in the box


Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
and Library and Archives Canada cataloguing in publication

Segla, Arnaud, 1978
[Entreprise ethnique en 40 heures. English] Business in the box
Translation of: Une entrepriseethniqueen 40 heures
ISBN KDP:9781790666379

1. Entrepreneurship.2. Minority business enterprises. I. Wisemen Council. II. Title.
III. Title : Entreprise ethnique en 40 heures. English.

Legal deposit
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 2017 Library and Archives Canada, 2017

Book and cover design: ASSOUKA
Cover illustration: © Brad Pict
Translation: Jerusalem Girma


Sommaire 4
Introduction 6
Before beginning 8
H-36 : THE CHOICE 13

My thanks to Teddy NgouMilama for giving me the idea to write this guide and for his contribution to the strategy of THE WISEMEN COUNCIL. Also my thanks to the UIBE project team for their support during the drafting, review and translation. A special thank goes to Tiffany Callender, Tania Callender, Jerusalem Girma and Aïssata Sow for their effective contribution.

“Each Human is
important to the eyes of God.”


Since the more than symbolic loss of the twin towers and the subsequent crises, we have entered into a new phase of globalization. In an evolving cycle, we moved from a market economy to an economy of communities (including ethnic, regional, temporal, virtual …) with the specificity that they are more interconnected than in the past of concentrations. The current economic challenge of maintaining a minimum level of growth and ensuring a suitable rate of employment has requireda redefinition of alternative solutions for segments of the population with insufficient income; not necessarily low income. This nuance makes the difference! Indeed, this segment can be integrated into the economy. Through various initiatives and business projects geared towards ethnic groups, the relevance of this segment has been highlighted and must be part of the GDP. This information can lead many to wonder how it might impact them and how much interest they ought to be taking.

This guide targets diaspora members living outside their birth countries particularly those in economically developed countries and native members of these countries wishing to initiate an informal way of doing business. Quebec is, as such, one of the largest ethnic communities (“nation”) in Canada and with the “visible minorities” (especially Black communities), it faces the same daunting challenge of economic claim based on my analysis. Aboriginal communities themselves being more inclined towards issues of sharing revenues from the exploitation of their lands or estates. Becoming an ethnic entrepreneur is a question of one’s financial environment or circumstances such as barriers to employment. Due to increasing migration for economic reasons, many are driven to follow this path.

The principle of solidarity between entrepreneurs can create a greater impact than the traditional view of competition in the community. Pairing economic structures is an attempt at regulating the imbalances brought about by globalization. With time we will see how to address interactions with those living in their native lands and who are more heavily involved in the informal economy.

Here is a simple example of a situation that will give you an idea of the relevance of this guide with respect to your situation. You receive social assistance that is insufficient and face employment barriers perhaps due to an unsuitable professional profile. Aspiring for financial independence, you need time to consolidate your path of integration or social wellness. You have regular work, are temporarily constrained to your home or are looking to improve your income but taking on a second job is not possible. For some time you’ve asked yourself if you should not begin a simple business based on your strengths or a choice made with your heart and to pursue your regular activities at a later date if things should work out well for you. We must associate with this desire a realistic and professional approach to ensure the chances to thrive. Several tools are available to you even if we know that the important thing is rather mastering the elements of its business on the fingertips to reassure or convince a potential investor than to be always able to write a good business plan. Also, the informal economy is not the underground economy; you need to make a tax election at the end of this process by seeking advice from your accountant before you embark on ethnic entrepreneurship. Perhaps just start now!

Before beginning

The tools presented herein are simple methods of correspondence with an informal itemisation, an approach on self-positioning in business and a method of application. All the entrepreneur needs is a notebook for the vade-mecum, a pencil, a telephone and a bank account. For more hi-tech oriented people, a computerized product i.e. laptop, tablet, pocket pc, smart phone etc… can be more comfortable. The bank account facilitates access to different online payment services and transaction methods such PayPal, wire transfers, credit or debit etc… offered to clients via the web.

Arm yourself with a few draft papers to undertake the preparatory work. Make sure that all tensions and urgencies are taken care of so as not to be disturbed during your planned personal work that will be done intermittently over 40hrs. Work at your pace; take your time to achieve each level. Use a marker to indicate where you left off. Have patience and a positive disposition to build your enterprise. Always remember your destination before continuing.


