A Guide for Every Present and Future Small Business
In a previous article, I shared my experience running a small business and its expectations when starting. As a follow-up, I will guide you on how to start a business, recommend services, and reveal secrets that popular Moroccan small businesses know and use.
At the end of this article we would have created a hypothetical small business applying everything outlined so readers can understand the content, and hopefully start one of their own.
The first and arguably the most important step in starting a small business is defining what is your business about? Are you selling products for customers or are you providing services? What category does it fall onto? Are your products essential or non-essential?
The most popular example present in Morocco are :
Print and Customize services
The list goes on and on… so you can see that there are so many paths you can take. Either draw inspiration from local brands or bring a new concept and idea to the table, the sky\’s the limit.
For our mock small business, we will become a small business that specializes in bead jewelry. Although the idea is saturated, we can stand out with proper branding, marketing, and customer service.
The process of defining and representing the identity of your small business is called branding. You should start with a name, color, and logo that showcases the public personality of your business. To demonstrate and understand branding, let’s compare two popular Moroccan brands that are in the same industry yet differ through font, color, and language.
A Moroccan tea biscuit often enjoyed by older generations. Henry’s is a household name for many families. Henry’s solidified its place among older folks mainly through two elements:
Color scheme : Crimson red, emerald green, and silver gray. The first two colors most likely represent the Moroccan flag which in turn transmit the country’s culture and traditions while the silver gray signifies maturity and timelessness.
Some readers might argue that green often symbolizes health, which is true since Henry’s are considered the healthier snack when it comes to biscuits as a whole, but given this shade of green I would argue otherwise.
Likewise for the red, the color itself is often used to symbolize passion, love, and grab attention (think coca-cola) but considering it is more crimson red than passion red i would bet on my original idea.
Font : Henry’s font choice is carefully chosen to be a handwritten serif font to symbolize age and prestige that compliments the brand’s image of a mature conservative tea biscuit marketed towards an older taste palette.
While researching Henry’s branding, I found that one of my favorite Moroccan advertisement companies,Brand Builder, worked on their rebranding and I love how it turned out (Big fan of their Graphic Designer, Pynk.)
In contrast, Bimo is a brand marketed towards a youthful audience. They sell various biscuits and snacks made from chocolate, milk, caramel, or vanilla. This sweet sugary strong flavor is intended for a younger taste palette. So, Bimo stood out in the industry by :
Color Palette: Cheerful yellow and bright red, both are vibrant energetic colors meant to grab your attention.
Logo & Font : A round smooth curved red shape that has Bimo written in a sans-serif font with a smiling face that has two eyes, the B and O.
Once you start noticing branding in effect, you cannot unsee it. From Medi1 vs 2M vs Al Oula, Walmas (Best drink btw) vs sweet sodas, to Inwi vs Orange vs Maroc Telecom.
We can conclude that branding is an important concept since it attracts and communicates all your message, concept, and products to a defined audience just by your name, color, and logo choice.
For our example bead jewelry small business, We want to evoke youthfulness, playfulness, and highlight that our products are handmade. Let\’s consider the following :
Bead Feed, a bead jewelry small business that mainly promotes its products via social media. Our logo will have round shapes, vibrant colors, and fun gradients along with a sans-serif font.
Voila! Here is our logo and identity. I think they work greatly to represent our small business. Keep in mind I am not a graphic designer, mainly a content writer so this is what you get.
As mentioned in the previous section, both Henry’s and Bimo have a clear outline of their customer base and dedicate their marketing efforts to make sure all their advertisements cater to those groups.
The first step in defining an audience is to create a buyer’s persona. Which is essentially a profile that represents your perfect customer. This includes their sex, age, location, motivations, occupations, dreams, languages, interests, dislikes, etc.
Practically every business operates with a buyer’s persona in mind since marketing towards this persona is more effective for both the company and customer.
To create a buyer’s persona I recommend using tools provided by social media platforms like Instagram’s insight for business accounts or conduct a market study (a survey that introduces your business) to understand your audience’s aspiration.
