Before undertaking this module, I was made redundant twice during the recession. Throughout my time at these companies I had started up a new side of the Insurance business which proved extremely successful, as well as creating a website called the bikechannel.com which also proved enormously successful. What this taught me was that I had the innovation and the creativity and entrepreneurial skills to do it, therefore I should start my own business but first develop my confidence and skills and in particularly create a network of possible entrepreneurs to undertake a project that can be carried on in the future (as I lacked many different skills that are essential in a team when starting up a business – design, and technological minds). The objective of course was therefore to build upon my experience, and network effectively enough to then go on to start up my own business. I have always wanted to but, talking about ideas and actually doing something about them is the difference between becoming an entrepreneur or not.
Throughout the course I have learnt to adapt my learning style to best suit myself and how I would like to operate my own business. By using the USER model, this helped highlight the necessity in fulfilling all the critical objectives in the business cycle. If one was missing then it is either a gap in the market which needs to be exploited, OR if applying it to my own business it was an effective way to highlight the functionality of the business model which needed to be concentrated on in order to achieve optimum success from empathy in the SUER to the system itself, to establishing the need for goods (advertising video) to the final stage of realisation.
What is an entrepreneur?
Herbert and Link (1988) have developed a useful taxonomy which helps define the entrepreneur through the use of 12 themes (Kirby 2003)
1. The Person who assumes the risk associated with uncertainty
2. the person who supplies financial capital
3. an innovator
4. a decision maker
5. a leader
6. a manager o r superintendent
7. an organiser and co-ordinator
8. the owner or enterprise
9. an employer of factors of production
10. a contractor
11. an arbitrageur
12. an allocator of resources.
(Kirby. A. David Entrepreneurship 2003, McGraw – Hill Education, Berkshire, UK)
I would therefore try and apply all these to my work, as well as my business. Knowing what an entrepreneur is in my mind is one step closer to being one.
4 Stages of Design thinking (Beaumont, Corinne)
USER model – problem solving (Beaumont, Corinne)
The USER model was instrumental in helping me visualise the different perspectives in the product chain. It highlighted how important each actor played in achieving success. If one of the actors was to be missing or change, this would affect the whole of the process. I was able identify problems and important areas in the UKick business plan as well as apply it to my new future business the Brit Experience and almost every other business.
The USER Model above shows how I applied it to the tennis academy in which I am to potentially sell the product to through networking at the trade fair.
‘The tennis coach uses the Ukick to create a fun way in which to get tennis group and Billy to perform their pre tennis warm up due to the lack of motivation to participate in the traditional warm up exercises such as jogging around the courts and stretching.’
STEPs to launching the product: ‘fail now, succeed later’ –
The steps model helped me put into order the stages I should be looking at before launching the UKick. It has similar stages to the USER model in that it is not wise to skip the stages out otherwise you are likely to fail (fall). One of the problems of the UKIck at the beginning was that we had 3 different types, some were larger than others and some had bases to them that were heavier, safer, and flew better if the day was windy. It was therefore necessary to observe and test the product on a group of 8 people at one time. By using this particular process, we were able to quickly identify the product needed for launch saving time and cost also using the following quote to reiterate the importance of the exercise:
‘Why talk about your guess for hours—when you can do it,
fail in ten minutes, and know?
One of the most important things it also taught me is that what I might think might not be what the consumer thinks and they are the people buying the product after all. It also taught me the importance of the difference of people saying they would buy the product but whether they do is a different matter.
When observing this Vietnese sample it flew well but if it was windy its flight was not as good. It was fine if the weather was rainy but was not as durable and people found it hardest to keep kicking of the 3 samples.
This was the larger and heavier of the sample’s we got and were thinking of selling. We observed that it flew the best in the air both in windy weather, and if it was raining and it also flew well indoors and the test target audience could keep it in the air fairly easily. It was one of the most durable out of all the samples.
This was the lightest out of all the featherballs, but flew the best indoors. However is flight was severely affected by the wind and it proved more difficult to kick however indoor it was the easiest to kick. It was slightly less durable than the other 2 samples.
Our guess work was fairly accurate however, the test actually proved which ones would be bought and the initial guess put sample 1 on par with sample 3 however this was not so when testing it on potential customers which saved us from possibly launching the wrong product.
