Do you dream of walking into your boss’s office and quitting your job to start a business of your own?
What’s stopping you? Maybe a million things including your mortgage and putting food on the table. You probably thinking ‘With so much of responsibilities how in the world can I start a business of my own?’
But you have an idea, and you are sure it’s a good idea.
So, can you take your good idea and turn it into a company while you still have your day job?
In fact: In today’s article Xoliswa Hlongwane, a 33-year-old qualified Chartered Accountant from SAICA, shares the exact strategy she used to start her own clothing manufacturing business, XO Collection while still working full time.
And yes she had her own share of struggles when she decided to work full time and start her own self-funded business, but she did it.
Through her clothing manufacturing business, XO Collection, she seeks to contribute towards reducing unemployment. Her various social investment programmes show that youth empowerment is at the centre of her heart.
In 2017, Xoliswa was awarded the KZN Regional Business Women Association Award for the women in Government category.
In 2018 she was a finalist in the Top 35 Under 35 CAs competition, she was also honoured by the Destiny Woman magazine in their November 2018 issue as part of the 40 powerful women under 40 years.
You can connect to her on LinkedIn at – Xoliswa Hlongwane.
How did I decide to become a Chartered Accountant?
During primary schooling, I was an average learner who got just enough marks to progress to the next grade. I was too playful and didn’t focus much on studies.
When I was younger we moved around quite a lot.
Growing up in different communities and cities made me streetwise and aware of the world out there, which was different from most of my school mates or even peers in the community.
Also, my dad whom I moved to the province to live with died at the beginning of the year. So I had to finish that year at school and then move to my relative’s place. Life was definitely not easy for me.
Whilst studying in grade 12, I applied for tertiary studies. I remember ticking a box asking me whether I required financial aid. I ticked that I needed financial aid. Little did I know that was one of the most important ticks I have ever made in my life, next to voting :-).
Having seen the entrance requirements for the targeted Universities which were based in my province I knew I had to work hard.
Amidst all difficulties, I gave my best and God being great I did well in grade 12.
I went to the University of KwaZulu-Natal knowing only the fact that I will be studying B.Com Accounting. Nothing beyond that.
Luckily the friends I made during my orientation week helped to shed some light on the various career opportunities.
It was then that I got to know about CA from SAICA (The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) and I chose the CA route.
My CA journey was a very clueless journey. I really moved with the flow. I did not even apply for any bursaries during my undergrad, instead, I relied on financial aid.
A bursary is financial study assistance offered by institutions towards a course of their choice, mostly comes with a condition of service after graduating.
Financial aid is provided by the government for needy students, which is payable back to the govt once the graduate is employed.
Balancing work and part-time study
To become a Chartered Accountant from SAICA upon graduation one has to do post graduation in order to obtain an Honours Degree.
Now at the end of my third year at university, I knew I had to find a job as government financial aid did not fund my Honours studies.
So in order to save money for my post-graduation, I started working part-time at a medium firm while pursuing my last year B.Com Accounting degree.
Normally you start articles after post graduation however some firms, especially small ones accept people with undergrad to start articles and study postgrad part-time. That is what I did.
I wanted to be a star performer at work and neglected my studies during the year, hoping to catch up at the end of the year.
I soon realized it doesn’t work like that.
Consistency is key to succeeding in part-time studies. This lack of focus resulted in me repeating my honours degree a couple of times. I only passed my Honours after my CA articles.
When I think of it now I don’t know how I did not give up. I am happy it worked out but it was difficult studying part-time whilst serving articles.
Articles gave me amazing work experience and taught me a couple of life lessons. I learned new skills and faced new challenges. It made me a mature professional.
Career as a Chartered Accountant from SAICA
- You can study full time and obtain a B. Com Accounting degree or an equivalent CA(SA) undergraduate qualification at a SAICA accredited university. Once you have completed your B.Com Accounting degree you will be required to do obtain an Honours degree. After this, you have to do 3 years of internship and write two board exams to become a qualified Chartered Accountant.
- If you want to work part-time while pursuing a B. Com Accounting degree you will have to do five years of articleship upon which you must complete a B.Com Accounting degree or equivalent CA (SA) undergraduate qualification and then obtain your Honors degree. Post this give two board exams to become a qualified CA (SA).
