HAVING passion for your work is one thing but making that desire work for your business is quite another, says Solwezi-based entrepreneur Melissa Holmes.
She says for one’s business to grow, there are a number of things one must get right.
“Finding a way for your passion to filter through to your employees is one of the most important things you can do as a startup if you are to survive on the country’s competitive business landscape,” she says.
Holmes was one of a group of women who travelled to Paris last year for Stanbic Bank’s annual Anakazi Banking international business trip.
She says one of the keys to being a successful entrepreneur is having strong leadership skills.
“Leadership is not gifted to a select few, it is something we can all learn and develop. You just need to find the right motivation to get you going,” she says.
Holmes is the proprietor of Shamel General Dealers Ltd, which she launched in 2011 as a small catering business. She started out supplying baked foods which she made herself to friends and family before eventually opening her restaurant in 2015.
Her passion for food and drive for success saw her business quickly grow into one of the best restaurants in Solwezi soon after.
Shamel Restaurant’s stellar performance was highlighted in 2018 when it was named Restaurant of the Year for North-Western Province by the North-Western Chamber of Commerce – a feat it repeated the following year.
Today, Holmes employs 42 people in her restaurant and two other catering outlets in Solwezi.
“Entrepreneurship kind of runs in the family,” she says. “When I was young, my mother was a successful business lady and I could see the confidence and happiness that it gave her. This gave me the appetite to start my own business one day and be my own boss to make decisions that would improve others and myself. When I moved back to Zambia in 2009 after a short stint abroad, I was fortunate enough to receive a few job offers. However, they were all out of town which meant being apart from my family which I was not prepared to do. So, I turned to an old hobby – cooking and baking – and started to nature my ability. I used my passion as a driving force for self-improvement and I got better each day.
“I started selling cupcakes which at the time was just a means to make some extra money as I wasn’t in formal employment. Thanks to support from my family and the overwhelming response from my early clients, I decided to open a catering business which grew into Shamel Restaurant. What has helped me sustain my growth is the tireless dedication exhibited by my staff. We are on the same wavelength in terms of work ethic and the need for excellence in what we do.”
Holmes says the key ingredient to success is to instill a sense of responsibility in the people one works with.
“To be the best at your job, you need to work as if you are working for yourself. That way, you prepare yourself for when you’ll have people working under you. I always try to groom my staff into capable leaders using the skills I have learned from different people and platforms like Stanbic’s Anakazi Banking over the years,” she says.
“Thanks to Stanbic’s Anakazi Banking, I have been able to make new business connections and grow my network. There is a lot you stand to learn when you interact with other business leaders. Personal growth is an ongoing thing and the more you are exposed to, the more you develop as a leader.
“I picked this up from the recent Anakazi Trip of the year where Stanbic Bank facilitated a business trip to Paris for Zambian businesswomen. It was an eye-opener for me. It was the ideal and timely exposure to new business trends, ideas and connections across a large spectrum – not just catering. These connections would have taken me a long time to make on my own thus the trip saved me time.
“It became clear to me that with Anakazi, it is not just about getting access to financial support to grow your business, it also introduces you to a huge pool of like-minded individuals. While success in business is largely affected by one’s character, it must be pointed out that there is no such thing as a perfect entrepreneurial personality. We all must pick traits from others and incorporate them into our way of doing things.”
She says all entrepreneurs face different challenges and one can learn from other people’s experiences.
“The restaurant business is demanding compounded by long and odd working hours with peak business mostly over weekends – meaning I am away from my family for extended periods of time. I had to find the right balance between work and my family life to ensure my presence wasn’t missed in either. This is an accomplishment I can share with another entrepreneur facing a similar challenge as I learn from their successes. That way, we share in our growth as businesswomen,” says Holmes.
“With the right attitude and ambition there is nothing that is impossible to achieve. We are our own limits to what we want to get out of life or business.”