The first stone of the structure we will build is YOU!

Define yourself. What distinguishes you and gives meaning to your life as an entrepreneur. This will carry you through life and give you a reason to wake up every morning with the same desire to achieve despite obstacles.

This is a test I suggest taking that can help you know yourself better: MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) of Katherine C. Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It is available in several libraries especially at student coops and of course online.

If you are more familiar with another tool, don’t hesitate to use it. The test of the Enneagram can make sense for some and give a clear profile in a few issues. Very possibly, you may naturally have a certain innate understanding of human nature or experience and maturity to know where your interests in life lie. In that case simply follow your heart.

In one word
What type of economic activity can I undertake that makes sense to me?

Take note of your talents, aptitudes and moments of pleasure in doing an activity. A question you should always ask yourself is: what type of economic activity can I undertake that makes sense for me? Select 5 of them.

In my personal studies I noted that profit has a short term practice but wealth is often a long term process. The same can be said of the feeling of pride in achieving an economic activity. It is cultivated over time and not in the momentary thrills. With my approach, wealth and pride are the two pillars of success in business.

Take a good two hours to deeply absorb and meditate on these points or pass straight to the analysis of MBTI.


For each of the 5 options previously selected, implement the following steps:

The classical approach requires structuring the idea to make sure the projects are viable and solid. As we work informally, we have to highlight simplicity. We’ve seen that the driving reasons to undertake an endeavour are not always linked to the main activity. Often, the driving factor is to have a complementary income or one to supplement the primary income. Therefore, taking charge of the idea allows for lighter procedures to be implemented. Let us then ask ourselves 3 simple questions to legitimize the chosen commercial adventure.

Why undertake this activity?
It is important to know within yourself the factor that drives and motivates you to be engaged and to always recall it when making a decision that will have an impact on your endeavours. Clearly, a business plan is not a prerequisite to engage in what we are proposing. Indeed, the mere act of clearly noting the business objectives makes it so one is able to discern and stay focused when opportunities present themselves.

Very often, family and loved ones give suggestions on the direction your business can go or opportunities to pursue. It is important at this moment to return to a precise objective and hold firm. If other opportunities arise you must have the resources (long term vision) in order to refrain yourself. Otherwise, when two striking options present themselves you will be left to either mourn the loss of an opportunity or remain a specialty within your community or to change the project altogether. You can’t go chasing all the rabbits at the same time all by yourself!

What level of resources are you willing to invest?
You need to determine the level of resource that you are ready to invest in your informal activity. Time and money are essential resources. If you already have a business, managing your time effectively will allow you to dedicate some time to your informal activity. For example, to make a sale of homemade goods at the community or a fair requires preparation. Choosing to book your stand for Saturday would allow you to set aside time during the week for preparation of your goods. Do not forget you’ll need to be well rested throughout the development. The funds can come from your regular activities, savings or support from relatives. In any event, it is necessary to separate the management of the investment from the rest of your assets in order to assess whether your business is profitable or not and to take action if that is required.

In one word
Taking charge of the idea instill a lean proce.

How far are you willing to go?
At the beginning of this manual (the first question), you expressed what motes you to act. Equally important is to define objectives that anchor and orient your approach to business. When this objective is attained, the question that often comes to mind is: should we continue with our current ways or leap into other activities? It may be a question of business growth or diversification (i.e. test other sectors). Some may take on the activity full time or even hire an employee and develop the business. At this juncture, your business will shift from being a single ethnic business initiative towards a more formal business structure.

In the instances that objectives are not met, we must ask ourselves the right questions that will help us determine if the reason that motivated us to be entrepreneurs is indeed pertinent. In such a case, taking the time to reflect on what is not working will provide an opportunity to make adjustments.