- If you study full time while pursuing B.Com Accounting degree but study part-time during Honors degree one has to to do 4 years of articleship and give two board exams to become a qualified Chartered Accountant from SAICA.
If you want more details you can read this article – How to Become a CA(SA)
My advice to future accountants
- If possible finish all your studies full time before starting your articleship. That means get all the qualification requirements on a full-time basis and only write board exams during your articles and not study part-time as it is very difficult.
- Once you start work and you are still studying or writing exams, ensure consistency in your studies. Study the whole year, not only in preparation for exams or tests.
- Draw up a vision board of your future career and draw a connection to your current state. That will help make choices that contribute towards your vision.
- Once established, start thinking about how you can expand and be an all rounded professional.
- Once you qualify as a Chartered Accountant you soon realize that the qualification only gives you a golden ticket and opens the door for you. How you use it and which subsequent doors you enter is based on your drive and aspirations.
- Identify what elements make up the professional you are and service them all. Give back, contribute to your country’s social needs, spend time with family, discover yourself. Do it all.
What made me start my own business while working a full-time job?
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant I worked in various companies in Durban, South Africa.
I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. Not until I fell in love with clothing!
It all started with me wanting to dress uniquely and nicely so I set out to find someone who can make my clothes.
Having spent many nights reading about the fashion industry, I decided to make clothes not only for myself but also ones I could sell. This was March 2017.
I imagined a shop where you do not have to go through rails of clothing to find what you like, a place where you like everything you see and only pick the clothes based on what you need. That is how my company XO Collection was born.
For now, it houses a brand called Xecutive business wear which focuses on ladies’ business wear.
Below I will explain how I started my business while working at a full-time job:
What was the first step I took when I started my own business?
Initially, I was planning to only design clothes and then use a Cut Make and Trim(CMT) factory to handle my production.
In fact, I even started using a Cut Make and Trim factory in Cape Town. But since I lived in Durban I wanted a CMT factory in Durban itself. However, I struggled to find a CMT factory I could rely on in Durban (South Africa).
Did I ever consider using a CMT in China? No. I wanted to make my clothes locally and contribute to employment in our country so using a CMT in China was something I did not want to consider.
That is when I came across an advertisement for factory assets on sale at an affordable price. I decided this is what I needed to control the production of my garments and control quality issues.
So instead of having someone else Cut Make and Trim the clothes, I thought of doing the same from scratch and decided to start my own clothes production from zero.
As a new person to the industry, I was very particular about everything. I also learned to be more flexible.
Once I bought the assets and rehired the retrenched staff, from that point I had to go out of my way to ensure I keep them gainfully employed. There was no going back.
I used a lot of my savings and loans to start my venture and decided to continue working to fund my business.
How do I manage my business while working a full-time job?
After setting the factory and my staff the next step was to run the business.
Quitting my current job was not an option as I needed money to finance my business. I knew I had to continue with my full-time job in order to make this business come to life.
So I started my business while still working at a full-time job.
I worked all day at the office and then worked for my business in the evening after office and over weekends.
I cannot lie, it wasn’t easy.
At first, I thought I could get away with just having an Admin person at XO Collection and me being the “brains” of the business.
However, I soon realized that I was stifling the growth of the business by making the business wait for me to make decisions after office hours or on weekends.
My absence from 100% operational involvement had a negative impact on the speed of getting things off the ground.
Eleven months down the line with no prospects of profitability, I started to think who could help me with this. That is what drove me to recruit a fashion graduate so that operational decisions do not wait for my availability.
Hiring someone to run my business had made my business so much more organized.
Decisions are taken in time and when needed. And since then my business has been really promising.
This taught me that sometimes you have to let go a little in order to achieve your goals.
Not everything conceptualized by you needs to be made by you from beginning to end.
How did I select the right person to run my business?
Sometimes we think because the vision is ours, we are the only ones that can make it happen however my company has shown me that it is not necessarily true!
It is about identifying what your business needs and off that what will come from you.
Do not be scared to delegate as long as it is to someone who is good at what they do but more importantly respects your authority.
