People often ask me about the process of starting a business in Switzerland, which seems intimidating for many. But the hard part, I can tell you, comes after the start. After the adrenaline rush of seeing the website online, and getting the freshly printed business cards, after the first sale.
Yes, those are important hurdles. But then comes the hard part - building the business. Then hard questions come. Where to spend the money that is coming in? More inventory? More marketing? More storage? How much to outsource, and how much to do in-house? What is an acceptable level of revenue at the stage? Should I take a salary, or put the money back into the business?
Outsourcing seems like a great strategy for scaling the business - with us, the obvious place is the transportation. But actually, doing the deliveries in house with our 'sweat equity' can free up valuable cash flow for other things. It's a balance of course, because if I spend 5 hours trying to code the website to change the text colour, and someone who knows what they are doing could do in five minutes, which option is actually more expensive? What other activities are foregone in those 5 hours? As an entrepreneur, you realise that your time and hard cash are interchangeable currencies.
I'm the sole cash investor in the business - and I'm not a gambler, but I find myself making bets all the time - bets whether my time investment will pay off, whether my cash investment in extra inventory will give me a return. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and I never know which one it's going to be. In a way, the entire endeavour is one big bet - I've done my analysis, I believe in the idea, I've put my cash on the table. But it's a long game.
I've spent some of my career working on ways to support small farmers in developing countries. They make these kinds of decisions every day - do they invest in costly inputs like fertilizers and high-quality seeds? Do they engage in labour-intensive pruning and weeding? Do they take loans, and pay them back with future harvests? The trade-offs are not always certain, especially when we factor in increasingly extreme weather events and associated crop failures, linked to climate change; something we hope ecochair can help mitigate in a small way.
I too am a small farmer, and I am tending the business like a smallholder plot.
The seeds are planted. Will they grow?