How Danielle Starts Her Own Business Without Formal Business Training

Editor’s Note: But I don’t have business training! It’s one of the most common objection I get when I ask acquaintances to start their own (small) thing.

But here’s the thing: no entrepreneur know everything they need to know before taking the jump.

Danielle had never been afraid to dream big. But more than that, she’s never been afraid to tackle her dreams either, even she doesn’t have formal training. And all in the service of other people. The rewards of hustling can be enormous, not just for hustlers but, as Danielle shows us, for the people we hustle for.

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My name is Danielle Black and I am a medical student at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica. I am no stranger to the hustle. My dear mother, bless her heart, is an inspiration. If I acquire half her strength to take me through life, I would consider myself lucky. If it was not a fact that humans have been on earth for years on end, I would confidently say that she invented the hustle.

Throughout the years, whenever times have hit hard financially and otherwise, she never gave up. She believes in her vision and fights for it. Today, she runs a non-profit organisation and her newest start up, “Sweet Pot Catering” a Sunday dinner company which I run with her. All of this is to say I believe that my entrepreneurial spirit comes from her.

My hustle is called “d.e.b Errand and Referral Services.” It was born out of a twin desire to help my parents with the financial black hole that is medical school and to be my own boss and do something that I enjoy. It was born out of a need for flexible work hours (medical school does not respect corporate time), and to tell all those people who said that you can’t be in medical school and run your own business that I was going to prove them wrong.

My last business class was ninth grade “Introduction to Business.” The only thing that I can remember from that class is that my teacher had braids, yelled at students for putting on lip gloss during her class, and my thought that if I was going to be a business woman AND a doctor, I needed to know how to spell the word “business” correctly. So when I tell people that I got my business degree on Google, they laugh, and I think: “Yeah, I like to make people laugh, I even laughed myself the first time I said it but it’s true!”

Apart from browsing through the business books lying throughout the house, my background in science did not prepare me for the door that I was about to open. Everything that I know now about running a business has roots in a Google search.

I officially set up shop (read: in my dining room around my laptop) in June 2013. I was nervous, excited, anxious, but the most important adjectival phrase I can use with regards to my state at the time was my “belief in my ability to pull this off.” I spent hours devouring articles and searching for books with titles like “How to be an Entrepreneur” and “10 Sure Ways to make your Business Succeed” and, most importantly, “How to get Clients and Keep them!”

I believe it was the scientist in me, or maybe the medic. I needed history, I needed background, and I needed to feel like I had an understanding of what I was supposed to do before I started.

Let’s just say I still read those articles. Why?

I realised that this entrepreneurial life is a step-by-step process. It’s not something that I would learn after 5 days (I am not kidding) of constant web search and sleepless nights of business planning. Being an entrepreneur and running a business can only be learned by doing. When a week had passed and I still felt overwhelmed, I heeded the sentiments of many who had gone before me and took the advice of Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Hapyness): I went back to basics.

Why did I choose an errand service as a start up? I want to help people. The reason why I chose medicine is also rooted in this reason. If, at the end of the day, I can provide a reasonably priced service that can put a smile on someone’s face because I helped them achieve a goal, or complete their to do list, or even something as small as pick up their groceries so they can spend some quality time with their family, then I would consider my job well done. With this in mind, I wrote down everything that came to mind that I could do and made sure to add that my list was not exhaustive!

After that, I consulted my contacts about how to price my service based on what I was offering and my prior work experience. Then I wrote a list of eight policies that I would stand by and that I felt my clients should know. Then I felt that I should reward my clients (when they started beating down my door, of course), so I made up some discounts.

I had no money, and little to no marketing experience, so I sat down to conjure up ways to present my business in other ways than “word of mouth,” which would not be sufficient by itself. I came up with a website, a Facebook page and flyers. Facebook I have experience with, so I could work my way around that. I made a business page. Success! As far as flyers are concerned, I don’t have much design experience, but I thought that if I put in the hours, I could make something presentable. Success!

The website was my first real hiccough. I had no idea how to make websites! Never one to be discouraged, I consulted my best friend, Google. The end result was 3 days, averaging 6-7 hours of sleep over those three days, to publish a half-way decent website. I was embarrassed to admit it initially, especially after sharing my experience with a fellow entrepreneur, who said it was “Super easy!” Then I thought, “I taught myself this, I’m gonna own it!” And I did. I am proud of my work!

Every good business needs an accountant, right? Please refer to paragraph 3. When was my last business class again? The answer to what I think should be your next question is no. There was no accounting component involved. There went 4 days swallowed up in numbers, tables, practice excel sheets, and what felt like blood, sweat and tears. I have a newfound respect for accountants. Yes, the struggle still ensues, but it gets easier.

Now for the clientele. To date, I have two confirmed clients. One I work for every day and the other I work for on a case-by-case basis. Do I wish I had more? Of course! Am I discouraged? I was at first. It has been a slow start. However, nothing in this life is easy. I am committed to making this business work! I have so many plans and ideas that extend beyond me, way into the future.

I see this profiting not only myself but my home, Jamaica. More importantly, I am excited to make it happen! I am presently working on setting up a meeting with the business development company on the island to explore the next steps I can take to make my business flourish. They also have a business expo coming up that I plan to attend. Hello, networking!

When I was eight or nine, I wanted to be a teacher, a doctor, a business woman, a dancer, speak several languages, travel the world…the list is most definitely not exhaustive. Do I have what I want? Not quite. I am on my way to being a doctor and I can teach through that avenue. I started my own business in June 2013 and I am learning more every day. I have been to the United States of America and Canada and I hope to travel to Haiti this year.

I speak basic French and plan to start learning Spanish, and while I will not be a professional dancer, I have been known to take a salsa lesson or two. Whilst my childhood dreams have not been completely realised, I am on my way and I am happy with the progress. So I leave you with the famous words of Rick Ross, made famous, I believe, by Katt Williams’ comedy special on HBO: “Everyday I’m Hustlin’.”

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