Here is an illustration:

Francis, a high school French teacher and a member of a diaspora of diversity, also likes to cook dishes from her country. She is currently on maternity leave and has learnt to better manage the challenges of a new baby. She finds herself with time that she wants to occupy with other matters. She decides to embark on an informal business venture to improve her income. She builds a network of customers and promotes her cooking within the community. She is willing to spend 20 hours per week on the business while on leave and then every Saturday upon her return to work and her child being in daycare. Her goal is to have an average of fifteen loyal customers ordering at least one dish every Saturday. She intends to stop the business when she has saved enough money to make a journey to discover her country with her daughter. She also has other plans in mind. It is at this juncture that she will decide whether to continue with the business or not.

Take two hours to initiate activities in your mind.


From the 5 options that you initiated in your mind and can visualize on your worksheet, make a ranking based on interest.

In one word
Here we are building an informal initiative where success is based on the financial platform ‘‘with less do better’’.

Take a break. Go for a walk, have a snack or do a completely different type of activity. Empty your mind. Come back 30 minutes later. You can stop your days’ work at this point and resume the next day.

Observe now the ranking and make the choice from your heart. We will work in the future to associate elements of your intuition to reason.

In your future entrepreneurial endeavors you need to find the right balance between effort and pleasure with confidence.


In the classical approach, we learn how to identify our strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats and how to take them into account during our journey.

Here, our focus is to know ourselves better at the “definition ” stage. We do not insist on our strengths and weaknesses. We make a choice of heart that we want to make viable through analysis.

We will research to better know the community in which we engage. Our main tool is the Internet and a powerful search engine.

We will proceed by keywords to read and write as much information on our economic environment so as to better adapt, respect and make profit.

We will compose keywords to bring up sites that provide us the information we need. Those who want to go directly to a statistics website can do so. I want to foster simplicity. My experience has taught me that in classical entrepreneurship, businesses that require investment from the start sadly tend to neglect the community research in the business plan. Here we build an informal initiative whose success is based on the financial leverage; “with less do more.”

Here is a simple nomenclature to compose keywords:

Type: your community + desired location + type of product or service

Read and write down all the information that can help you better know your community.

Observe existing sites and see their offers.

Type: Your community + your desired location + a negative term (e.g. problem, complaint, deficit, bankruptcy etc.)

Note the official information and information that appear on forums. Take note of the risks in your community.

Type: Your community+ your desired location + type of product or service + words prices or rates

Note what existing businesses are offering, determine at what level their sales are and estimate what your income would be for a minimum number of clients. If this information is kept secret, take their contact information and call them to know their pricing schedule as a customer interested in their services or check with their clients. I believe that economic information should be shared. In the case of price, it allows to determine the community price level and to align your offers according to what the buyers of that product or service are willing to pay.

In one word
Define our offering based on our resources and objectives and establisg relations to sustain our activities.

Type: Your community + the desired location+ the term ‘blog’

Read reviews from experts and professionals who know your community.

Type: your product or service using your own words (as you would want to present them to customers).

See if someone else has already made the same proposal.

Continue to compose keywords and record information to make sure you know the community in which you intend to launch. Do not be overconfident. Sometimes we think we know where we want to go because we have always worked in a particular sector or we talked with several people who gave us their opinion. We then feel so ready to engage with minimal preparation and to ‘freestyle’ our way. We need to work with facts that will be used to build a strong foundation for the business. You will be convincing if you master this crucial stage. The rest of the decisions you make for your ethnic business will be better informed and will justify that mere intuition or lack of interest in prelimanry research.

Three hours should suffice.


If you’ve been to a popular community in an area of economic growth, you’ve probably noticed that in the same space several shops selling the same type of products can coexist. At this point, we will not discuss competition or community segment. We will rather focus on the impact retail space has on competition when interacting with the community environment we discussed earlier.

We will define our sales offering based on our resources and objectives and establish relationships to support our business. The goal is not to take community share, but to integrate into the community and maintain its harmony and durability as a whole. This establishes your specialty or particularity.

Make a list of activities (physical, qualitative or virtual) you depend on or that are closely related to your business and can benefit you. Write what you are willing to offer or request to forge an effective partnership. Note those who are doing the same activities and see how they are similar and how they differ.

We will establish contacts thereafter. At the moment we are preparing to take our place in the community in which we have chosen to pursue.

You have two hours to complete this activity.

In one word
We need to work with facts that will build a solid foundation to your activity.


