The fashion industry: how this industry can revive the Congolese economy.

The fashion industry: how this industry can revive the Congolese economy.

How many jobs do you think are in the fashion industry? I am sure the first ones that come to your mind are fashion designer, seamstress and fashion model. In the Congolese community, those are the most mainstream roles in the fashion industry. However, in fashion there are 100 of them, which include and are not limited to Marketing, Finance, Beauty and Operations. So if the question is can the fashion industry revive the Congolese economy? The Answer is yes, it can be one of the driving forces.

In 2015 Fashion was a $1.2 trillion global industry, which included luxury fashion, fast fashion and accessories (bags, jewellery, watches and shoes). Fashion and apparel industries employ 1.9 million people in the United States and the UK fashion industry is estimated to support 850,000 jobs. The number of people that work in this industry in Congo is unknown to me.

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So why and how are Congolese people so limited in their understanding of an industry they swear to love? If you do not understand what I am speaking of, I am speaking of Sapologie. A term engrained in the brain of every Congolese person regardless of whether they were born inside or outside of both countries respectively.

La Sape, an abbreviation based on the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (French; literally “Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People”) and hinting to the French slang word sape which means “attire”, is a subculture centered on the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo respectively. An adherent of La Sape is known as a sapeur.[1] The movement embodies the elegance in style and manners of colonial predecessor dandies.

As Congolese people, we have created a subculture that has been features and respected by not only other African countries, but globally by the likes of African American singers Solange and Jidenna but also, the Chinese community who were heavily involved in Congolese music through Papa Wemba. So if our industry already has a name, already has an impact and is influencing people all across the globe, how are we not or rather how have we not developed a sustainable industry that can create thousands of jobs across both nations and fuel the passion of many artists in that industry?

The main reason is that fashion is not taken seriously, and like any other art, is dismissed over the likes of studies in business, medicine, education and engineering. However, there comes a time when thinking must change and new entrepreneurial ways must be accepted in order to see change.

Why develop Congo’s fashion industry?

The industry is set to double in value in the next 10 years to generate up to $5trillion annually. This presents a huge opportunity for business in Africa, as the combined value of apparel and footwear in sub-Saharan Africa was estimated at $31 billion in 2016.

The fashion industry holds amazing potential to motivate and bring change to some of the most vulnerable people, especially women and children, while advancing the structural transformation needed in the industry and in the country.

The role of creative industries in Congo Kinshasa and Brazzaville.

With 13 million young African joining the labour force on a yearly basis, the development of skill based industry, where people can learn on the job and gain qualifications in a labour intensive sector is imperative to for the stability of our nations. Fashion uses our culture and creativity as a selling point, which can be leveraged both within and outside of the continent.

What can we do to change this?

Investment, training and the industrialization of the industry. There are many more roles outside of being a seamstress in fashion, from textile designer to fashion forecaster, the roles are endless. Let’s broaden the minds of the people in the industry.

Africa currently accounts for just 1.9% of global manufacturing. That figure does not just relate to fashion. With having raw materials available, Congo should focus on moving to the top of the value chain and produce garments targeted at the home and international audience.

Strategic support and investment in local manufacturers should allow the Congolese fashion industry to steadily grow and become an entity of its own

 

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Ways to refashioning the future of African fashion from an expert.

Ways to refashioning the future of African fashion from an expert.
Leanne is the founder of the platform called Refashionafrica which is dedicated to African Fashion. It serves as a fashionable eye on urban Africa and its various styles.

 

