The Smart Start-up
With a new baby in the house and an unfulfilling legal job, Leah Molatseli decided it was time to work for herself. But how do you start a business when you've got lots of other responsibilities? You launch a tech start-up, of course.
- Player: Leah Molatseli
- Company: Lenoma Legal
- Established: 2016
- Visit: www.lenoma.co.za
In 2015, Leah Molatseli quit her job as a legal practitioner. She had just had a baby, and she wanted to be able to spend more time at home.
“I didn’t want to spend 60 hours a week working at a legal firm,” says Leah. “I wanted more freedom, which meant starting my own business.”
At first, this simply meant working as a legal practitioner from home. And, while this certainly gave her more freedom, there were some issues. As with any service business, it was time- consuming. Every new contract required a significant investment of time, which meant it would be almost impossible to scale the business.
Leah was based in Bloemfontein, and while the Free State town definitely isn’t small, it doesn’t exactly offer the number of clients and opportunities that a place like Johannesburg could. Sure, she could travel to Joburg easily enough, but the whole point was to be able to spend more time with her child, not spend days and weeks away from home.
So, Leah was faced with the same obstacles that many other new entrepreneurs encounter: She had a service-based business that demanded a lot of her time, wasn’t particularly lucrative, and was very hard to scale.
But she didn’t let it get her down. Instead, she decided to reinvent the business in such a way that it would be less time- intensive and more scalable.
“It started off quite simply — almost by accident. I realised that it’s just easier to consult with clients through platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts than meet with them in person. It meant that I saved time because I didn’t need to commute, and it also allowed me to widen the net and start taking on clients that were based in other areas.”
The main issue, however, still remained: Leah was essentially still selling her time, which meant that there was a definite cap to how much she could sell. Working as a legal practitioner, it seemed like an almost impossible barrier to overcome.
The legal field is an old and established industry that has always been based on the trading of money for time and expertise. How do you disrupt that and turn it into something that a lone entrepreneur could scale without having to bring on other legal professionals?
“I did some research and came across Rocket Lawyer. It was this disruptive start-up in the United States that had transformed the legal business from a service business to a product-based one. Instead of having to pay lawyers expensive consultation fees, Rocket Lawyer has loads of legal templates that can be bought straight from the website.
“In addition, it also allows users to ask legal questions and offers services like incorporation, but done in such a way that it is far simpler and cheaper. It’s taken legal services and made them product-like,” says Leah.
Every country needs legal documents applicable to its own laws, so simply buying something on Rocket Lawyer and using it in South Africa is not a good idea. Because of this, there was a definite opportunity to create something similar.
Leah created Lenoma Legal to fill this niche. It offers products and services like employment agreements, corporate filings, commercial agreements, business registrations and affidavits. Like Rocket Lawyer, it also provides legal advice online.
Lenoma Legal is a great example of what can be done by someone who has no background in technology. Launching a tech company doesn’t mean creating the next Google or Facebook. Sometimes it just means applying technology to an established industry and simplifying things for the user. It’s what Airbnb and Uber have done, and it’s what Leah has done with Lenoma Legal.
How to launch a business
Being an expert in a particular field and being an entrepreneur are two very different things. You might be an excellent lawyer, accountant or doctor, but starting your own business in one of these fields is a different prospect. Running a company requires a whole other skillset. Here are Leah Molatseli’s rules for launching a successful start-up.
1. Improve your business acumen
If you want to start a company, you can’t just rely on your professional expertise. You also need to know how to run a business. Leah joined an entrepreneurship development programme to improve her business acumen.
2. Swallow your pride
It’s easy to be impressed with yourself if you’ve got a big degree, but you need to understand that launching a business means swallowing your pride. You need to put yourself out there and sell your idea, and that can be hard. You also need to acknowledge the fact that you don’t know everything. You need to listen to people who know more than you about business.
3. Enter competitions
Entering start-up competitions is a great way to get your brand out there when it’s still new. You might not win the prize, but there’s a good chance that you’ll meet people who can help you along your journey. Entrepreneur found out about Leah Molatseli and Lenoma Legal because Leah entered a competition.
4. Use social media
If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, you need to use social media to build your brand. Even before she launched Lenoma, Leah was already very active on social media. Because of social media, she hasn’t needed to spend any money online to promote the business.