The industry is a difficult one and highly competitive. It is about what you offer and how you turn “likes” into sales.
I am still learning every day.
We have eight staff members including two contract staff and one cleaner who comes once a week.
When will I go full time and focus only on my business?
In a couple of years depending on how stable it is and whether I can complement my income through applying my skills on a consulting basis.
So far am self-funded, but the pot has run out, hence it is very important for the business to show signs of sustainability.
My Daily Routine
I start work at 7:30 after dropping off kids at school.
I leave work around 17:30 for either gym or straight home.
When I get home I shower, have dinner and catch up with the kids.
I later go through the daily report that the staff from XO Collection sends me and respond to areas requiring my attention.
I normally sleep at 22:00.
What is my business model?
I started using a Cut Make and Trim factory in Cape Town and moved from looking for a CMT closer to me to buying factory assets and to starting my own CMT. How dramatic.
My business model has changed so much since I started XO Collection.
Presently, XO Collection is a CMT and fashion house.
We produce our in-house brand as well as for other designers and retailers. We have no minimum quantities and make it easy for designers to be commercial.
Although this started as a hobby it is now a business which employs people that depend on it for a living.
That keeps me on my toes because although I have a job and can find it easy to cut my losses during this stage when we haven’t even broken even, it is the thought of my employees that keeps me going and knowing that closing the business is not an option.
I have tried and tested different things to get to where I am comfortable about who we are.
At this stage am looking for enterprise development opportunities for the business so we can grow and my staff can learn more business management skills.
What have I learned from running my business?
I have learned:
- It is better to focus on one aspect until you perfect that before expanding through other brands or business segments
- To get a healthy balance between the CMT work and our internal brand based on revenue generating capability
- That no matter how crazy you are about your stock you still need to convince customers to buy so invest in brand exposure and distribution channel
- That it is not easy to train your staff to grow the business
- That profitability is a function of many things in the right proportions.
Do I have a mentor?
There are many facets to me; career, business, social entrepreneur and personal. I need guidance on all.
Mentorship is important to help you not repeat avoidable mistakes or things that don’t work.
Also, it helps to have a sounding board as you progress with your life. The right mentor can really grow you.
I have a life coach that I talk to weekly and a business mentor but we struggle to keep to regular meetings as we are both busy.
When we do meet, I gain a lot.
I have just approached a more mature CA to also mentor me. He is very wise.
I believe so much in mentorship that I have started a mentorship programme called #10YearCAChallenge where I intend taking rural learners from grades 10 to 12 on a 10-year journey towards CA.
They are facing several challenges like poor Maths marks. I intend walking with them and getting over the challenges along the way.
Our journey can be followed on my LinkedIn profile and on Instagram @10yearcachallenge.
Would you advise other professionals to have two sources of income?
In my opinion, once you have progressed to a certain point in your career, where you have gained a set of skills, then I suggest you start working towards your business aspirations.
It will definitely take a while before it can be a second source of income.
- How I found a job in Dubai as a semi-qualified accountant (within 14 days)?
- How I started a profitable e-commerce business within 7 months?
- How I started my business in America after I lost my job?
- How I started a forensic accounting business from scratch?
Personally, I went the route of starting my business on the side while still working as a full-time employee elsewhere. It’s difficult but doable.
There are clear advantages and disadvantages to starting a business while employed. But as long as you can reasonably manage both, I would suggest to retaining employment while starting a business.
If you do proceed to start a business while working full time at a job, be sure to follow the following best practices:
- Sometimes we think because the vision is ours, we are the only ones that can make it happen however that is not necessarily true! So if required hire the right person.
- When you recruit someone to handle the operations of your business make sure that they have good integrity and ethics. And of course good knowledge. Make sure that they respect your authority.
- After your full-time job, take out time in the evening to have a look at the daily working of your business. Have a daily reporting or some kind of review.
- Learn to delegate so you can be relaxed.
- When working at your full-time job avoid thinking or working on your business. This might cause trouble. So stay focused on your job and give it your best.
Now it’s your turn!!!
Do you want to start your own business while working full time?
Or have you quit your job to start your own business?
Comment now and share your experiences with us.
Also if you have questions for Xoliswa comment below with your questions and she will get back to you.