Could you please tell me about your background? 
I have a commercial, marketing and branding background. Prior to founding Refashion Africa I also had my own marketing and sponsorship agency.
Do you really think the African continent is ready for a Vogue Africa? If so why?
I do think it’s time. As I tried to lay out in my article for the “Business of Fashion” website,  we have proven long term economic growth with future prospects, a vibrant fashion eco-system which still has its challenges but I feel must be represented in an authentic way. We have an affluent class and a growing consumer class which will be driving the new modern African narrative. We are more inter-connected than ever before and already have luxury brands present on the continent.
African Vogue could have been the unity element between all the african nations, do you think this may be why, the western media has not given it a chance yet?
I am not sure about that. But what I know is this, this is about us, in Africa. We are a force and the African Renaissance is underway. We must continue to make our own tables and take our place on the global stage.
With South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana leading the fashion industry on the continent, how do you imagine the infrastructure of an African Vogue?
I imagine that the engine driving Vogue Africa will be the best creatives, digital, commercial, communications, publishing, etc… African talent, in other words a collective effort to create a narrative that reflects what is happening inside the continent from major fashion cities to capture the African Zeitgeist and elevate our stories. We need an attitude of openness and willingness from many parties not fingering strong leadership.
You are a very successful writer, what is your opinion about diversity and how social media is helping break barriers globally in the beauty industry? Can the fashion industry follow?
There is continuous pressure for things to change. In the new world diversity is key. The world is in a state of continuous flux and more change is coming. Technological change is a major force shapeshifting the future, and in Africa we have a very high adoption rate for example of mobile technology. Expect new conversations, new ideas, to go beyond what was once thought impossible.
What is the next step for African fashion if this magazine doesn’t not happen in the next 3 years?
African fashion is not dependent on a Vogue Africa happening or not. It will continue from strength to strength, no doubt. We are a force to be reckoned with and Vogue Africa shouldn’t feel like this far fetched idea.

This is why Africans are rejecting the idea of a Vogue Africa!

This is why Africans are rejecting the idea of a Vogue Africa!

The past 2 weeks have seen the trending subject of a “Vogue Africa” to finally come to life. Naomi Campbell has sparked a lot of discussions recently around the subject after her trip to Lagos, Nigeria for Arise Fashion Week.

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But, I have not heard one person of African descent actually thinking this is a good idea. It seems like we are once again trying to get some kind of approval from the western media and really there’s no need anymore. We know that Vogue is not interested in the African continent so why force it?

“There should be a Vogue Africa.” “We just had Vogue Arabia — it is the next progression. It has to be.” “Africa has never had the opportunity to be out there and their fabrics and their materials and their designs be accepted on the global platform… it shouldn’t be that way.” Naomi Campbell

I am very much confused by her statement about African Fashion and our fabrics|materials not being”out there”! Do we not see the same images online? African fashion, wax, ankara, from America to Europe, African culture is everywhere!

And thanks to Black Panther, Africans are bolder  than ever before.

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An African inspired editorial in Brazil

They are so many publications by Africans, bringing lights on African cultures, arts, personalities, travel such as New African Woman, Zen Magazine, Fashizblack.

Do we really want another western influence on Africa’s mind? Thats the question some asked.

The continent is working hard to push the boundaries in the fashion industry, via its own merits, and create its own vibes and personally. I feel like it will be very difficult to create an infrastructure around an African Vogue, simply because of the various cultures that we have and the complexity of the market as an all.

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African women have always been strong and determined to get things done on their own terms.  Diversity talks are growing through social media and the global press,  this is surely shaking the beauty industry like never before. Things are happening and it should have been Vogue magazine asking Africans their thoughts on this potential venture.

I think many are upset as this feels like we are begging for the chance to prove that Africa can do it too. To make this work, Vogue would need time to study the African market because really there will need to have several versions of the magazine to fit the diversity of our continent.

I do love Naomi, as she is the role model we all look up to. But I feel someone like Iman who invested more into bringing value to women of colour by creating products and engaging with the community, would be a better ambassador for a Vogue Africa.

Naomi’s business sense could definitely lead an edition. I actually thought by coming to Africa, she would have perhaps done an African version of her show The face. This would definitely be a success given the minority of black models still in the global market.

In 2010, Paris based photographer Mario Epanya created series of fictional ” Vogue Africa ” covers, which unfortunately were not enough to convince the mainstream media that Africa was ready to join the elite publication.His work is certainly noticed now as it has been used in every recent articles talking about the Vogue Africa subject.

This trending subject needs to teach us that we need to stop chasing this nonsense approval. Africans can represent their own cultures. What we need is for our governments to invest in the arts and cultures sector. We need to keep standing on our own feet and lead our way.

This is the reason why we launched ESIMBI Magazine, to be able to tell our own stories truthfully. Africa’s time is now but that way needs to be led by our own communities.

