’ve always said a funeral is like a wedding – it has to be perfect. It is something people will always remember. Another thing is, you are dealing with people’s hearts – they come here, and they are emotional, broken and not themselves, so you have to treat them very kindly and direct them properly. You also deal with a lot of different cultures and religions, so a lot of the time you must be careful and very respectful.
How did QuickBooks help you overcome some of those challenges?
QuickBooks shows me exactly what is outstanding so that I can follow up on it. If you don’t have a proper system you could forget about things, which is why QuickBooks has been so handy. For instance, before a service can take place, we need to know it has been paid for. And if you don’t have a system that works you won’t know what is going on and how much to charge people, or if they have paid, etc. The system also shows how they are paying – by EFT, or with cash, etc. You are able to control your income and expenses and know if you are making a profit or not. Lastly, Quickbooks helped by showing us that we are not making as big of a profit as we should, telling us to either increase or decrease our prices, etc.
With EasyBiz being local, how have they added value to your business?
Obviously, QuickBooks added value because I am on top of all of the accounts constantly. I can see whenever money comes in or goes out, what the account situation is, and what needs to be paid. Everything is there, right in front of you and it is so easy to stay on top of everything financially. EasyBiz helped because whenever I needed online support, my queries were answered almost immediately.
What are some tips you can give to new business owners?
The main thing I can tell people is to not think that it is going to be easy. Because it really is not. You have to be super strict – on your family, friends and especially yourself because nothing in life is free or easy. Get into the habit of not using the company money for yourself, but to always keep it in the business. Only pull a salary if you can afford it because you have to put everything into your business to make sure it is successful. You have to work constantly because you could lose everything in a heartbeat. Keep working even when people are out partying or sleeping, if there is work to be done – you need to keep working. We joke that we are 25hrs 8 days a week because we are always working. On that note though, you need to look after yourself as well because you can’t burn yourself out. And lastly, always remember that hard work does pay off.
Stay tuned for our next interview article and see how success out of nothing is possible.