Stepping In

When Love Means Business

Maria Guilia Pace

14 February 2022

During February we moment to celebrate love, in all its shapes and forms. Love can vary from that of a partner to a parent and anything in between. It is the all-consuming effort of dedicating care and attention to something. In this feature we have caught up with two very different entrepreneurs,

Annmarie Gauci and Jonathan Brincat, who seem to be head over heels about their new start-ups, just like any new parent would be. Annmarie launched her online, baby-themed gift shop Gift in the Box around a year and a half ago. This business was very much wished for. Like a young girl dreaming of becoming a mum, Annmarie had long dreamt and planned for the business, but it never seemed to be the right time. A!er a long time mulling over the idea, her husband ditched his work and they decided to give it a shot, driven by their wish to spend more equal time with their two kids. Gestation took around six months and consisted of contacting suppliers, setting up the website, creating content and marketing before the website was launched.

On the other hand, Jonathan, a freelance videographer and photographer, started his business quite by chance back in 2014. Graduating with a Bachelors degree in Creative Media, he volunteered as a photographer in a national song contest, which gave him the exposure need to get contracted on photoshoots, music videos and weddings. However, over the past two years, he started up a business-to-business venture and is now working for some of the largest local companies as well as for the government. In his case growth was much more organic.

Just like the arrival of a new-born, a start-up requires loads of sacrifices, energy and sleepless nights, with Jonathan stating that “I could just have 3-4 hours of sleep followed by a full day of shooting”. Moreover, a start-up also requires great financial investments and capital outlays, o!en accompanied by only a small stream of revenues in the beginning.

In order to keep such expenses to a minimum, start-up owners often find themselves needing to learn a vast array of new skills, ranging from planning for contingencies, bargaining with customers and suppliers and dealing with delays. In short, you need to be ready to get your hands dirty and do the unpleasant tasks as well.

Yet, it also takes wisdom to understand when outside help is needed. It is said that ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’, and so does a business. Annmarie made mention of a number of friends who helped them set up the website and take photos of their merchandise. Jonathan also alluded to this by stating that the beauty of being an entrepreneur is that of collaborating and networking. Of course, involving third parties means that you will need to do a lot of chasing, quality checking and co-ordinating, yet if you want to grow as a business you need to have a team of people you can trust and learn how to delegate.

This is of ultimate importance given that ‘time management’ seems to be one of the most common pain points. A start-up constantly needs tending to. There are no fixed working hours and since it’s at a stage of growth, work-life balance tends to become very blurred, with the new-born o!en taking much of the entrepreneur’s own identity. Social life might suffer, and friends and family might need to learn to put up with you taking calls during dinner or working odd hours during the night or the weekends.

Both entrepreneurs also mentioned the importance of slowly learning to know the business and respect its growth patterns. Annmarie, for instance mentioned that last Christmas, they experienced an unexpected spike in order levels and hence, had to stop sales. This year they are trying to equip themselves better. Just like new parents, it is all a rapid and sometimes painful learning curve.

However, just like childbirth, the joy of having the business often makes you forget the pains of childbearing. When asked about the major challenges, Annmarie just smiled and told me ‘time has passed, and I forgot’.

So, what keeps these tough entrepreneurs going when the going gets tough? There is no one ingredient to this recipe, yet, what I found out through my discussions was that the motive for starting a business always goes beyond the motive of making money.

For Annmarie, business has been ingrained in her from childhood, when she used to help her father with his own business. She is driven by the idea and passion of giving the same experience to her children. ‘The business is that of the whole family’. We are working together towards one aim. As one family’. She also stated that her business will always be founded on the idea of giving, a value which she holds close to heart in terms of bringing hospitality to others. Similarly, Jonathan said that ‘the smiles on clients’ faces keeps him going. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling valued and seeing a customer happy. After all, customers are the best marketing out there.

Just like parenthood, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It takes grit, risk taking, blood and sweat, yet, having a greater purpose and dream will allow you to persevere and keep going. After all, as Jonathan has shared, in life “you can either build someone else’s dream or decide to step out of the comfort zone and build your own”.

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