If Vogue ever decide to do an African version, we would simply ask that they do their best to represent us as we are and not as they want us to be.

 

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How to be the Female Game Changer for Congo?

How to be the Female Game Changer for Congo?

 

The 2018 theme for International Women’s Day was #pressforprogress, with a focus on women’s equality in terms of financial inclusion.

“Gender parity won’t happen overnight. And sources cite that women’s equality is still a long way off. But the good news is that across the world, women are making positive gains, day by day. And there’s a strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.”  – International Women’s Day website

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ESIMBI magazine hosted its first Women in business seminar in London last week.

The room was filled with men and women who were prepared to hear and understand the struggles that women go through but also their successes.

Ika De Jong hailing from Belgium, told her story on how she created a platform as a presenter. A name now known by Congolese people globally.

Noëlla Coursaris spoke (and joked) about her career as a model. But stayed serious with regards to matters close to her heart, the Malaika foundation which supports girls education in DRC. Ten years ago, they build a school that offers free education to all the pupils enrolled.

Yolande Letshou, fashion and branding professional. A relentless woman that has a unique story to tell and who has clients all over the world, spoke of her journey as an artist and business woman.

Tina lobondi founder of ESIMBI said that Congolese entrepreneurs need more help and support, from each other and organisations that work in Congo.

Our guest speaker Lu Li spoke of her great platform, Blooming Founders, the UK’s largest female entrepreneur network.

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Each story, each message sparked discussions that are needed in the Congolese community surrounding Congolese women and entrepreneurship. The event, which was meant to be a one off event, will now take place every year and invite Congolese entrepreneurs, businesses and investors to be a part of the discussion.

It is well known that unbiased access to education and financial services are important in playing a pivotal role in reducing the vulnerability of poor people. In many African countries, however, more than two-thirds of the adult population have no access to formal financial services.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, financial exclusion is as high as 76%. Additionally, exclusion is highest among women, young adults and the very poorest segments of society. Financial inclusion can advance equality for women in many ways.

  1. Having access to resources and to the tools that help them to earn a living, can increase women’s bargaining power on how money and other resources are used within the household.
  2. Financial inclusion can help increase women’s opportunities to earn or control assets outside the household.
  3. Thirdly, it can reduce women’s vulnerability by allowing them to insure against risk or borrow to meet unexpected expenses, such as medical treatments.

These are all key factors for economic empowerment. Financial literacy allows women and their families to understand how the accumulation of assets can aid in achieving their financial goals.

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Our event was not only to celebrate the many roles and positions Congolese women have in society and in the workplace but also show how financial independence helps them make decisions for their careers households and children.

  • To stimulate debate and build knowledge on financial inclusion.
  • To identify entry points for advancing the role of women in Congo.
  • To expand the network of champions and advocates of gender equality in Congo.

The challenge for women’s day 2018 was to make our mothers proud/ using our mothers as example, to have our sisters inspired/empowered, and our daughters envisioned. Congolese women have made great strides in equality yet there is still a great deal to be achieved. The International Women’s Day provided a unique and global opportunity to reignite, inspire and channel Congolese women’s equality for the future.

we aim to recognise and celebrate the valuable contribution Congolese women make in several different industries at our International Women’s Day function. The event brought together professionals from across the areas of construction, engineering, project management and design to celebrate their achievements as part of the 2018 International Women’s Day.

Topics of discussion included:

  • How can women best support one another?
  • Why International Women’s Day is important to me? Why am I here?
  • Who are the women that have had the greatest Impact on your life, and why?
  • What most concerns you related to women’s issues looking forward?
  • What do you want most for the women of tomorrow?
  • What would you try if you knew you could not fail?
  • How do I find direction, fulfilment and purpose in my life?
  • How to strive for, achieve, and maintain balance in our lives?
  • What needs to happen for women to reach equality?
  • How do you think Congo will benefit from a more inclusive society?

It was amazing to share that day with so many inspirational women. I definitely agree that more dialogues are necessary but, Education and Action are the key to progressing towards change. I look forward to taking part in the next event.

The below event will be attending by over 500 business women and I will be there too. If you would like to join us, use my code to get £175 Off the rate week, simply click here to book your ticket.