For Bead Feed, we will create a survey that asks our audience their sex, age group, occupation, media they consume, interests, and whether they are interested in bead accessories. We will share it on our personal social media platform or in groups related to beads to deduce whether bead feed will be liked by the public.
Following our branding, we must now create a budget for our small business. The best method to do this is to open up an excel spreadsheet and get to research. In this spreadsheet it\’s crucial to at least note the following:
Supplies : If you are the person crafting the product then you have to calculate the acquisition cost of your supplies that are needed for production. Things like threads, beads, material, fabric, vinyl paper, ink…
Tools : If tools are necessary for your creation then it is important to factor them in too. Odds and bits like screwdrivers, printing and cutting machines, sewing machines, plastification machines, scissors, cutters…
Packaging : An underrated aspect that will make your business stand out. Packaging is the first representation of your business that your client interacts with.
For packaging ideas, I often see small businesses using a fold-up box along with shredded paper, a sticker, a thank you card, wrapped with twine. However, you don\’t have to follow this. For my business (Pintastic) I often use envelopes or bubble mailers. So think of the nature of your product and get creative with how you package it.
Note : If you are in Tangier then I recommend Embalo, they have nearly every type of packaging and you can buy in bulk or single items at a relatively cheap price. If you are outside Tangier i recommend Youpack for packaging and 24hrprint for stickers and thank you cards.
An excel spreadsheet can be used to demonstrate costs, cash earned, and profit made, which helps in keeping track of finances.
I wrote some random numbers for a hypothetical financial spreadsheet for Bead feed, using the basic =SUM function in excel to automate the process a bit
Per the figure, Bead Feed packages its products with envelopes, plastic bags, doypacks, and backing cards.
Additionally, You should also track your orders and how much you earned in a separate column along with the date and/or sex, age, and location of your clients to understand your financial situation.
In this photo, I shared the spreadsheet I currently use for my business, Pintastic, to demonstrate what we talked about. Numbers are barred for business reasons.
Notice the date and amount of orders, these are realistic expectations during your first 3-5 months of starting your small business. Do not compare your progress to others!
We are halfway there and next up on the list supply and logistics. The difficulty/complexity of this step will depend on the source of your business’ supply :
Urbanly : Meaning that your business acquires all its sources in its local city. This is the easiest since variables are minimum and you can personally ensure correct quality shipments. This will be the case for Bead Feed, since we can get our beads from a textile and crafts shop for 100-200dh.
Nationally : If your supplies are only available from a certain shop / factory in Morocco different from your city, then you will have to organize a schedule either weekly or monthly to smooth transportations.
The hardest in my opinion so it deserves its own part to discuss this. This part can be tricky for a lot so I will try to simplify and explain this process.
Shein Shipping: Most Moroccan small businesses use Shein to resell accessories and clothes but be aware that you cannot import a large quantity from the get-go, so you will have to separate your orders across different time periods, or use different shein import services.
Alibaba Shipping :
Message suppliers and never settle for one price and be sure to explore your options. When debating pricing and shipping having knowledge about the inco-terms will reduce shipping costs. In my experience DAP and DDP are the best for Moroccan imports.
Basically DAP and DDP both include the responsibility of importation on the seller (DAP the seller’s responsibility ends when it reaches your region/city, DDP the seller’s responsibility ends when it reaches your doorstep.)
It would be even better if you can find suppliers who can ship via Aramex or Fedex by DDP or DAP, the prices vary but these two agencies are the cheapest and fastest in international shipping (roughly 10-15 days).
If your Alibaba supplier cannot ship via those shipping services nor do DAP/DDP, consider CIP, CPT, or CIF shipping methods. Although your product will be stopped at the Duane, if the overall value of the package does not surpass 2000-3000DH you are given a free pass for the first import. For the second import and over, you will either have to physically be there to clear the paperwork or hire import agencies in your area.
Ali Express :
The cheapest of the three but you can only order a limited quantity. Moreover, the price that you pay for products is slightly more expensive than Alibaba since Aliexpress is B2C while Alibaba is B2B. The only downside for AliExpress is long shipping time and limited order quantity.
