Although I started the module little bit late because of some administrative problems, I was able to start the module at the right time and be able to join a team for the business project.
The first step to find an innovative business idea was through brainstorming within the team. We first came out with the idea to make a multi-purpose table for laptops which has the purpose to be very convenient to users as it was space saving, it has USB port and space made for mobile phones and pens. We went to present our idea to the class and the teacher, the feedbacks received were not in the favour of our product. Our primary target were students that have low income in general, but the cost of production seemed to be high and their saving behaviour made us believe that multi-purpose table would not be a necessity for students. Then we went through the brainstorming stage again but this time in a different perspective, we emphasized the problem we could face during our daily lives and how to resolve them. From our personal experiences, we found that we encountered at least once a difficulty to find the oyster card when using public transports. I have witnessed myself many times people delaying the bus because they were not able to find their oyster card. It tends to be harder for women as they mostly put their oyster in handbags, which so often contain many things and takes long time to find the oyster card. Therefore we came out with the idea to make gloves designed to hold oyster cards. It is very convenient and it removes the hassle of looking for the oyster card. In order to differentiate from simple gloves, we first decided to use a certain kind of textile that will permit the users to use mobile phones and touch screen devices. But the cost for that textile was expensive; therefore we decided to make cuts in thumb and index fingers of the gloves, as it is with those two fingers people mainly use touch screen devices. This is how Touch Gloves came to life.
On the 5th of November 2014, my team and I attended a Bright Futures workshop in Penrhyn road. As we were in the process of developing a new product, it was useful to have little bit of guidance in entrepreneurship. The workshop was emphasized on networking. I realised that networking was underrated and it is actually very important, especially nowadays. It is about making connections and building long mutually beneficial relationships. Networking with the right people can open new doors and help to have a successful career. Dwain Reid shows us tips for improving our networking skills. Also, I had the chance to hear two entrepreneurs talking about their struggles when starting their businesses, which was very inspiring and gave us more confidence to start Touch Gloves. It was also stated during the workshop that it is important to know your skills and your weaknesses. Therefore, I did a personality test later on. I had a high score in openness and resilience. My weaknesses were low level of extraversion, low conscientiousness and low agreeableness. Although the weaknesses are not seen as bad in the report, it helped me to know more about myself and know my best assets. It is in the same way Marilyn Vos Savant, who had the highest IQ recorded in the Guinness Book of records stated: “success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses”. It implies that the key of success is the acknowledgement of your strengths and weaknesses.
In term of financing, I have learned that there are some convenient websites that enable entrepreneurs that lack of capital for their start-up to raise fund. There are websites such as www.crowdcube.com where entrepreneurs can raise fund in exchange for an equity or percentage of share of the business given to the donor. Or www.fundingcircle.com where individuals borrow money and it must be reimbursed with an interest rate. Crowdcube is known as crowdfunding method while Funding Circle is a peer-to-peer lending. Crowdfunding is more appealing for entrepreneurs that have great ideas and need some help to start their business. To maximise chances to be crowdfunded, a convincing business plan as well as a good financial forecast must be provided. While peer-to-peer lending is more appealing for entrepreneurs that have established businesses, as they only need some cash injection to the business. Since we are starting a start-up from the ground, it is essential to have a good pitch to be crowdfunded.
I attended a lecture made by a guest about story telling. He started the lecture with this quote: “Life is a random series of events”. Indeed when I evaluate my life, the first memories that come in my mind are those filled with strong emotions. Therefore, to have an appealing story, it needs to create some sort of emotion such as empathy, shared experience, feelings, etc. In order to reach that it is important to find a share value where the audience will see itself in the story. A good story should include a backstory that explains who you are, explains a problem then shows how the product is the solution.
I also read the book Value Proposition Design to improve my knowledge about creating value to a product. The method used in the book is called value proposition canvas, which is a tool that helps you to design, test, build, manage, and create customer value. It is based on two important element of the business model of the company: the customer profile for which you intend to create the value for and the value proposition that you believe will be attractive to customers. The customer profile describes the characteristics of your customers in more details. It is composed of the jobs customers are trying to get done in their work or life, the relating pains that outline the negative aspects customers try to avoid and the gains that outline benefits customers would like to have. On the other hand, there is the value proposition map that describes the features of your value proposition that you are designing to address the customer profiled. The map is composed of the product and services your value proposition is built around, pain relievers that show how the product relieve customers pain, gain creators that are benefits that the product create for the customers. Then you can achieved a ‘problem-solution fit’ when the features of your value proposition map perfectly match the characteristics of your customers profile. When the market validates this match and your value proposition is attractive to new customers, you achieve ‘product-market fit’. I would advice anyone who is struggling to create value for a product to read this book because it is written in a very simplistic way with graphs and charts that help for a smoother understanding.