 

 

Is accidental entrepreneurship a real thing in Congo?

Is accidental entrepreneurship a real thing in Congo?

Although being the richest country in terms of natural resources, people in Republic Democratic of Congo live on under $5 per day.

Despite these challenges, they tend to come up with new ideas to generate revenue to live adequately. Last year Harvard business review wrote an article about why African entrepreneurship is booming. If there is real growth in Africa and there is to be predicted growth in Congo, why isn’t entrepreneurship valued?

These entrepreneurial activities can have a huge impact on the economy of Congo as well as the quality of life of the population in the form of employment. However, an important factor is the missing legislations, training and investment in entrepreneurs. This fact makes business development and business growth stagnant.

Entrepreneurial forces are relatively strong in Congo, as most people become accidental entrepreneurs based on necessity due to the poor economic situation. However, we have failed to realise that entrepreneurship development is the foundation of all economic evolution in any nation.

I took the below pictures on my last trip to Kinshasa with Gaelle who works with me on my social initiative ESIMBI. I wanted to share them as they completely represent how street businesses are the force that sustains the neglected Congolese population but shows their strength and resilience.

 

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Entrepreneurial challenges in Congo

  • The country’s economic has been declining since the 1990’s and its instability have made Congo an unsuccessful place for entrepreneurial capital investment.
  • The lack of adequate electricity, basic internet, which is a must in the business climate, stifle entrepreneurial activities.
  • Female entrepreneurs, are often underestimated and overlooked because of cultural barriers labelling women inherently inferior to men.

 

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The prospect of entrepreneurship in Congo

  • Economic Development: the development of entrepreneurs will increase the National gross domestic product.
  • Reduction in unemployment: entrepreneurship encourages and increases the creation of employment in Congo which contributes the country’s development.
  • Improved way of life: encouraging entrepreneurship development will go a long way to improve the standard of living of the country’s population through innovations.

 

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To fully encourage the development of entrepreneurs in Congo, we need to prioritise education, investment and continuous development. Not only in the entrepreneurs but also the industries that they are working in, this will generate a surge of potential from everyone in the country to see and recognise that they have the ability to change their live and that of others through business, mentorship, and apprenticeship.

 

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Why black people are being sensitive (And You Should Too!)