NOTE: Stay away from products that contain electronic or bluetooth components, cosmetics, plants, animal-based products, or food as they require a special license to be imported, and throughout that process you will need to justify your shipment by a company and obtain a license which is 4000-5000DH just to create and register.
In anticipation of future orders, we must establish a good packaging and shipping system to avoid future problems. Since we already covered packaging in previous sections we will discuss shipping. You will come across two types of orders :
Local Orders : Meaning orders from your city. You can either personally deliver them, set up a meeting location, or use a shipping agency :
Personal Delivery : Make sure to include transportation costs in the order total, especially if a taxi or bus is needed.
Meeting Location : I personally prefer this option since it removes unnecessary costs and ensures safety for both sides. Pick a famous public location like a local Mcdonalds or a public park.
Shipping Agency : These services ship under 24 hours for local orders and it costs between 20-25DH per order (will explain shipping agencies below)
Regional Orders :
I.e every order that isn’t from your city. To fulfill these orders, consider using these popular shipping services that work with the Moroccan small business community :
Tlog (Website seems to have some issues) : By far the best and fastest cost efficient shipping service in Morocco. I have not met a single business that used Tlog and were unsatisfied with it. They pick up your package from your house for free and deliver it across Morocco in 48-72 hours.
For small packages each shipment will cost 25-40DH depending on the city (more if bigger) but I believe that most products fall under this category.
Amana : Less reliable but more known. Amana is a national shipping service that covers every region in Morocco (biggest advantage). However, their agencies are always full and have high shipment fees.
Cash on delivery option is forbidden unless you have a Barid Bank account which is a negative in itself. The ONLY reason you should consider Amana is if your client is in a non-rural city and your shipping service cannot deliver there.
Chrono Diali : Another service similar to Tlog, they offer the same options as Tlog. However, last time I interacted with them, they had a 3-5dh collection fee for each pickup package under 5 packages per pick-up.
How to Sign-up with A Shipping Service :
Hopefully I have convinced you to utilize Tlog as your main shipping service (seriously they are that good!) so i will explain the sign-up process since it can be intimidating but don\’t worry this works for other shipping services too!
You will need the following to sign-up :
Digital copy of your CIN Recto / Verso
Digital copy of your RIB (RIB of the bank account that you will receive money in)
Digital copy of an ID style photo.
After you contact a shipping service, they will ask you to send the documents listed above digitally. Once everything is confirmed, expect a physical contract delivered to you 5-10 days after you sign-up. You need to legalize the signature of the contract.
In short, the contract just guarantees service for both you and the agency, it does not obligate you anything nor do you pay any amount. You can also cancel anytime and use other shipping services freely.
Once it is sent, you can proudly claim that you have partnered with a shipping service. Normally, you will receive login information via email or whatsapp to use in their online platform.
One of the biggest advantages of hiring shipping agencies is the cash on delivery payment option. Young clients and customers who do not trust you, can use this service for their benefit.
When the agency collects the money physically, they deduce their shipping fee and wire the rest to your bank account (the one with the RIB you shared) every week.
We have established our concept & brand, set up a budget, gathered supplies, and established shipping. I think it\’s fair to estimate that we are ready to launch our brand.
Even if we had the most unique perfect concept in the world, it is worth nothing if nobody knows about it. This is why marketing is crucial for any project no matter its scale or purpose.
There are many many many ways to tackle marketing across different channels and platforms. I wrote an introductory guide to marketing in french but feel free to check it out.
Social Media Marketing :
It goes without saying that your social media account should have at least two main social media accounts :
Instagram : A visual platform that has the most active user base and is the most interactive too. Organic growth can be relatively achieved through influencers, hashtags, reels, and shoutouts.
Facebook : In most cases, a facebook account is a by-product that comes with making an Instagram account. If you want to run ad campaigns then Facebook is necessary. Whether it\’s facebook business hub to schedule posts or using Facebook pixel for your website.
Tiktok : A promising platform for business to grow especially in Morocco. However, I found that without having an already existing follower base to share your content or not knowing the correct hashtags, your success will vary.
Pinterest : Mild to low success. This shouldn’t be your main priority for growth but rather an account to consider in the future after establishing your business.
