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Doing Small Business Outside the Box

Gugu Gule launched her clothing store in 2005. It’s a small business – 3 employees and run from her home. But as national shutdown forces customers to stay at home she is looking at a major decline in sales. It’s a great testimony to her relationship with God that Gugu is still counting her blessings. She thanks God that there is no big rental bill to pay – she can focus on trying to meet salaries. But as with all small businesses, the reserves are shallow and we don’t know how long the lockdown will last.

“People can actually see that things are bad. And they understand that it is not our fault and it is also not their fault. So, at this point in time we’ve not had [the salary] discussion, but I am trusting God to help me to actually deal with my employees in a way that is constructive and makes sense for both parties. It is a very difficult conversation. And you also really wanna trust God that He’s actually gonna provide.”

I am trusting God to help me to deal with my employees in a way that is constructive and makes sense for both parties.

Finding God

My family was Lutheran. So from the time I could open my eyes I was going to a Lutheran church. And later my parents moved to Swaziland, from Durban, and we went to an Evangelical school. That’s where I first heard the Gospel, the true Gospel. And I actually ran away from it! I thought, you know, this Christianity is for older people. It’s going to hold me up! Yah, when I am older, maybe when I’m 25, then I can accept Him. Because then I will be older. But that was not God’s plan.

Because when I was at university I had a friend that was a believer. And she would – in ways that are not offensive – just introduce me to the Gospel. And we would chat about that. Of course it still wasn’t for me! Until I was involved in an incident in a neighbouring town where an older cousin physically abused me. And I came back to campus. I felt despondent – I didn’t know what to do. And for the first time I actually prayed to the Lord. And all the exposure that I’d had – the works that had been done by different people – in terms of exposing me to the word of God, I knew that God was there. And that He could take care of me and that I could commit my life to Him. Even as I was going through that kind of persecution.”

Relying Firmly on God

So, since that time I have been a believer. My ethos is firm in Him. Yes, I am not a perfect person. I make errors like anybody else. We are sinners by nature. But the difference is that what changed in me was that when I then saw that maybe I’ve sinned, I could realise that I’ve sinned and I can go to Christ and say to him “I’m sorry. I’ve messed up. Please give me another chance.

The Financial Reality of COVID-19 for Small Business

In terms of how COVID-19 has affected my business and the industry at large. I mean as you said earlier, it’s affected small businesses and large businesses. But my view is that small business is going to see more casualties than big business. Because big businesses have reserves. They can dip into those reserves. We don’t have reserves as small business people. Then it gets difficult!

Small business is going to see more casualties than big business. Because big businesses have reserves.

One of the things that then as a business owner hits you is “how am I going to pay the salaries of these people?” These people are working hard. The fact that the sales have gone down – it’s not their responsibility. But it’s also not something that is caused by me. So it’s something that worries you. I would be lying if I say that it does not worry you.
Because I don’t think that anybody who owns a business and they see negative effects – would just say “no. I’m fine.”

Thinking Outside the Box

But at the end of the day then you have to say “OK. So what can I do?” And by God’s grace  – I will say it is by God’s grace – I moved from a location in the Brooklyn area and I moved the business to part of my house.  And I will say it was God’s providence that. Because right now I don’t have to worry about paying a R60.000 rent to somebody when my sales are going down. I still have to pay salaries. So that is God’s providence.

Basically you have to think out of the box. Don’t look at it as doom and gloom.

And also around July we started an online store, which didn’t really pick up that much. But now people, because they don’t wanna come, we now have an opportunity to actually then grow that! And, you know, do more development in terms of making sure that it happens. And then also just say to people “don’t come at once. Those who come may come by appointment so that we can contain the sterilisation of the place. And make it a safer place to be.” So basically you have to think out of the box.

Don’t look at it as doom and gloom. I’ve just seen on TV now that the Minister for Small Business is saying something about Small Businesses – the rescue. I’m going to explore that because I don’t think anybody doesn’t need some assistance at this point in time.

Facing the Challenges with Prayer and Wisdom

“You know, as human beings, we tend to like the Lord when things are good and then things are bad we don’t so much like the Lord! But you know what, all of this that is happening, it’s not happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in the full view of God. He know about it. He knows about the consequences. The Lord can provide in ways that we actually don’t understand. But He still does provide.

It’s not happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in the full view of God. He know about it. He knows about the consequences.

It’s just one has to be more on their knees. Whilst at the same time using the intellect that God has given us. That you just don’t sit and fold your arms and say “no. God is going to do it.” So, you know, the advice that I would give other people – and which is what I am trying to do on my side – is to say “OK. Let’s think out of the box. Yes. The catastrophe is here. So what can we do differently? In order to deal with this situation that is nobody’s fault. Like we are looking at alternative strategies. What else can we do?

Should I Shut my Small Business?

Its about just having confidence in God. Saying that “God, this is all in your hands. Show me this.” Because other times God may just be saying “Ah this is your opportunity to shut down. I’ve been wanting you to actually do something else and you have not been listening to me.”

So whichever way God answers, then one should have the ability to listen. If he says “you shut – and this is the door that I am opening for you” – then that would be the call. But you’d hope that it is not the case. Because of all these people that are relying on you.

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