Why black people are being sensitive (And You Should Too!)
This is obviously quite a serious topic which I have been wondering about for a while now, so I thought I would write about it and hopefully hear your views too.
We often underestimate how much we damage someone else with our thoughts and actions, based on our own perspectives.
In modern times, many of us have been blessed with the ability to speak our mind.
I say blessed because we also often forget that in some places in this world, freedom is still not free.
Lately, there seems to be a movement where Black people are coming together globally as a community, to share their frustrations and I wanted to look into that. Is this another trend or a genuine Time’s up for us too?
I am Capricorn, and if you care about astrology, you know that we are known as the stubborn sign. And when we believe in something strong enough, we can fight anything.
I must be wiser now though, because for each situation, I am now able to take a step back and rethink before reacting. So let’s talk.
Recently, I saw a video of a black lady in America who was having a go at Disney and Marvel for a lack of Black Panther merchandise in their stores.
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At first, I thought that must be a mistake because I assumed that when these studios invest in such a big production, surely they hope to make as much money as possible. So to my understanding, merchandise is part of that marketing budget.
Then I started reading the comments prior to writing a question I had.
After a few comments (most of them not very friendly) I decided to take “my” step back. 🙂
I wondered to myself, ” How many times have I been to a Disney store?”
Twice. The answer was twice, once to buy a toy for my friend’s new born and another time for my little cousin’s birthday. So I thought I would ask the same question to my friends and a few contacts. Most of my black friends said they visited the store 2 or 3 times or never in their lifetime.
Then I said, ” Perhaps that is the point where Disney was coming from”. No one expected Black Panther to reach a $1 billion dollar globally in such a short time or actually ever perhaps.
But anyone I know, including myself, who saw this movie, did not just see it once. They saw it twice, three, or more. Not because it is an all black cast film but simply because it is amazing.!The story line was on point, the action was well coordinated, family friendly and God, it was funny!!! So many lines to quote from my now favourite princess, Shuri. And these factors made it a recipe for global success.
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Going back to that video, I liked the initiative taken by some readers. Yes, they complained but they also found a solution to their issue by making their own merchandise and selling it. And guess what? They are making money.
Big corporations seem to struggle with their communication to consumers as they fear who they could offend. And by doing that, sometimes they fail big time. We are humans and we all make mistakes but when you are a business in the public eye, things can get complicated. This is not always easy to handle.
Everyone saw H&M in panic for a week over that green monkey sweatshirt (picture below). They of course apologised and quickly hired someone to review their marketing campaigns, and made sure we knew they hired a black person. This made me laugh.
I don’t really shop at H&M simply because it is not a store that comes to mind when I think about shopping but they have nice stuff. The quality has changed over the past years but the last item I got from there still looks pretty good.
That being said, I still wonder rather it wasn’t just another publicity stunt. If you are familiar with business or corporate structures, you will agree with me that before a big campaign comes out, it goes through many departments and decision makers. So it is a little bit hard to believe that a “mistake like the green jumper” can happen out of nowhere. The company’s sale were not great before the whole story so it kind of makes sense that they would want to create a polemic where people would be talking about the brand.
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I received various messages from people asking to boycott the brand, sign petitions, etc…. I refused to give that story a second of my day. Why?
I feel like like the mainstream media often feeds us what they want us to talk about when it suits them. This only takes away our focus from the bigger picture. And my bigger picture is development in Congo, education, building a brand of my own, etc… Of course, it is important for us to raise our concerns about what we see when we see it, but it needs to make sense. I was very disappointed to see videos of a black guy in South Africa going to an H&M store trashing everything.
1. He made no relevant point by doing so and probably was arrested for that behaviour. Another excuse for people to refer to “us” as savages.
2. The people working in that store were black people too and they had to clean up the mess. The company is too big for things like this to affect the decision makers.
I think what we should have done from that is ask ourselves, ‘when is the last time you bought clothing from a black owned business?” . If you can’t remember or the answer is “No” then basically have a sit and be quiet!
Range Rover, I read online did something once, where a guy left a white Range Rover near department store Harrods. On the car, there was red graffitis calling out a cheating boyfriend… This turned out to be fake for publicity and it worked.
People were taking pictures and sharing it online and with their friends. And guess what again? This brought sales to the company.
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What is the big picture to you? For me, it is that we all need to buy from black owned businesses as much as we do the rest.
It seems like perhaps we simply don’t value ourselves enough and the results show. As an African designer, I see this everyday. We constantly need to explain why our prices aren’t as low as the high streets. We know deep down the customer knows the answer to that. We are not mass produced in China or else!
Most of us, work with small units and a group of seamstresses to make unique products. If you don’t see the value then there is no point of having a conversation.
Like Karl Lagerfeld once said, ” If you are cheap, nothing helps “.
Another big outrage happened early this year. The slavery in Libya.
The images which immersed, the videos, … etc… inadmissible. But not a surprise if you are keeping an eye on humans rights in the past years.
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I saw a heart breaking video of a young boy telling the world to stop bombing them because they are not terrorists. I just cried. Because really, what can we do? What do we really know?
Anyone who knows me, knows that my focus at the moment lies in Congo and thats a big enough pool of worries to solve. We all have a part in this.
And deep inside somewhere, we all know that any change needs to start with ourselves. We can no longer let the media, politics or anything dictate our behaviours. We can’t afford that.
Diversity around the world is not the minority group they want us to believe in. We are too many. We have a voice and buying power. The success of Black Panther just emphasised that factor. Maybe we are afraid of going for it, I don’t know what it will take nor how long. But things are changing. TV shows like EMPIRE, are showing us the successes (even if it is fictions) of black people out there.
How about we get more brainwash sessions from Oprah, P.Diddy, Jay-Z or any successful black businesses to remind us of our worth? Forget everything we learn to start from scratch and research who our ancestors were.
Slavery is something that happened to the African community, it is NOT who we are and NEVER represents where we are from. We need to educate ourselves. Research and research again so we can be informed.
There is not much left about the history of my country, but with the story of Queen Nzinga or Kimpa Vita, I know that Kongo was a KINGDOM. And today our resources became a curse that everyone wants to get a hold of, even if it means letting the people die. But thats a whole other subject.
I wanted to write this to simply voice this to anyone reading. Choose where you put your focus because your mind and your time are your most important assets.
Photos from Google search

The best easy steps you always wanted to help fund your business

The best easy steps you always wanted to help fund your business

I have been in the Fashion industry for over 7 years and getting the right kind of funding is something I unfortunately overlooked for my new fashion business. This article will hopefully help you understand the financial support a label needs to get off the ground.