We will first identify the type of clients who would need your product or service then we will estimate their number.

The first step is to draw a standard portrait of your customer: age, male or female, type of occupation, average income, consumption habits etc…Imagine yourself describing your first client to a friend. Make sure that the profile obtained from your description fits well with someone who wants to purchase your product or service. This step requires insight and objectivity.

In one word
The ability to do business is the effort you must produce in order to draw the revenue sought with the desired benefits.

Once you identified your target customer, we must consider how many like him/her are in your desired location (physical or virtual). We will use statistics and census data that are available in each country with an influx of economic migrants. Recall that the informal trade of the source countries for migration is not treated here.

The statistics are available online or in libraries open to the public.

Make sure that you cannot have free access before investing in a statistical population report. Enter the criteria that fit the profile of your target customer according to the location intended and note the potential number of people involved.

You can ask a contractor that operates in the same community but in a different location than you, how many customers he/she receives per day or his/her monthly or annual income. It all depends on your proximity to him or your ability to be comfortable with this type of information research.

If these options do not suit you, take the total number of potential customers in your desired location, identified by the statistical report, and divide by the number of businesses (also available in the statistical reports) that offer the same services as you in the location you are considering. You will then have a nominal estimate of your sales area. Multiply this number by the average price or tariffs to get an idea of the income you can aim for by launching your business.

An alternative to planning is to observe the frequency of customers of companies with similar activities in a day.

Potential financial flows can allow you to consider an income.

Take two hours to properly identify these assumptions and extract information from statistical reports.

In one word
Imagine yourself elaborating a statistical portrait of your clients: age, men or women, type of profession, average income, consumption habits, etc.


Now that you know how your business cash flow, identify the level of income you expect to gain based on the community share you anticipate. There are two types of costs. There are fixed costs that you will always bear and variable costs that depend on what you produce to attain the desired level of income. Mark these down for a day, a week, a month or a year depending on the type of activity that you perform. Fixed costs are for example your telephone bill, your rent, your internet service etc… These are often the services that you had before you consider this ethnic business.

Variable expenses are the expenses you incur to produce your product or offer your service. It is often quotes or invoices you receive from your suppliers. Take the sum of the estimates of expenditure needed to make a product or to offer a single service. Call this number unit variable costs.

Define a coherent benefit by setting a consistent profit margin with your community opportunities or life needs you want to achieve.

The ability to do business is the effort you must produce in order to draw the revenue sought with the desired benefits:

Do the following calculations on the calculator:

Business capacity =

[Anticipated revenue] – [Benefits] – [Fixed costs] ________________________________________
[Unit variable cost]

You get a number that represents the number of clients you must attain in order to achieve the revenue you desire.

For a service use the basic rate of the service (hourly or package) as [unit variable costs] as an approximation of the production cost.

Two hours are necessary to collect the receipts, estimate production/service costs and to do the calculation.


Thus far we have been able to position ourselves in the informal community and have determined the pertinent elements of our choice; remember the community, the potential financial flow, and capacity for trade. Set the value (not necessarily monetary) of your product or service that makes it special and attractive from the customer’s point of view of the customer and determine the nominal return expected.

In a sentence or a paragraph, strengthen your position. For example :
“I want to get into the [remember the community] business by specializing in [remember the retail space] and reach a potential clientele of [recall the potential cash flow] of which [recall the ability to trade] will be necessary to attain my goal of [give considered income] per day / week / month / year.”

You have an hour to complete this step.


In addition to the proposed income set a pessimistic income if you were to make a few sales and one if your business was to be very successful. For each of these three revenues establish the expected benefits and subtract fixed costs and variable costs that correspond with the number of customers necessary to achieve these revenues.

The minimum effort or breakeven point is the income needed to cover fixed costs (ie without profit). To see the minimum number of customers you’ll need:

divide [fixed costs] by [profit per unit].
The [profit per unit] = [Price] – [unit variable costs].

Take two hours to develop plausible contingencies and see the impact on the development of your business.


Make a table with two columns and specify the needs in one and the starting inventory in the other one.

