The year was 2011, I had a good career working at one of the leading engineering firms in Cape Town and life was good. However, I had always been passionate about entrepreneurship and wanting to build a startup. After four years I decided to make the jump, it was not an easy decision, as I had younger siblings and my parents to care for. But I told my family I was quitting my job and began my entrepreneurship journey where I learned some important lessons.
With a head full of dreams I started an eCommerce store called Cheka, while building websites for small businesses to keep the lights on. Reflecting back, there were a few financial lessons I learnt that I would like to share.
Here’s some advice I would give my 25 year old self.
Lesson 1: Don’t quit your job unless you have funding or savings
I think this is maybe the biggest mistake I made. I quit my job and started my company without having any financial cushion. This added a lot of pressure on me financially, because I was unprepared for the change in income. It’s definitely something I would do differently.
There are a few ways to approach funding those initial months, where there isn’t a lot of money coming in. You could save up for your startup funding while working at your current job. Alternatively you could work on your startup in your spare time (weekends) while still employed at your current job.
Lesson 2: Start saving from your first paycheque
The company I was employed at had a retirement fund plan and luckily this allowed me to start saving from my very first salary. Having already started building towards retirement allowed me to take the risk of quitting my job without falling too far behind and compromising my retirement completely. In hindsight, if I didn’t already have that savings I probably would not have been able to choose this path. Not all companies provide this benefit, which is why I would recommend that if you find yourself employed at a company without this benefit, please look into setting up your own retirement savings plan.
Ideally this should be a retirement annuity or provident fund, but if your company does not provide this benefit and it proves too challenging to set up on your own, it’s still important to start saving by simpler means e.g investing through a platform such as Franc or through a banking product.
As a young recent graduate, investing is often not top of mind as a priority. In my case I prioritised getting my first car, an expense with not a lot of return on investment. In hindsight I would rather have used the money I spent on my car deposit and monthly repayments to invest for a few years. This would have given me the financial capital needed to start my company.
In a nutshell, my advice to my younger self would be to start investing as soon as possible, and to not make the jump into entrepreneurship until you have proper funding.
Growing your wealth at an early age and taking advantage of compound interest is one the best decisions you can make.