Meraki's Small Business Diaries: Lessons, Rewards and Rambling

In case you haven’t heard; the future is live. Right from the onset of this, admittedly traumatizing, situation, every tech-focused publication was pushing lives. The logic couldn’t be faulted; when customers couldn’t come see you, why not venture out to them? Why not use technology, to bridge the in-person gap, and build a community around your brand, in the midst of an unprecedented situation? 

Except, I’ve come to realise that if you simply do what everyone is doing, you risk losing your niche, your identity, and your customers. So, while we were not against the logic driving lives, we were skeptical of half-hearted attempts. 

There was actually a trial live, where I interviewed Eman for my Instagram profile. And once the bandaid was ripped off, we realised that people would actually be interested in what we had to offer. In the midst of uncertainty, small business owners were clamouring for support, and turning towards each other. 

Now, we didn’t have a grandiose sense of self-worth. Hence, while we appreciated all the lovely comments coming our way after the first session, we knew that we didn’t have all the answers. Thus, we also wanted to invite others to share their experiences. And just after a few sessions, I daresay we’ve amassed a bit of a treasure trove. 

Here is just a snippet of what we’ve learned so far. 

1, Proactivity Pays; Creating A Kick-Ass Website On A Budget with Eman Bachani

The first, official, session of our Small Business Diaries focused on the thorn in every entrepreneur’s side; a good website. In fact, even ‘good’ sounds unattainable at times. Most of us would settle for functionality. But, settling can often be the harbinger of long term problems. Because, when you’re satiated by the bare minimum, you inadvertently stagnate. Instead, as Eman encouraged all of us during this session, the goal is to be proactive. 

Putting in that little bit more effort, will ensure that you anticipate change, and adapt yourself accordingly. In particular, as Eman explained, it always pays to be proactive with your customers. Instead of waiting for something to go wrong, it really does help if you take in feedback, and use it to not just fix existing problems, but mitigate any future issues as well. 


2, Pick What Works For Your Brand; Social Media and Brand Building with Eman Bachani 

This really ties into what I said about not hopping onto every bandwagon that picks up steam. While discussing the use of social media as a branding tool, something that Eman highlighted was the importance of being discerning. Every platform does not have your ideal customer onboard; hence it shouldn’t take up your time and effort either. Be discerning. Instead of hopping onto trends, strategize what will align with your brand, and help your business grow. 

3, Listen To Understand Not To Respond; Effective Cold-Calling with Niki Shamdasani 

Sani’s success story is a shimmering beacon of hope, for anyone who wants to break the mould. Thus, when Eman got a chance to speak to co-founder and CEO Niki Shamdasani, a necessary question was; how? How did she and her brand break down barriers that many thought were set in stone? How did she launch not just a successful fashion label, but also catapult her business into becoming the first South Asian brand to be featured on Rent The Runway?

And while Niki’s list of wisdoms was never-ending, one lesson in particular stood out. If you want to grow, feigning expertise isn’t going to help. While it is important to do your research, and know as much as you can, it is also important to acknowledge your own limitations. To quote Niki herself, “don’t pretend you know more than the people on the inside.” During the interviews, Niki revealed that, it was this openness to learn and grow that helped her when she reached out to Rent The Runway. 

4, Ask The Right Questions; Best PR Practices with Sabina Wex 

If a great website is the thorn in your side, effective outreach is a full-blown weed. It’s that thing that can either get out of control, or it can ensure that your garden is blooming. 

(I apologize if that’s not how weeds work; I must confess I do not have an iota of a green thumb.) 

And such a catch-22 necessitates professional help. Except, that too is a bit of a maze. And you need to be mindful of the many pitfalls. When Eman spoke to PR maestro (also podcast producer, also content creator, also genius) Sabina Wex, how to avoid said pitfalls was atop the agenda. And Sabina’s answer was to, always, ask the right questions. For instance, let’s say a PR professional offers you the moon, the first question you should ask them is what platform have they successfully gotten their clients on. Not only does this reveal their efficacy, but it also helps you decide whether they are a right fit for you. Because again, not every platform is the right fit for you. 

Mind Blown Yet? 

Like I said, this is a tiny snippet of all that we’ve been doing. And, there is plenty more to come. So, if you don’t already, be sure to follow us on Instagram. We post regular updates about upcoming lives.


About the Author
Ushah Kazifreelance writer, pop-culture junkie, and resident communications expert at Meraki.