Now that we achieved ‘problem-solution fit’ for Touch Gloves, it was essential to check if we reached ‘product-market fit’. The best way to check it was by presenting our product to informed people during our first Dragon Den. The overall feedbacks were encouraging, we were effectively able to identify problems within the targeted group and were able to show that the product was able to meet customer needs. On the other hand, we needed to improve our market entry and make deeper research about competition. We also had the opportunity to test our product during the first trade fair although we did not have the gloves ready. To make up with the fact that the product was not there, we emphasized on an aesthetic display to attract people. It effectively worked and we were rewarded at the end of the day with best display. The feedbacks were good and we had 20 pre-bookings for the gloves.
For the manufacturing, we decided to do it in China because it was very expensive to do it in UK and we were lucky to have a Chinese in our team. We were able to order 500 pairs of gloves. Unfortunately, when the gloves arrived in UK we realised that the gloves was defected, the oyster card pockets were not stuck to the gloves, which made them less comfortable for users. This is the price we had to pay because of our inexperience in this domain.
During the package design workshop, it was stated that packaging is a very important point in the buying process as it is often the first point of contact of customers with the product. A good package can lead the customer to try the product even if he is not aware of it. According to many package designers, the best packaging example is the banana peel. Indeed, the banana peel is easy to open; it can be consumed straight from the package, the variation of the colour from green to yellow show the quality of the banana. Therefore, we designed our packaging by following the banana peel characteristics. To summarise, our package shows the product directly, has information such as size; colour; manufacturing country, our slogan – ‘Don’t look for your card, just Touch’-, shows the special features of the gloves by putting a business card that has the same size as an oyster card in the gloves pockets. The business cards give information about the company and different ways to get in touch with us through e-mail and social medias such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
In addition to that, Marketing Management lecture helped me a lot for understanding our market through microenvironment and macro environment analysis. The consumer buying process was essential as it explains different factors that influence the consumer buying decisions e.g. personal influences, psychological influences and social influences. It enabled me to market the product in a way that fit with the different influential factors in order to maximise sales.
The Bright Ideas Final was very motivational and inspiring thanks to business ideas Kingston University students presented. On top of that I have been lucky to listen Jonathan Newman’s speech, he gave us advices not only to have a successful business but also to be better people in daily life. The tips that worked for him when building and managing his business were: you need money; cash flow is king; have credit insurance; what is your brand; what is your product; manage your money yourself; understand sales margins; don’t be greedy; always have an exit plan; ask and you should receive (networking and reaching out); give back (e.g. charity). In order to make your idea alive you need a great idea and it is important sometimes that you follow your instinct and common sense; ask yourself if your idea is scalable; do you have to commit and make actions; you need to have integrity and always honour your parole.
In definitive it was enriching to work with people coming from different backgrounds (China, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey) and doing different courses. During our different brainstorming sessions the group was able to come out with innovative ideas mainly because each member gave his idea in a different perspective. In spite of our differences, we were able to reach a compromise without creating any tension within the group. In result we were rewarded with the prize of “Young Enterprise Team”, which reflects our good teamwork.
I also realised that when you have an idea it is important to not only talk about it with your close relations, but to talk to potential customers because they will give you unbiased feedbacks as theories does not always apply in practice e.g. we dropped our first business idea after talking with students. I have also learned a lot about myself such as my different skills and weaknesses and especially I am aware that I need to further improve my networking skills. Also, the Dragon Den presentations were good exercises because when I watched the program on TV I didn’t realise how difficult it could be. It helped me to break the glass ceiling and know what to expect in case I have to convince individuals in the future to take part in my business.
About package designing, although I learnt a lot about it theoretically, it was a different story in practice. Luckily, a team member had experience on package designing that helped us to make a good package smoothly in practice. I am also proud to say today that I am a sewing amateur thanks to free lessons given by a team member.
During the manufacturing process in China, we should have asked for a sample from the factory before the production of the gloves in bulks. It would have avoided us to have defective products. Luckily this time, it did not have any major impact on us and I take that mistake with an open heart because I believe that the best way to learn is through mistakes. It is in the same way Bill Clinton stated: “if you live long enough, you will make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you will be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit.”
On the overall, designing a business lecture gave me a unique experience. Like Benjamin Franklin (1975) said “tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn.” Therefore the module was an application of what I have learned theoretically during my undergraduate studies (business management) in real life. As I am planning to open my own business back home in the future, this lecture gave me a first insight of entrepreneurship.
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