Needs column : here identify everything you need to run your business. This is a list of the minimum equipment and resources required. This can be hardware, software, services (i.e. accounting, marketing, etc.). If you prefer to have some financial cushion rather before launching, set aside working capital for three months. Quantify each item and make a subtotal before working capital. Then indicate the working capital. And make an overall total.

Starting inventory column: makean inventory of what you already have and indicate your personal investment. You do not necessarily need to quantify your inventory (except your personal investment). In most cases the goods brought into an ethnic company are already paid for. Enter the total next to the needs column. Financial institutions often require a minimum investment percentage from the entrepreneur in the business. Our strategy is to gain support through our network, fundraising or through flexible microcredit institutions.


Summarize what has been identified in a maximum 1 to 3 page document. The goal is to use it to seek assistance:

In one word
If you are hesitant to present your project it is that the definition stage was not done with honesty and depth.

Here are the points I recommend:

1. The definition
2. The idea
3. The positioning
4. The expected income
5. The logistical requirements

In one word
Our strategy is to gain support through our network, fundraising or through flexible microcredit institutions.


Establish a list of people in your area who can be of potential help. Prepare yourself to present the project and establish contacts for support and investment. There is no small contribution and in-kind assistances are just as valuable. Dig into your contacts and identify potential customers who can buy a product or service in advance (a form of crowd funding). You will be surprised to know find yourself well surrounded and that your business wakens interest.

Work on you. If you are hesitant to present your project it is that the definition stage was not done with honesty and depth. This is a project close to your heart and that makes sense for you. This is your dream, your talent, an initiative which will allow you to succeed in business or achieve a level of resources needed to move to another social level.

Expand your network as needed and ask those who can to share information with people who might be interested in helping you. This allows you to save time on planning.

Take two hours to build and strengthen your network and reconnect with your community or communities.


This guide will structure your approach to get started and give you an extra push. The business can be simple requiring minimal investment however; entrepreneurs who have the required cash to engage in an informal activity are rare. If the investment required is significant, you need to ask yourself whether you might fall into the category of formal entrepreneurship.

In the event that you cannot cover the logistical needs, use the project summary and your immediate network or community to seek support. Do not hesitate to seek support and innovate with tools such as crowd-funding or fundraisers.

Make your approach and presentation to each prospect profitable: a maximum of 5 min to present the idea and leave a summary in case information is requested. Be convincing and not begging. Reconnect with those who have shown interest.

It is better to have several people invest small amounts that “won’t hurt their pockets” than urging an investor who will require a share of the entire project. The project summary, if done well, should be able to provide the minimum information required to unlock the resistance.

In one word
It is better to have several people invest small amounts that won’t hurt their pockets than to urge an investor who will require a share of the entire project.

Be comfortable in approaching relatives, living communities (association, religion, culture etc.).

Financial institutions have minimum amounts that do not fall within the types of activities that we want to develop.

If you cannot raise funds through your personal network wither out of shyness, embarrassment or a hostile environment, opt for micro-credit either online or through non-profit organizations. These are loans that will be paid with your business earnings.

After a short presentation ask if the person wants a summary of the project. Do not spend time waiting for the person to read the project to you unless you with the impression that the agreement depends. Later, use the means by which you are most comfortable (phone, email, in person), to inquire about their position on your proposal. Manage your time skillfully.

Take eight non-consecutive hours to get the financing you need.


You’ve identified in your network and communities stakeholders for your project. These are people who have invested or want your project to come to life. These are also future customers and potential partners. Facilitate the promotional process by talking about what you do and explain your approach. Generate interest by talking about what motivates and defines your role in this project. Insure you get maximum help from your network and community by providing necessary information. They want to see you grow and some people may change their reserved attitude when they see you building your future effectively.

Devote any two non-consecutive hours to promote your project. For example, you can consider two one-hour presentations to a group of stakeholders to explain your products or services.

Don’t hesitate to participate in fairs, meetings, promotional activities where you can meet your target audience to promote your product or service and gage their reactions to it.

Two hours!


Establish the following simple steps to complete the activity rules. Put yourself in the position of a person who would act as interim during your absence. Write it in your notebook.

Let’s get ready!