We therefore decided to test the latter 2 samples to see which of them would be bought most at the trade fair and see which ones they would prefer to buy. The larger one was the product which sold the fastest and we therefore knew at this point that the best product to source was product number 2 which is the one we are to launch saving us valuable time especially as it takes a long time to transport the product from China, and the cost was high and would have been wasted.
Observation, guess and test.
Test 5 consisted of asking the 8 people individually which one they preferred and would buy.
Marketing tools and social media tools
At the beginning of the year I had used Twitter for my marketing company. I knew its use of marketing as its main function I used it for was to update the followers on the bikechannel.com of the new material that had been downloaded onto the site.
However, from a personal perspective I found it hard to personally connect with the form of media for my business. The type of business that we formed would and did not help market the product unfortunately.
I was also not used to twittering on someone else’s wall. This also did not help the business, however when I finally got the hang of it through practise and reading other peoples entries I found it useful to update the class on things I felt were important for example the when I watched the budget this year I was able to instantly twitter the good news that corporation tax had been reduced for businesses and other relevant start up relief which was mentioned.
Delicious I found quite good. I found some useful video’s which I found interesting as well as sharing all my journals etc. on my dissertation on entrepreneurship. It was also helpful for going back and looking at the ones I bookmarked as they were easily accessible when writing my dissertation, doing a business plan for future investors to look at and for general use.
The most important and useful and interesting social media tool was however TED.com. Here I was able to learn a lot of interesting and useful material not only for my business for example the interview with innocent smoothies issues when starting up, but also for my dissertation.
In more detail as an example, by watching the co-founder Richard Reed in an Innocent smoothies interview, they identified several issues such as finding it hard to find an investor, not giving up, and trying to listen to the customers. I applied this not only when creating the presentation for the Flux competition which I entered, but also in my business (UKick and BritExperience) as it was all about not giving up specifically when testing the market as they did and also when trying to find investors. (Patience, timing, COMMITMENT and belief)
What is very much apparent is that a business (specifically in the start-up phase) demands full time commitment and attention in order for a business to be successful. I think that when starting up a business momentum is key and without momentum, the start-up members can all too easily lose concentration and motivation in meeting their objective and business aims.
The WordPress was a very interesting tool. This helped me not only keep track on my ideas and business progress but most importantly helped me in my other entrepreneurial module when I used my already established knowledge of the software to blog on the group wall to ask people questions, advise and reach potential contacts for the business I am setting up later this year.
Empathy: ‘a deep appreciation for another’s situation and point of view’ (http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/empathy.htm)
There are however different types of empathy that I needed to accept before fully understanding how to use it.
Forms of Empathy
Empathy can be experienced in a variety of forms, such as:
- cognitive empathy—we recognize what another person is feeling,
- emotional empathy—we actually feel what the person is feeling,
- compassionate empathy—we want to help the person deal with their situation and emotions.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the course has been learning the use of empathy which is part of the problem stage and part of the system in identifying the problems. It helped in with the business (in the advert when trying to reach out for the buyers and also in the sales pitch describing the product as cheap, but most importantly healthy and easy to carry; able to fit into a pocket when a football cannot).
I have specifically used it however in pitching to investors about my future business the BritExperience, where I used storytelling and empathy to describe the benefits and created value of the business model. For example, I used the notion of international students visiting Britain from abroad for the first time will be feeling nervous and anxious about settling in and meeting people especially in London which is a city where it can be hard to approach people and build friendships. I explained to the university that my trip would benefit them as a business as well as me, if they worked with me to contact international students by email advertising my tour as it would be a perfect way for the students to meet new people in a fun manner while experiencing the country in a hassle free and affordable manner before starting their course.
To other investors I used the story of a person who was backpacking and wanting to visit the country, but did not speak English well and di not know where to go, what to see, what foods were good, what traditions and sites there were and how to find the transport and accommodation for a cheap price. My tour I explained would solve all of these problems as it would arrange everything for that person.
I also used empathy and storytelling on my chosen subject of fair trade coffee and corporate social responsibility for my Managing people and Organisation assignment (of which I achieved a distinction). In it I used a story to explain my arguments and used empathy to create and discuss awareness. (Please see the story which I have attached at the end appendix 1).
