Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello Starter Story!
My name is Mbali Schmidt. Mbali is pronounced as M-Ba-Lee. I am a wife and a full-time stay-at-home mother of two children. I started Schmidt Auto Brokers 5 months ago.
Schmidt Auto Brokers is a service business that connects dealerships in South Africa with people that need to get cars. We work with Rent-To-Own dealerships in South Africa. Our services are to connect dealerships and those who are declined car financing by the banks because of their bad or low credit scores.
My business is in a very competitive industry and requires quite an amount of work on our part i.e. intensive marketing and advertising. I must say though since the launch of the business to date we are beginning to see the business coming through. We have successfully made some deals. We are currently making an average of $1,000.00 per month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Schmidt Auto Brokers after many interactions and discussions with my friends and family who have mentioned how hard it is to get car financing because of their credit score situations. Truly speaking, as I was communicating with them, I noticed that most of them are either full-time employed or own very successful businesses. It was simply not that they cannot afford to make monthly car repayments. It was just that their credit scores are not on par with what the banks or auto institutions deemed to represent a woman or man of good standing. To me, a woman or man of good standing is the one that pays his or her dues!!
After hearing these concerns or complaints I realized an opportunity to find a way that I can help people in those similar situations to finally drive their own car despite their credit score situations. That is why I started Schmidt Auto Brokers to connect Rent-To-Own Dealerships with South African people that have bad or low credit scores and are declined by the banks the car financing.
This is the kind of business I have not done before. However, I have worked as the Prototype Automobile Test Driver for 2 years in the United State of America. I also test drove those that were just about to be released to the market. I, therefore, know the feeling of driving a good car that meets your daily professional and personal needs. Recently thousands of people lost their jobs or their jobs came to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result their credit scores took a huge beating.
Now more than ever I am very optimistic that Schmidt Auto Brokers will help many people succeed in owning a car despite their credit score situations. In South Africa, slowly people are getting back to work and some are getting new jobs. Most will need cars but bad credit scores may stand in their way and Schmidt Auto Brokers is there to help them.
When I started Schmidt Auto Brokers I did not have much money except for the little bit of savings that I saved from another small business that I own. I also had a friend who allowed me to invest money for 6 months in her business for a monthly interest return. That is how I managed to raise money that helped me to start my business. As I always say “The friends who care will see to it that you realize your dreams.” My savings and my friend saw to it that I realized my dream of owning a business that allows me to work from home while helping people.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Immediately after coming up with the idea of starting this business I had to look for a website developer and a website hosting provider. I designed my own logo, wrote my own website content, I was on a bootstrap budget, remember? Once all that was in the pipeline I researched online for Rent-To-Own dealerships in South Africa. I found a few but luckily I had a gentleman who referred me to some. I cold-called and emailed these dealerships and voila!! 98% of them welcomed the partnership with Schmidt Auto Brokers.
Launching my business was very organic and casual. I sent emails and Whatsapp messages to all my contacts in South Africa. I told them about my business and what it does and asked for their email addresses and for those that they think may be interested in spreading the word about Schmidt Auto Brokers. A week after the website and Web Hosting Provider were ready I sent out emails introducing the business and the services it offers. My friends and family also helped share my launch emails & images on social media.
In a very short space of a month of the business conception, Schmidt Auto Brokers had already helped one individual and a business that needed 5 cars. We are maintaining a good business on a monthly basis. More than when I initially visualized the idea of starting the journey of helping people who needed cars, after that successful first month then I knew for sure that I want to help many South Africans own cars that will help them in their personal or business transportation needs.
What I have learned so far in this kind of business is that marketing and advertising must be our weekly if not daily "bread". The business demand is there but the competition is very high. More so that we are a very new business so it is inevitable to be overshadowed by the well-known competition. We, therefore, have a lot of work to do. What is also helping a lot is that I am personally hands-on with customer service, pre-qualifying the clients, and processing the applications.
