When she couldn’t find formal employment after graduating, Erikka Motang decided to be self-employed. But her first official business actually “just happened” when a client could not pay for her services and offered her equity and partnership instead. “The offer was too good to refuse and as they say, the rest is ‘herstory’” says Erikka with a smile.
She decided to specifically focus on Accounting and Financial Literacy to address her was driven by my own fear and struggle to learn finances. “I was set free by Color Accounting. Knowing that one of the reasons many small businesses fail was due to lack of financial management and being able to a find a way to help them learn about finances really motivates me every day”, says Erikka.
Erikka acknowledges that, before starting a business, one needs to know oneself very well, and one must be aware of your weaknesses and strengths. It helps you to understand which aspects of business you can handle and which you need help with. “But”, she says, “having perseverance and flexibility are important. Things do not always go as planned. Then it is important to keep going, learn to adapt and deal with changes as they come.”
She describes herself as a teacher at heart and has been teaching since she was a little girl. She shares that, when playing house, she always chose to play ‘teacher’ so that she can teach her little friends. So, her choice for a training business was driven by her love and passion for education. And, adding to that, her ability to comfortably address groups of people, makes her perfect for a training position!
“I love opportunities to see people learn and develop because of the learning I provide. The subtle and obvious impact that my work has is the greatest reward. I call it making a difference. It also allows me to interact with people in various sectors and of course the opportunity to travel across our country” says Erikka.
It was not always easy to be self-employed and Erikka experienced pretty much the same challenges as most small businesses. She struggled with SETA compliance despite having a good product and service. “Lack of proper marketing resulted in us not having enough clients. And being in charge of all aspects of the business (operations, marketing, finances, admin and technology) also caused a lot of stress”, says Erikka.
If she had to start over now, she would start her journey with a business coach and more mentors. She said that she made a lot of mistakes trying to weather the storms by herself. “It was unnecessary. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, and one needs to be intentional about building a support system, Erikka now knows. “I wished I knew that I do not have to do everything by myself. There are things that can always be done with the help of other people who have the knowhow. Even if it is on retainer or ad hoc basis. Consider bringing experts on board, e.g. an accountant to help with money matters, IT services, branding etc. This freed up time for me to focus on other operational activities of the business” she explained.
She admits that she still need assistance with marketing the business, proper branding and online presence and technological support to launch into digital space. Therefor she believes that you need to learn as much as you can, but stresses that you should never loose focus of your vision.
“There are a lot of training providers and it is quite easy to deviate from your visions and chase the ‘in thing’. Be kind to yourself – Rome was not built in one day, says Erikka when asked what advice she would give new business owners.
During the pandemic, her strategy is firstly to stay alive, and secondly to maintain a healthy mental state by being kind to myself. She added, with a smile, that it is not often that she gets to live through a pandemic.
On a more serious note, she explained that the main tactic was stretching business finances by cutting as much costs as she could. “I then worked on recalibrating how to do business differently moving forward, taking into consideration our South African context of limited network challenges, cost of data, rise in unemployment, best practices in terms of maintaining health and hygiene standards etc.”
Erikka, a member of the National Executive Committee of the SACBW, acknowledge that networking has played a huge role in growing her business connection. “Being a member of SACBW has helped me to meet other business women and more associations and organisations that continue to help me nurture the business. The collaborations that I have are as a result of networking. As the popular saying goes ‘your network is your net worth’.” Says Erikka.