Key parts of the course most useful to me.
There were specific key parts of the course which was most useful for me during the course and which will be equally useful in my business after I have completed it.
Confidence and reviving the innovation inside.
The course has helped me gain my confidence in my business ability and ideas. This is perhaps the most important factors as being made redundant and unemployed took this away. I have gained this confidence through discussing the ideas and gaining feedback from teams I have been in but also the people I have worked with on the course as they shared similar goals and have similar mind sets. Several particular classes stand out when looking back over my blogs. One being, the class where we learnt about designing a shoe out of what we had, and within the team coming up with an innovative invention that fulfilled a need and solved a problem. During this exercise, I learnt o not only hear other people’s views, but also voice my opinions and ideas too, and then come up with a product which came about of using all the different ideas within the group. It was a creative way to innovate something from a whole number of ideas and opinions.
Originally, I was in a group called ‘What if’, however due to various reasons I decided to make a different team. One of the reasons being the importance of identifying different personalities, and characters and their objectives. Despite attending a number of group meetings it became clear that in order for a team to be successful and most effective, the different personalities need to share a similar objective. It was clear early on however, that one member and I would not share the same views and ways of working and therefore same objectives and for their progress as well as mine I thought it necessary to explain to them that I would form another group. Reflecting on my choice to move groups I do not regret it as although a team is about working through certain problems together, it is equally important (for this course) to hear other opinions and also voice your own in order to fully appreciate the experience and learn and I have done this in my group when there was a strong chance I would not have if I had not changed group. I also learnt how to approach the team and express my choice to move groups which was a daunting experience because I did not want to let them down. (to make sure I did not I completed the designated tasks which I had been given)
One specific exercise in class which made me realise that teamwork was about listening to other people’s views was the ‘shoe exercise’ whereby we had to create and make a show with a USP and from any material in front of us which turned out to be a mix of gloves, glasses box, paper and elastic band. It was fun and very important to listen to ideas and feed of each one to accomplish the end objective. Our shoe was a compactible shoe but it took lots of various and different ideas until we arrived to that product idea.
Team DP, was a 2 man team both of us being on the International Business programme. The idea to do this project was based upon the fact that there were only two of us, and we were already behind on the business start-up as we had only just formed a group and no idea. The choice to do the feather ball, was therefore a result of various factors, and undertaking this project would be best as it was something that could be started in the time frame with two people and be something that we could both do with the extremely busy first semester (and later on busy second semester).
Positives in working in two would definitely include the fact that it was easier to arrange times to meet. With more people on different courses would have made meeting more complicated. Also designating work was also made easier, as well as deciding what strategies to implement as there were only 2 different opinions.
However, when working on a business with only two people it does limit you to ideas. It also proves substantially more work. However the most negative impact only two people in our team had, was the fact that we were both from business backgrounds. It would have been more productive and beneficial if there was someone who had a business background, a creative background, and a technological background. For example, when designing the logo, this could have been a quicker process, and perhaps designed a better logo if there was someone creative within our group. Having a member with a technological background would also have been useful for building a website and working with the creative member to design the website.
Although our two man team was able to start up the business, our progress could have been substantially more if we had more people. It would have also been more successful and have progressed considerably more if my business colleague had shown more initiative and motivation from the very start and throughout the period. I found it very hard to lead my team member in every aspect of the business, and found it frustrating with his motivation to want to show any initiative or express ideas of how to run the business. His interest was lacking from the on set, and we had a meeting to discuss the progress in January and it was then that he told me that he was not willing to invest any money in the business. However, despite all of this, I was able to learn a great deal not only from instigating every move, but also using the classes and my own abilities to run the business, but also it helped improve my leadership skills (and patience)
Undertaking the feather ball business has taught me many valuable skills. It has given me the chance to approach business in many different ways. I have learnt that networking is essential, it has helped me meet people / investors and pitch to them the business, it has given me the opportunity to make an advert, to test the product (which will be vital when launching it properly after the course finishes), it has improved my negotiations skills and also sales skills.
