Boss babe Layla Hassiem has a business called The Pencil Box, which is a Cape Town-based multimedia creative design studio. Being an entrepreneur or even just thinking of kicking off your side hustle takes courage and planning.
Layla is the ultimate boss babe who has successfully been running her creative studio for eight years. She also participated in the year-long RCS Level Up Programme, which is aimed at supporting and educating small business owners.
The programme offers business owners access to information, mentorship and a supportive community. We caught up with Layla, who shared her business journey with us.
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Shout out to the team for another epic year 👏 – Nuha (senior designer), Tasneem (studio manager), Shakira (designer), Tegan (copywriter & content creator) – Layla (creative director), Robin (art director), Jacques (art director) If you’d like to be a part of our valued list of freelancers and work with us, drop us a mail with your portfolio at firstname.lastname@example.org #thepencilbox #designstudio #designagency #creativedesign #teamvibes #ateam #teammood #thankyou #appreciationpost #gratitude #creativeteam #designteam #brandconsultants #visualcommunication #visualcommunicationstrategy #brandingdesign #brandbuilding #pencils #thepencilboxteam
Her inspiration to become an entrepreneur
‘After a decade of working in the magazine and advertising industry, and having two young kids at home, I knew something had to give. Like most moms, I wanted to spend more time with my little ones, and this is when I began to visualise The Pencil Box,’ says Layla.
‘My love of design, wanting to make a difference and having creative (and literal) freedom inspired me to take a leap of faith. We’ve been in business for eight years now, and I remain inspired by other start-ups and entrepreneurs who use our services.’
On identifying a gap in the market
Layla reckons that it was during an economic slump when most companies began reducing their budgets and retrenching staff. The need for freelance or external suppliers was in demand.
‘There was also a gap for a more cost-effective solution for design and visual communication. Large design agencies were (and still are) very expensive. Start-up businesses that were launching (without big budgets) needed the type of services I was offering too.’
The biggest financial lessons she’s learnt
1. It’s important to keep track of your business’ financial health on a monthly basis
‘For the first few years, I relied on my accountant to give me figures at the end of the financial year, and then hoped for the best. I quickly realised that you need to put systems in place to record all financial data so that you can budget and plan properly in advance.’
2. Use accounting software
‘In the beginning, it was possible to do things manually and without assistance, but as we grew we needed a more automated system. Software like Xero is perfect for a small business, with many features that will help you save time and keep all your data in one place.’
3. Learn to understand numbers
‘As a creative, I found it very challenging to work with numbers and the financial management of the business. My advice is to get professional help and constantly find ways to learn and upskill in areas that you’re not familiar with. Google and YouTube are part of our team.’
Her advice to future entrepreneurs
Layla strongly advises that you should be passionate about your business and ensure that it is something that you will enjoy. She always comes back to the words of Arthur Ashe: ‘Start where you are. Use what you have.’ She says, ‘It takes hard work and long hours, so remember to take care of yourself too.’
On her journey during the RCS Level Up Programme
‘I absolutely loved meeting like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors, and learning about their journeys as well as their challenges. I realised that we all face similar obstacles as business owners and need guidance regardless of what stage our business is in. The RCS Level Up Programme came with a wealth of information and business mentorship. It was an eye-opening experience that changed the way I manage my business and lead my team.’
The programme has helped her to better structure the management and financial health of The Pencil Box and improve the business’ systems and procedures.
‘The RCS Level Up Programme instilled the confidence that I needed as a business owner and leader, along with the business experiences of others and an amazing community of entrepreneurs and inspirational speakers. It has been a wonderful journey over the past 12 months. I am truly grateful to have been a part of it.’
More about the RCS Level Up Programme
This co-created Enterprise and Supplier initiative by RCS in partnership with the TSIBA Ignition Academy was launched in November 2018.
Since then, the RCS Level Up Programme has grown into more than an Enterprise and Supplier Development initiative. It enables, facilitates and inspires business development and innovation in the financial services and retail sectors, through creating opportunities for small businesses and RCS intrapreneurs.
Level Up also supports the personal growth and development of entrepreneurs and RCS intrapreneurs – RCS is on a mission to positively impact their business, their staff and all other entrepreneurs.
Ready to make your business dream a reality? Visit the RCS website for more information.
Ts and Cs Apply. RCS is a registered Credit and Financial Services Provider NCRCP 38 / FSP 44481
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