Small Business Feature: Rana Ahmed
Starting a business can seem daunting, especially during college and a pandemic, but it can be done. I reached out to CWIB member, Rana Ahmed who is a sophomore majoring in Business Information Technology with a concentration in Decision Support Systems and a double minor in Integrated Cyber Security and Data and Decisions to discuss the process of creating a small business from scratch and how she was able to get her business “Roots by Rana” noticed through the help of social media. Her products are necklaces that allow her and others to embrace their cultural heritage.
What inspired you to start a business in college?
“I started drafting up my business early on, during the spike of the Covid pandemic. Being quarantined for months, I had a lot of time to myself and began going through a personal growth journey which led to my new business venture and professional growth. I have always been very business-minded, but this time I made my vision come to life!”
How did you come up with your business product and the name of your business?
“I've always had a passion for fashion and accessorizing, another thing I loved was the diversity within my friend group and my culture. I figured out a way to combine the two things I loved the most, from that came Roots by Rana! I believe that my culture and life experiences are the root of my identity. I am a Sudanese American woman who grew up in North Carolina, and I believe that every aspect of my culture and experiences contribute to who I am as an individual. Through Roots by Rana, I found a way to share my culture and allow others to embrace their cultures as well, affordably and fashionably!”
Did you ask friends and family what they thought of your idea before starting your business?
“I shared the idea with my friends and family while I was brainstorming and doing market research; they knew I had a passion for business and supported me while I made my vision come to life! I believe that having a strong support system is very important when starting a business, it gives you something to bounce your ideas off of and reminds you to keep pushing.”
How was the process of creating your business plan and what were the most important steps taken while writing the plan?
“The process of creating my business plan was difficult at first because I didn't have previous experience and knowledge in regards to creating one. But that didn't stop me, after months of research and finding out which target audience to tend to as well as learning how the market works, the process became much easier. The most important steps were figuring out my marketing strategy and finding my target audience!”
How did you finance your business? Did you reach out to investors?
“I independently financed my business by working remotely throughout quarantine. I saved up all my money and chose to invest in myself, in pursuit of making my business come to life.”
How did you register your business for legal terms?
“I registered my business as a sole proprietorship and got an Employer Identification Number through the IRS website. I chose to register my business as a sole proprietorship because my business is still fairly small, once it expands I will refile as an LLC!”
What were some of the struggles you faced while starting your business and how did you overcome them?
“Some struggles I faced included finding a reliable manufacturer for my products and figuring out how much inventory I wanted to invest in. I worked through these struggles by doing extensive research and learning from other people's mistakes. I spent the majority of the time watching YouTube videos about other small business owners and learning from their Journeys. I learned that all of the information required to succeed is out there; it's just up to us to go look for it.”
How did you get your business noticed? Did you use social media to promote your business?
“I got my business noticed by advertising on TikTok and Instagram. My first few orders came from family and friends, but once they shared their reviews and advertised the jewelry they bought, more people started making orders. I significantly grew the social media presence of my brand by doing these three things: Posting consistently, following the followers of competitors and people that fit my target audience description, and engaging with my followers.
These 3 tactics have gotten me over 60 sales, 800 Instagram followers, and 2000 TikTok followers in less than a month! As a small business, this is a big milestone for me.”
What would be the best advice to give to people interested in starting a business?
“The best advice I would give people would be to invest in yourself and don't be scared to fail because the only way to truly fail is by quitting! I believe that if you want something bad enough you will keep working for it until it succeeds. Don't give up on yourself and keep pushing you got this!”
Hopefully reading about Rana’s journey in creating her business will help you to be inspired to do so yourself in the future. Know that there are many resources out there to help you through the process. If you put the time and effort in your idea, you will succeed with your vision. A big thank you to Rana for this interview; congratulations on your amazing business and CWIB wishes you all the future success!
By: Meng Hembrey