Here is an example of a structure for promotion and operation in five stages:

1. Create and promote a profile in the retail space.
2. Pass the message on the basis of credibility or popularity of virtual profile.
3. Mission : To generate income from the Message (content or paid service).
4. Promote the cause related to the mission and wait for membership.
5. Transfer responsibility for the operation and development: new profile, message, mission, task in the same line…

The goal is to have members so as to create a community around a project and not to chase after a customer base that will take services on their whims.

An hour should be enough to describe how to manage the business.


Prepare a simple plan to make your business known to customers and to have them keep in touch with you. Show what makes you different; the value of your product or service. You will create a loyal base with the quality of your service and acquire new customers through your ability to present your product or service with originality. To find key words that will generate some interest in them, always put yourself in the customer’s shoe. A good question to ask is: what is the customer looking for in the product or service offered in my community?

Take an hour.


Your motivation should always be making a profit from whatever line of business you’re in and no matter the level of income it generates. It is an economic affirmation or a social liberation for which you work every day in your commitment to conduct this activity. It is through an internal ease you find the engine and strength to take action. Money is an essential tool for your undertaking but always coupled with an honorable attitude. Creating a heritage from your activities is paramount though it will not override savings and investment efforts. I reiterate that the sole purpose of this activity is to make you financially independent and to give you a better social comfort doing what has meaning for you.

Collective savings programs allow you to set aside funds that can be used by you and others to launch. This important notion of revenue sharing is the ultimate point of a community that wants to build economically. It can create a dynamic or a synergy based on an economic affirmation from informal activities and ones that are not solely based on external help. I reiterate that profit is a short term vision and wealth is built on the long term.

It should take you about an hour to elaborate this investment plan, indicating how much you want to save over a period, should take about an hour. Have a quantifiable objective. This will keep you disciplined.

In one word
Establish simple steps to follow to complete the activity, Put yourself in the position of a person who would act as an interim during your absence.


Once the logistical needs are met and the three plans are written, you can make contact with suppliers and partners to prepare for the first sale. If you already have orders from customers prepare to provide service.

You can take this buffer period for testing pilot activities with customers.

Note the feedback on your products or services, make the necessary corrections and start building your customer database.

Carry out your activities in order to gain confidence in your business and allow you to break the ice on new frontiers. 3 hours should be enough to get an idea of what your future as an entrepreneur will be.


Here is a Vademecum in 7 steps with advice for entrepreneurs who operate informally.

1. Managing your project one activity at a time, one client at a time, little by little.

in your notebook or electronic device set aside some space where we will answer three key questions:

Why do you want to offer this activity?

What level of resources are you willing to invest? How far are you willing to go?

This is the mission statement or “declaration of intent” of your business. You must refer to it each time you want to make a change in your day-to-day operation.

2. Keep a log of activities we want to undertake and their outcomes (in the same book)

In this log (second part of the log book) say what you want to do in the coming days, weeks or months. Draw a table with 4 columns : Plan; result; date or maturity; comments. Keep it simple and use short sentences with verbs in the infinitive. Example: inquire about the stands price at agricultural show . Provide space next to the box to put the result: the price for 5 days costs $ 500 but you can share space with another exhibitor. Always provide comment to report the context . This will show the path and give a background on decisions taken . As a matter of fact, you can better understand yourself and this will help you to adapt to situations.

3. Stay on the lookout for all the tools that can facilitate the daily activities

This second log(third part of the log book) will trace the reasons that led to change the product or service. The idea is to build a knowledge base which can be used to better manage similar situations or allow a substitute to take over while understanding decisions style that are the signature of the business activity . It is important to keep it simple and make reporting easier. If these tasks become boring stop and then rely on your memory with the risk that it entails. Doing business does not always have to be a showdown, itis also an art that provides moments of pleasure.

In one word
It is important to keep it simple and make reporting easy.

4. Stay on the lookout for all the tools that can facilitate the daily activities

We required the use of a phone so as to be in touch with customers or suppliers even where the activities take place in a crowded location or well-known to a loyal clientele. Knowing what is happening in your field can be of great help. Do not hesitate to ask or observe partners, competitors and customers on how to improve your service offering and facilitate daily work. The internet offers great opportunities in terms of tools and sales portals.