Bright Ideas was an essential part of tuning my networking skills. It was here where I was able to initiate the first contacts with someone Marcus Brabon from Business Link which has been increasingly useful for my business (BritExperience) by talking to him as well as other people he has put me in touch with and also for my dissertation where he put me in contact with someone in Nigeria.
It was also my first time I met David Stokes and Simon Hulme. David Stokes and I that day set up a meeting for the next week which helped me a great deal in pointing me in the right direction for dissertation (previously my emails had not got to him asking to meet so this meeting was vital).
Simon Hulme was a speaker and I was also able to get his business card to set a meeting to discuss advice for my BritExperience business. I have met Simon now a few times.
After I have finished the course I intend to carry on with the featherball business. I have been networking throughout the course which has been vital, and I am currently in talks with firebox.co.uk which is a busy website selling gadgets, toys and games. I am also currently negotiating with a managing director of a marketing company, of whom is extremely interested in working with me promoting and marketing my product in schools. Her company specifically works with schools and implementing new games into them. I am also trying to arrange a meeting with someone from the marketing department and promotions department of The Sun newspaper to buy my products to give away during the Olympics’ next year.
I am also starting up a new business which I have used the models and things I have learnt from the course. This is to be a tour of Britain, and is a new innovative business, and business model which I have thought of this year.
One key step I have relearnt is that one should follow something they are passionate about and then this is one of the key factors in succeeding in a business (as success is not just measured in how much cash you earn in the business, Corrine pointed this out when telling us about her cancer business!). A great way to understand this is by watching the below video:
This video helped stear me in the right direction of my future business: Brit Experience.
- A Story Not So Far From Home.
Mulu Alem (whole world), his wife Mihret (Pardon/Mercy) and their daughter Abebech (blooming like flower) lived in Moredocofe in southern Ethiopia. They had lived there all their lives and their parents before that. They lived in a modest house (compared to the village standards) however it was in need of repairing due to the harsh summer sun. He had inherited it off his father who had been a coffee farmer but due to the lack of money it produced for him was forced to abandon it and seek alternative ways of providing for the family. Mulu Alem had therefore a life time of experience and was one of the key workers on the coffee farm he now worked on.
Mulu Alem got up at said good bye to his wife and kissed his ill daughter on the forehead before leaving for the 15 mile walk to work. He was lucky at least as he lived so close to the farm, because his colleagues came from all over Southern Ethiopia and beyond and had to stay on for the harvest without seeing their families for 6 months. Mulu Alem did not want to leave as his daughter Abebech was getting worse, he did not know it but she was suffering from yellow fever. He had a very hard harvest ahead of him and he could not afford to fall behind as he needed the money to get medicine for his daughter as well as feed his wife, both who he could not bear to see suffer particular as the last harvest had been extremely bad and he barely had enough money to provide the bare minimum last year. He had now enough saved up to purchase the medicine, after 6 weeks of work at earning less than a 60p a day.
The hard day eventually finished and his thoughts of coming home to his family had got him through it. His journey home was longer as he had to stop off via the local town to buy medicine, but managed to keep the pace up despite feeling exhausted, returning home in the morning just after midnight. He wished he had not, as his wife was kneeled over Abebech sobbing and praying to god. It was too late for the medicine.
John Albert hopped off the tube and made his way out of the exit, up the stairs and headed into Starbucks. He picked up the newspaper headlined ‘Starbucks makes record profit’, and laid it down on the counter and ordered an Americano to go. “Would you like that Fair Trade?” The employee asked. John replied “whatever?”, and then looked at the price on the board. It was 20p extra! He then called the member of staff back and asked to change it, while also asking what the difference was. The member of staff said it helps protect the rainforest. John dismissed the fact and paid his £3.20 (£1 for the paper and £2.20 for the coffee) and went to collect the Americano before dashing out of the shop in a hurry after checking the time on his gold watch. (David Robson, 2011)
Kirby. A. David Entrepreneurship 2003, McGraw – Hill Education, Berkshire, UK
accessed on Nov 16th, 2010
http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/empathy.htm (accessed on Nov 21st, 2010)
youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMayuhV-pa0 (accessed on 25th Oct, 2010)
http://blogs.kingston.ac.uk/mace/files/2010/09/usermodel-corrinebeaumont.pdf (accessed on Jan 26th 2011)