Pushing Passed The Obstacles In Setting Up A Startup - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka
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Pushing Passed The Obstacles In Setting Up A Startup

It’s not just about fancy offices and flexible working hours. It takes more, babe.


Who doesn’t love to be their own boss? But, very few are ready to do whatever it takes to build a brand. Creating a startup is a lot of work that goes beyond your regular 9-to-5, and like any business, obstacles are a part of the whole experience. Being aware of these challenges and having a game plan in place will help get your company to your desired place.

Of course, you won’t be able to predict every hurdle, but, you can prepare for some of them and learn from the rest. Boss babe, Sajani Amarasiri, founder and CEO of Colombo Cooperative weighs in with her insight on some of the difficulties you should keep in mind.

Financial Constraints

Unless you have a generous family willing to sponsor your capital, you’ve got to find the right sources to fund your dream venture. “Even if you do that you’re also competing against a lot of people for the same money,” said Bill Rader, president and CEO of Efferent Labs.

The type of investor you find will depend on the development of your business. Here are a few funding options that you can find in Sri Lanka.

  1. Crowdisland. Sri Lanka’s first equity crowdfunding platform where investors buy a stake in the company. They handle all the legal work and payments and they charge a flat fee for valuation and a percentage on successful raise.
  2. Blue Ocean Ventures. The firm (based in Sri Lanka and Singapore) ventures with investments ranging from Rs. 15 million to Rs. 200 million. They generally invest in the internet, mobile, software, technology, travel, outsourcing services, education, fashion, retail, tourism, and hospitality sectors.
  3. Venture Engine. An annual programme that’s aimed at entrepreneurs to help them kickstart their projects. This involves a selection process through which contestants have the opportunity of winning prizes that can resolve their monetary needs. Irrespective of whether or not the entrepreneurs win, the exposure they receive with the investors through the process is priceless.
  4. Slingshot. A startup incubator and seed accelerator programme by Hemas to cater to businesses with a partially developed or prototype level product within specific industries (hospitals, pharmaceuticals, hotels, travel, and aviation). If chosen, the teams get to pitch their idea, and receive support and funding.
  5. Disrupt Unlimited. They work on a fixed-term contract and are focused on the industries of apparel, textile, and accessories. Investments start at around US$ 15,000, and they see you through until you start getting venture capital.
  6. York Street Partners. This boutique investment banking firm based in Sri Lanka connects investments and startups needing venture capital.
  7. First Capital. An investment bank that can help with the funds and a monetary strategy for your business.
  8. Your savings. Last, but not least, you can save up from your day job. Sounds impossible? Not really. “I solved the funding problem by investing my own money,” shared Sajani. “I started working on Colombo Cooperative while working a full-time job so I could afford the build-out costs. I would work during the day at my corporate job, come home and work until late at night on building Colombo Cooperative.”

Getting The Right People To Work For With You

Figuring out your core team is no walk in the park. Regardless of what industry you’re stepping into, finding the right people is a challenge. Individuals may be hesitant to join you as they’ll forgo on the usual perks found in established companies (think medical insurance, great pay, job security etc). But according to Sajani, having gone through the mill herself, after a few of trials and errors, especially if you are a first-time entrepreneur, you will figure out the type of talent that will work for you and your company. So don’t be discouraged,” she urged. “You’ll learn with every mistake you make and build a good team. Just make sure you know both yours and your company’s values when making hiring decisions!”

Maintaining The Grit To Succeed

According to Forbes, over half of millennials surveyed said yes, they would like to start their own business, and one in five said they were planning to give up their day job to become an entrepreneur. Nonetheless, while the startup culture is loved by many for the freedom and sense of empowerment it brings, it’s best to reevaluate your reasons why you want to start one. The benefits of having a startup are countless, but there are just as many challenges you will face. “What wasn’t an obstacle?” reflected Sajani on her journey. “But the crazy thing about being an entrepreneur is you start enjoying taking on obstacles and crushing it. I went through everything, from figuring out how to fund the company to finding a space for Colombo Cooperative to registering the company (at Colombo Cooperative we now do this for you!) to not being based in the same country.”

Most of the time, it’s not about whether or not you’re ready to face all that comes your way, but also how you tackle the hurdles. Sajani took it one at a time and solved it as she went while making sure she didn’t repeat the same mistakes. She firmly believes that your role as a founder/leader evolves with your startup, but at the root, it’s all about navigating different challenges.

Even in the worst of situations, it’s always good to have perspective. So whenever doubt clouds your mind, take a minute to reflect on why you started in the first place; then, rationally assess your situation. “Ever since I was a kid,” said Sajani, “I’ve always dreamed about having my own company. Growing up in an environment where both my mother and father had small businesses was probably influential in this ambition, too. But you need desire coupled with a necessity in the market or value creation to start a company. I started Colombo Cooperative because there wasn’t a coworking space, at the time, that was community-focused and well-designed. So I created it.”

The startup life comes with numerous challenges, but making the right connections, logical decisions and listening to your gut will help you navigate the roadblocks. If you’re looking for input from the ones who’ve been through the process, pros like Sajani, have a wealth of information to share. With the right mindset and tools, you’ll be well on your way to being a startup kween. Now, go get it, girl!

“This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more career advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.”

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