As a fashion business, you will face many challenges, but perhaps the hardest one will be to secure funding at an early stage. Being in the creative industry, you will need a lot of tools up your sleeves – public relations for your exposure, marketing and branding, reliable manufacturers, perhaps an office, and a solid business plan. This will also come handy when you are ready to approach investors.

Let’s begin with online lenders and banks, they can be a useful way of securing finance for small businesses, and often come with added benefits such as business advice. But if you are hesitant to turn to traditional methods of securing funds that may require him or her to put up valuable assets as security, I found some alternative ways to explore.

Payments coming from bigger projects or clients are exciting for a business. This is until you realise how long they may take to reach your bank account.

To explain better, the bigger the client, the longer they tend to take to pay you (sometimes several months). In turn, it might put your business in a difficult situation when you realise you are short on cash to pay for materials, your staff or suppliers.

To be successful within the fashion industry you need a reliable network of suppliers and that took a while for me to achieve.

I will take the example of the fashion industry, it includes a countless number of small and medium sized agencies. Additionally, these agencies use the service of countless suppliers themselves.

At the top of this supply chain sits the end-client with a big finance department and sometimes painfully long payment terms, and dealing with the right person can be a pain.

I have seen this cause complications more often than I can count: your client’s view of when it’s time to pay can differ from when your contractors and suppliers expect you to pay them. Unfortunately, they are also the ones in control. And if your client is overseas, things can get a whole lot worse.

What happen if you don’t pay your suppliers on time?

When you are late paying your staff and suppliers, you run the risk of them not wanting to work with you anymore which is understandable.

It’s extremely important to support them because finding new and reliable people can become a challenge. Especially, when you have ongoing projects in progress. Basically, when your client doesn’t pay you it’s not just you that suffers, it’s your staff and your outsourced agencies who experience the knock-on effect too (who knows how many additional staff they had hired to deliver your project?).

Therefore, having a visible supply chain for your business is essential. If you don’t get paid at all, an entire chain may collapse. This risk has always been there for small businesses but it’s growing.

1258 businesses had their say on the strength of UK supply chains based on an article I read on YouGov’s latest Supply Chain Funding index (SCFi).

In the SCFi, UK businesses rated the supply chain at 6.2 on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 is the best score and 10 is the worst. In other words, UK businesses admit they’re running a near 36% risk of disruption in their supply chains because of the payment terms. This really is a call to action to find solutions.

So, it seems you have a simple choice: take it on the chin and carry the risk, or walk away from lucrative contracts because of the risk.

Could borrowing money be the answer?

You could ask your bank for an overdraft to see you through until your client pays your invoice. However, for a while now banks have been a quite reluctant to lend to small businesses: they view it as a bit risky for not much return.

If your bank won’t help, you can always turn to invoice discounting or factoring. Just like a bank overdraft, both this can mean debt – as you would typically end up borrowing against an unpaid invoice. These options will typically demand personal guarantees.

Learning it the hard way that trying to sustain a business with debt is not a viable long-term strategy.

There are a few alternative funding solutions – without debt

Positive news is that over the last 5 years the UK has undergone a huge influx of new finance solutions – fintech. It has enabled businesses to access finance where they previously had none.

If you look at Funding Xchange for example, it is a different finance model which can meet your needs and protect your business when you have your next gig lined up.

However, make sure to fully understand the terms and conditions of these alternative funders. What businesses typically overlook is whether the funder requires personal guarantees and how easy it is to end the contract.

I hope this has been helpful and I look forward to answering your questions in the comments.

You can’t give customers the value they demand if you can’t be sure of your cash flow.