Twitter : Not a bad option to consider but not a lot of small businesses use this website. It is mostly popular with influencers and bloggers.
Reddit : Stay away.
Most if not all small businesses in Morocco have three main accounts, ranked in order of importance which are : Instagram, Tiktok, and Facebook. Your marketing and content efforts should be dedicated to those platforms in that order
Most Underrated Growth Advice For Moroccan Small Business
The underrated growth hack I discovered is short and simple: Collaboration and Giveaways. I wish someone would have revealed this trick to me when I first started my business since it boosted my account tremendously
To start this strategy, I first want you to realize that you cannot expect visibility and popularity without giving. As the cost of products you will lose is worth the impression generated.
Begin by searching for local influencers and popular characters in Moroccan communities. The sweet spot are figures with 5K to 40K followers, since anything bigger might ask for money to promote you or ignore your contact request.
Reach out through Instagram DM or email them. Introduce yourself and propose to send them a care package of your products under no obligations on their part. Let your products speak for themselves and if it goes well you will receive a shoutout if not then ask for feedback on how to improve.
When I started Pintastic, I sent over 5 care packages to local figures and influencers whom I respected deeply and felt that they appreciated my brand. Each package had a value of over 200 DH, so I sent packages worth around 1000dh for free to influencers. I never asked for a shoutout and sought opinion instead, shoutouts were kindness from their side!
It was worth it every single time. I received valuable feedback and tips from people who knew how social media worked, exposed me to an audience interested in my brand, and converted prospects to leads smoothly.
In short, reach out to influencers that relate to your small business and send them care packages as the results far outweigh the costs.
Collaborations and Giveaways
Another good outlet for growing your account is through collaborations and shoutouts from other small businesses. Don’t be afraid to message them about a promotion, just make sure you are nice about it. Most of them will be happy to share your account, especially if it is unique.
Similarly, organizing giveaways (solo or collaborating with other small businesses) can yield many gains for your small business. Make sure to include the winning condition of following you, liking & tagging friends in comments, and sharing your post with a mention. This is the best way to interact with a post as Instagram’s algorithm boosts posts with high engagement.
Did you know that it is easier to sell a product to returning clients rather than new clients? Returning clients are highly beneficial for your business (A.K.A loyal clients) as they purchase your products without going to the effort of marketing it to them.
So how can you secure returning customers? Well with good customer service of course. By making clients feel valued and appreciated when ordering, you can leave a good impression and secure loyal customers.
Simple gestures can go a long distance. For instance, write your client a handwritten thank you card, include free products along with their order, offer exclusive discounts, ask for their feedback, etc.
When I first started Pintastic, I struggled to find resources to help grow my small business. Although there are some articles, I was never able to find something applicable for Morocco. Since then, I have been considering writing one just for Morocco, and after acquiring moderate experience I think I am qualified to provide advice.
In the end, we created Bead feed, a hypothetical small business that applied everything we have learned so far. Consider this article as a guide to help you get started with your small business.
During the writing of this article, I sought some feedback from my social media accounts (Abdonejam and Pintastic) asking them about their biggest concern regarding small businesses. Here are the most common :
How Can My Small Business Become Recognizable?
Consistency and efficient marketing. Stay active on your social media and promote yourself.
Is a Small Business a Good Investment?
In a previous article, we discussed profitability for small businesses. To save you the read, yes it is but only after a few months.
How Much Of a Responsibility Is Running a Small Business?
It might seem overbearing at first but it is a fun process to go through. When you partner up with shipping agencies and start handling people’s money, you will acquire a sense of responsibility.
How Can I Stay Motivated?
It can be quite frustrating to see that your efforts go unappreciated during its early stages. My only advice is to not compare yourself to others and take occasional breaks.
What Do I Do If My Small Business Fails?
First of all, quantifying failure is vague since so many factors are at play, especially for small businesses. Despite that, appreciate the fact that you took a risk starting a business, which is a step in the right direction. It is better to know that you tried and failed rather than keep thinking “what if?”
When Is The Right Time To Promote / Launch Ads?
New product launch, low engagement, promo or giveaway announcement. This can differ from case to case but generally speaking anytime is a good time to buy an ad.