5. Be nice to the client while remaining professional

Informal sector often sends the image of a friendly service but not very professional. Do not hesitate to wring the neck of this prejudice : keep this customer proximity which is the advantage of the informal sector and make an effort in order to add quality service and ensure customer satisfaction. The two put together can make the informal sector a significant competitor to all policies and marketing and communication strategies of formal enterprises . Of course, here the formal and informal duality is present, but in between the two, there is a gray area where the activity depending on its size or nature may use both approaches. You are probably a professional or a student in another life so you are aware of formalism. Make use of it for the good of your informal activity which is characterized by its simplicity.

6. Do not hesitate to create new initiatives and expand existing activities to ensure livelihood and foster growth

Take a look back and review what was invested for the activity and the income generated using a calculator. Define not only the benefits but also the potential for increased activity by partial reinvestment of income. First identify all the fixed expenses (phone bills, electricity, rent… ) and identify expenses that vary depending on the number of products or services that we offer. In the example of dance classes, if we offer 10 hours of private lessons at $ 50 (depending on the quality or reputation) we must include the cost for renting the studio at $ 10 an hour. Your gain is 10 hours x $ 50 – 10 hours x $ 10 or $ 400. If you use a phone that comes to $ 50 per month and your rent is $ 250 per month, you need to make at least 7.5 hours per month in order not to close your business or not to be kicked out of your apartment. In accounting, this is called breakeven point. This is a very useful tool that we need to master and import in the informal way of doing business. Let’s call it if you like” minimal effort” to make to continue to exist . You may continue to play with numbers to see the effort that is required to attain a certain goal. For example, using the numbers we gave, what would be the effort required to get in a month a used car at $ 2,000 that we would to pay in cash?

7. Be creative!

One of the strengths of informal business is creativity. Distinguish yourself. Forget about your logbook. Talk, think , dance but express your ideas . The client must be captivated. No need to replenish your product inventory each quarter or redo your school dance syllabus each session but keep a dose of surprise to pique the curiosity of customers at each contact and allow him to return to see what’s new. This can be a variation of your service or your product adapted to a season of the year or your mood of the moment. Be creative and surprise the customer.

In one word
Have simple attitude and correction in business and do not hesitate to demonstrate professionalism.

Last suggestions to add in your ethnic entrepreneurship handbook: belonging to a community association not only to be at the forefront of informal trade but also to let others know the services or products you offer. Savings groups ( tontines or others) or professional funds are also ways to create solidarity and avoid being alone in your activity.

Find and share information on current trends: products or services that work, customer attitudes, the inside scoop on future government decisions that may have an impact on your business project. Then identify two or three key people or a reliable source of information that you can diligently attend. This will be reflected sooner or later on the quality of your ethnic business.

Have simple attitude and correction in business. Do not hesitate to show professionalism. The informal sector should not be systematically associated with an impenetrable jungle where there is the greatest chaos and where there seems to be no rule. It’s just a way of doing business that takes all its sense in its simplicity and proximity between individuals (clients, contractors, partners) who are involved.

Last but not least, here is a simple dashboard to track your activity. It could be used as follows but can be adapted to your needs:

To be updated at the end of each business period:

In one word
Do not hesitate to create new initiatives and expand your activities to foster growth.

Ethnic enterprise monitoring Indicator.

Ethnic enterprise follow-up indicator.




I recommend you declare the activity even if the level of income does not lead to tax levy in all tax systems. Each country defines its regulatory and tax obligations. It also helps to give visibility into the performance and strength of the informal sector and to provide reasons for governments to make additional investments to further its development. This sector can be an alternative weight to the problem of employability and integration or contingency solution in situation of crises or economic instability.

There you go! You will soon receive your official incorporation documents. Take a deep breath and let it go to your new life as an entrepreneur.

Good luck and remember:

“The key to success is the simplicity in the business attitudes.”

Photo: Awa LakeDiop

Arnaud Segla M. Sc., M. Sc. Admin., CAPM. Consultant project management and business engineering specializing in ethnic entrepreneurship. I organize and conducts professional activities and accompanies many entrepreneurs in achieving their business objectives.


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