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Four years ago, Ghazaleh Lyari traded in her lengthy corporate finance career to set out as an entrepreneur and build a business catering to the sweet-toothed masses.

In 2008 she self-funded and established Ghermez Cupcakes, a premium cupcake brand that’s seen rapid growth since launch and now enjoys the devotion of many a cake-lover, including Sarah Murdoch and Erica Packer.

Lyari has opened four Ghermez stores in Sydney in just under three years, defying the competing cupcake businesses that have sprung up in that period by catering to a niche demographic – “grown ups who care about quality, style and personalisation.”

This smart business woman talks to Dynamic Business about how she dealt with the rapid growth of her business, staying one step ahead of the competition and the role social media plays in getting a business off the ground.

Q. What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first set out in business?

I wish I knew that we were going to have a GFC coinciding with opening of my first store!

On a more serious note, one thing I wished I knew before starting out was that everything would take a lot longer than my initial plans had accounted for. No matter how much control one has over her own resources and affairs, there are so many other variables affecting any business that are outside of its direct control. Having had a better understanding of those factors would have enabled me to perhaps plan better.

Q. What tips do you have for coping with the rapid growth of a business?

Having management systems in place: most small businesses don’t have adequate management systems in place when they start out, to help them monitor key business performance metrics through information on sales trends, cost of goods/services, payroll, inventory control, etc. Putting those systems in place as early as possible is key to one’s ability to adequately manage rapid growth and identify where process improvements are needed, and when ones needs to adapt and respond to changing market requirements.

Q. A number of players in the cupcake space have sprung up recently, what advice do you have for ensuring a business stays ahead of the competition?

I am a big believer that a healthy level of competition is good for businesses as it forces them to be more innovative and creative, and good for consumers as it empowers them through choice. To stay ahead of its competitors any business needs to have a compelling value proposition that stays relevant to the markets it’s serving, and differentiates it uniquely and clearly in relation to its competitors.

I chose to position Ghermez as a premium brand in the cupcake sector, targeting the grown up demographic that cares about quality, style and personalisation. We communicate those key differentiators in every aspect of our branding strategy to help us stand out in a crowded market place.

Q. How important is social media in getting a business off the ground?

Social media as a facilitator of interactive communication between a business and its clients is an inevitable component of the broader marketing strategy for most businesses. Its viral nature and ubiquity of the platforms on which the applications are used (smart phones, tablets and other portable devices) offer a potential for significant market reach. Depending on the nature of the business and the demographics of its target market, it can work as a powerful tool to get a business off the ground as it’s a great way to receive initial market feedback on products and/or services.

It’s equally important as an ongoing communication strategy in maintaining a dialogue with one’s customers and in creating a brand community.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out?

Have a clear vision about where you’d like to take your business but stay open and flexible to recognising when change is needed, and act quickly so you are not left behind. You can count on change with absolute certainty!

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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