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Story Tuesday: Plan in Action

We’re at week four and there’s so much more that I still haven’t said. This part of the story has a lot of failures that I just breeze pass for the sake of time but they felt huge at the time we were facing the situation. Failures weren't meant to stop you, they were just meant to teach you a lesson. Hope this part encourages a few people. As always, I advise that you read the previous parts if you haven't before reading this entry.

Part 4: Plan in Action

So it’s now January 2014 and we knew this would be our year; nothing would keep us back from bringing the idea to life. We knew that we needed finance but we didn’t know how we would acquire it so Armando began shopping around for details from different banks to determine which would be our best option. Long story short, all the institutions he visited were not as customer friendly nor were they much help to convince us to bank with them. We were understandably discouraged but determined to find a way, so instead of giving up we began preparing our estimates and list of items we would use the money to purchase. We agreed on what the minimum we would need and started to work around that figure not knowing where it would come from. There was a point in time that we even attempted to pitch the idea to a local business owner with hopes of getting seed capital, but we chickened out because we were not sure of ourselves.

Feeling a bit defeated we settled down for some weeks and did nothing until I had a eureka moment. I was at work and needed to look for a phone number in the phone-book and as I opened the book the first page it opened to had an ad for SBDCBelize (Small Business Development Center) and as I saw that, I knew that was where we needed to go. I called and made an appointment and we took our two prototypes and we went not really knowing what they offered or how they could be of benefit to us. We met two business advisers and they were instrumental for us taking the first few steps into the game. We met Gabriela del Angel and Omar Castillo who listened to our presentation and were very supportive and trusted in us that the idea was possible. They even helped us by taking our business name application to Belmopan to register our business name but most importantly they told us about a grant that would be given to small business but that it was if you won a competition. There was no way we would pass up that offer so we signed up for the Emprende competition.

Since we had finally decided on a name, A&S covers, which means “A” for Armando and “S” for Sharissa (the other 500 names we had in mind were very ugly and would not work long term so we went with our names) and we had already received our name registration certificate; we were able to apply for a trade license. When we applied we were told that we could either wait until the board was scheduled to meet to approve our license or we would pay for it to be done quicker. Of course we wanted free, because I mean, hello it was free. So the clerk told us to leave the documents with them and that when the board met she would pass on our file accordingly. Sounds too easy to be true? Yes, yes it was too easy to be true. I had been following up for a month to make sure that our files would be sent up for approval but the person who had agreed to submit our file on the day of the meeting didn’t and the board met without seeing our application and we would either have to wait for them to meet months down or pay for it to be given earlier. I was furious because I went by the advise of the person who was there, so I did what any annoyed or angry customer would do; I asked to speak to someone higher up. I can't even remember the name of the person who I spoke to or their position, what I do remember was that he told me to write a formal complaint and he would pass it on for consideration. I had never written a letter as fast as I wrote that letter, and Armando took it the same day. Thankfully we managed to get the license in March without having to pay for it. Thank you sweet Jesus.

During this time we had already began the Emprende competition which consisted of training sessions and video submissions. We were also working with our businesses advisers to prepare for our loan application. SBDC had recently signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with DFC (Development Finance Corporation) to give preference to applicants referred by them. While waiting for a response from DFC, we worked on our first video submission for Emprende. Looking back at the video today I cringe because we had no video skills and we were very clueless about the information we were providing in the video since all the information would be about the business, like the problem the business would solve, the value proposition (which took me years to figure out) and explaining what the business was about. We passed the first elimination round and passed on to the second but unfortunately we did not submit our second phase video in time and were disqualified.

On the bright side we learnt a lot during the sessions that we attended because they were basically crash course for any starting entrepreneur. This was very helpful because even though we didn't get the grant money, we were finally approved for the loan and were able to purchase our machine and some other equipment that also came with learning curves.

This part was a mouth full but it was a series of exciting good and bad events that happened in a time spam of about three months. During this time it felt like Murphy was playing with us but we endured and pulled through. Spoiler alert, Murphy was will still be getting on my nerves in Part 5. If you read this far you deserve a shout out on our social media accounts. Send me a message on Facebook or Instagram and say "I want my shout out" for your 24 hours of fame in our stories.

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