What do a chef, an organic farmer and a florist have in common?
These are three successful entrepreneurs living in the outskirts of a big metro city. None of them have a college degree – in fact, two out of the three haven’t even gone to school. But yet, they run thriving businesses that support their family and put food on the table.
During my recent stay in India, I had a chance to observe and interact with these women. I watched them for a couple of days and was definitely intrigued with their business model. They had a steady stream of customers who were loyal to the point where they could not imagine life without these women (my mom’s household included). But these women were neither arrogant nor did they flaunt their successes. In fact, they were so genuine and down to earth that even I wanted to become a loyal customer – I just had to figure out a way to get food, flowers and fresh vegetables shipped across to the US 🙂
These women are not millionaires and nor do they have aspirations of becoming one. But each of them has something much more valuable than money itself – job satisfaction and genuine passion for their profession. They came to work every morning with a smile on their face, a skip in their step – ready to make the most of their day. What was their secret? I just had to know. I chatted with them over the course of my visit and what I learnt was so basic, yet so thought provoking!
First up this beautiful lady named Tangamani who is an organic farmer. She does not own a farm but she sells organic produce that she buys from nearby farms who don’t have the man power to go door to door to sell their produce. She makes her rounds bright and early in the morning – her products are 100% organic, freshly picked from the farm (most even have the morning dew still on them). Tanga’s secret – she really knows her customers and makes a mental note on what they buy each day. Somehow magically her next day’s produce is a complement to what her customers bought the previous day. Brilliant, I say!
‘Really know your customers and anticipate their next need /want before they know it! ‘
Mangla is the florist who bought fresh flowers to our doorstep everyday. I must say, the house smelled divine after she left. She was certainly the expert. She really knew her flowers and took her role as the subject matter expert very seriously!
Side story – I love the Indian Jasmine flower. When I go home, I hound my mom everyday to buy me some so I can put them in my hair and feel beautiful :). One day, I saw that Mangla had some and I asked her for it. But Mangla refused. She said “No, these are not good today and they will not last more than a few hours. I will bring you better ones tomorrow”. I had to do a double take. Here was a vendor who did not want to sell me a faulty product. She could have made some easy money off me but instead she was honest and was not afraid to say NO!
‘Earn your customers’s trust – Be true to them by providing them with the very best products – nothing else will do’
Meet Lakshmi and her adorable side kick, her daughter. Lakshmi is a chef/cook. She goes to homes in the neighborhood and cooks fresh food for the families. She also runs a food cafeteria out of her home. Lakshmi is an amazing cook. She is the best for those who want fresh food that is exactly how your mom makes it :). But she is more than a great cook – she is very personable, reliable and trust worthy.
Can you believe there is a waiting list of families who want Lakshmi to come cook for them. She is known through out the community and has created quite a niche for herself.
‘Built a strong brand and a community of loyal customers – they will follow you for years to come’
I was so much in awe of all these incredible women I met. I offered to take photos for them and they were so thrilled. Most of these women have never had their photograph taken and when I showed them the images at the back of my camera, they were so pleased 🙂 – it was such a thrill for me too!
None of these entrepreneurial lessons is new yet these women, who don’t have any formal education in entrepreneurship, have mastered these basic concepts and are incredibly successful (each has their own definition of success). They don’t have fancy tools like websites, social media, business cards etc – they are their brand and their business. Each has a superior product/skill , they are street smart and have wonderful personalities that shine forth in their daily interactions with their clients!
Just look at their smiles – each and everyone of these women is amazing – I dare you not to smile back 🙂 🙂