Being the business owner and wanting nothing but success for my business it is guaranteed that the clients will get superb customer service. So far that has also ensured 100% success with the applications submitted to dealerships. I do not send the applications that I know will not qualify. At the same time, I do not abandon those that did not qualify. I work with them so that they can remedy whatever caused them to disqualify. Like our Tagline States “Your Drive Will Take You There.”. I am driven for success and my clients want to be driven in their own cars.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Knowing from experience with my other business where I learned that I do not have great marketing or advertising skills nor expertise. So mid-April 2021 I employed the services of a Marketer/Advertiser who works full time. He is going to be launching our first professional marketing content come the 1st of May 2021.
I must say, so far it has just been a word of mouth, Facebook postings, and asking my friends to share my posts. I have joined South African Facebook groups that allow small businesses to promote their businesses on their Facebook pages. I rely on the App Canva for making posts. I am glad now that I have someone who will do professional marketing and advertising. I am hopeful that I will see the Return On Investment because his services do not come very cheap. But I now believe in the business saying that “You spend money, to make money.” and that's exactly what Intend to do, within reason of course.
Currently, what is really helping me get more traffic and hot leads to my website is social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Before I employed my marketer I have been doing a lot of social media engagements and notifying people of Schmidt Auto Brokers and how it can help them or their loved ones.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
If I was not reinvesting all the monthly earnings back into the business I would say we are now profitable. But I am currently reinvesting all the earnings back to the business savings account. Now that I have a marketing specialist in charge most of the profits will be used for marketing at least for the next 6 months. After those 6 months, then I will review how profitable we are once monthly marketing expenses are deducted. In June I will have on-board an Accountant who will work with Schmidt Auto Brokers on a consultation basis.
My business's short-term goal is to spend more money on marketing and advertising that way we keep reaching as many potential clients as possible and subsequently grow. My business long-term goal is to be able to start and solely fund a Foundation that will focus mainly on the welfare, social and professional skill development of Young Men & Boys in South Africa, and eventually to Young Men and Boys from all over the world.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
From starting a business I have learned the importance of outsourcing whatever services I am not great at e.g. Marketing and advertising. I have also learned that I must be constantly promoting my business since it is a fairly new business brand. If I don't generously promote it, it will just disappear to invisibility mode.
I love helping people and engaging with people. This helps me a lot since in any line of business Customer Service is what brings more business and reinforces business trustworthiness. Word of mouth goes a very very long way. I, therefore, do not rest until I know that my client's problems or issues are solved and that they are helped satisfactorily.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I am using HubSpot for Client Relationship Management, Microsoft and Google Suite mainly for administration and filing, and WinSim for sending and receiving text messages to clients. WinSim allows me to send emails that convert to phone texts that way clients who do not have emails can receive my emails as text.
I also use social media a lot, Facebook Groups for more engagement with potential clients, Instagram for more business exposure since many people are actively looking at business visuals on Instagram, and Whatsapp is the most effective one because it reaches people faster and allows efficient communication.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The most influential book to me is The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. This book has taught me so much about becoming a very successful human being and a business person. It does not specifically teach financial wealth or financial success but teaches what characteristics one must possess to ensure success. By default, those characteristics can lead one to greater if not abundance spiritual and financial wealth.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Entrepreneurs are very creative businesspeople no doubt. Also, with the right tools, information, and knowledge sky's the only visible limit to them. However, I wish to stress the importance of organized effort.
By that I mean, outsource what you are not great at, employ specialized service providers for certain roles i.e. If you are a CEO with no accounting background, hire an Accountant to be in charge of your company books, if you are not great at Marketing, Advertising and Sales hire the respective specialists. Build a Team with those specialists and your business will go far and thrive beyond measure. This is what I am working on. As soon as I can afford to pay salaries/wages I will employ and build a very strong Team.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am currently not looking to hire for a paid position anytime soon but I know for sure that in the future I will be hiring for Sales Agents. In the meantime, I am working on a Brand Ambassador Program. Ambassadors that will promote the business to attract more clients who want cars but have bad or low credit and those ambassadors will be compensated for successful deals/qualified leads. I am a strong believer in rewarding success.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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