As I type this I am recovering from laryngitis while my 5.5 month old little boy is teething and is most likely suffering from severe reflux. (We’ll only know for sure if his new medicine starts to work and the middle of the night wailing stops.) It’s been a long few weeks.

I was lying in bed, desperately trying to catch up on some of the sleep I’ve missed over the last months, and suddenly my brain was writing this post in my head. Eventually I gave in and came to my office to type. Here I sit, in front of my keyboard, baby monitor next to me, pondering my last eighteen years in business and wondering how I made it this far.

I started my email marketing and web design company, Trade and Lateral Development, on 1 May 2000. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and my childhood was spent listening to my parents discuss their business, what was going wrong and how they were fixing it. My dad started his own trucking company when I was 3.5 months old. My mom was running a business making paddles and my dad had just been retrenched. We survived on my mom’s income and the cash dad made from fishing, and selling his catch to local restaurants. My older brother had just turned seven. Forging my own path was in my blood.

I went to work with my dad in his office in Durban Harbour every day of every school holiday, since I was seven years old. I loved it. I was told I was a “Girl Friday” (took me a while to even know what that meant – it’s an assistant who picks up any odd jobs around the office), and I earned R2 a week. It was originally 50 cents a week, but I sat my dad down one night and told him I thought I was worth more because I worked hard. I answered phones, made coffee, copied quotes into the quote book, sent faxes, and made copies. He agreed. I got the raise.

I grew up surrounded by the highs and lows of a real business, in one of the toughest games out there – transport. My dad was honest in a field where everyone was out to screw the next guy. He refused to pay or take bribes. He believed you should find your niche and charge well for the specialised service you offer. (His was abnormal road freight.)

It would take me many years to realise how lucky I was to have spent so much time in his office. I learned how business is done, how to speak to clients, what happens when it all goes to hell, and how to drag yourself back from the edge. With my dad’s guidance, my brothers started their own businesses too, and both are extremely successful in very different industries.

Running your own business is hard, and you need all the help you can get. For me, the best help is the support of people who understand what it’s like to be your own boss. Those who have survived the really hard times and have lived to tell the tale. There have been many times over the years that my business has been clobbered by a rogue supplier or a massive client that took all their work inhouse, but hearing how other people experienced similar things and survived gave me the strength to keep going.

This is why I started Black Swan.

I love brainstorming new ideas or figuring out how to approach something from a different angle if all roads seem blocked. I want to offer small businesses this kind of support, a sounding board when things are at their toughest.

You can do it alone, but it’s the hardest way to go.

If you’re tired of struggling in the dark, please contact me. We’ll meet over Skype (or in person if you’re in KZN) and talk through whatever you’re facing. Whether you’re wondering whether to start your business, or you’re not sure if the time has come to walk away, together we’ll figure out a plan of attack.

Trust me, it’s easier with someone on your side.