What is the most important factor of entrepreneurship?
The question that most startups need to answer. Over the past eight months, one product and a group of five people, there are so many things happening to this Young Enterprise startup project called Lucky 5 whether joyful, excitement, sadness, disappointment, argument or confusion. In my mind, even though the term entrepreneurship is still too far for me to use for describing myself, it is undeniable for me that the crucial point I got from this project is about learning by doing. From business model, value proposition, prototyping, testing, pivoting, lean methodology or any other terminologies that emerged along the working of this project, all of these will mean nothing without a simple word called ‘doing’. This paper aims to illustrate the entrepreneurial journey of startup named Lucky 5 from my perspective. There are three lessons to be covered including just do it, value of empathy and just for fun business model.
Just do it
First of all, the first and foremost reflection from this project is the balance between planning and doing. Although there was almost eight months for this project, I have to admit that me and my group spent only 20-30 per cent on actually ‘doing’ something, the rest is just discussing and planning. On one hand, it is really important to have a proper plan before start doing something. However, it could be seen that the more and more we have spent on planning, the more difficult for us to start doing. This is partly because we are all wanted to make it so perfect and the more time spent on researches, the more idea emerged. Moreover, it is because for all of us, this is our very first experience starting a business and more importantly, with our own money. So, we all wanted to make the most out of it. Although, we have learned that the principle of lean startup is to push the business out and reiterate where possible, it is this fear of failure that holding us from start doing something.
This is difficult for all of us especially me because when I worked in advertising agency, there are so many processes before we can start doing something whether pre-testing, market research, internal and external meeting and many more. This made me feel uncomfortable at first when I heard about lean process.
The crucial point is when we have to held our first trade fair. Though we have to held a trade fair in a couple of days ahead, we still have nothing whether product, trade stand or even what we are going to do at the fair. At one point, Janja even just told us to stop discussing and just assigned each person a task to do before the fair begin.
The lesson I have learned here is sometimes, it is better to just stop assuming and trust your gut feeling. An inexperience or hesitation is just excuses to not step out of comfort zone. As a result, we began to pay more attention on action rather than planning and consequently, we got the product, try to sell it, sales increased, more and more people interested in our product and more importantly, we have tangible feedbacks to talk about, not just abstract conversation. We understanded what is good about our product or business and also what could be improved. All of these just because we just do it.
Value of empathy
Arguably, empathy is one of the most important factors every business should have. Our very first session from this course is to go to toilet with eyes blinded with the purpose to live in someone else’s shoes. Through the year, I have learned many things about business but it is empathy that caught my attention most and also the topic that I blogged about most. First is because it already go along with my mindset in advertising about insights and customers understanding. When I started working in advertising, the company I worked for have a principle called ‘Humankind’. Basically, it is almost the same as Design Thinking from IDEO, to understand people as much as we can and absorb their life into your in order to get insights and consequently create the product(communication) that customers really want or it can really solve their problem. It is the first time I heard this mindset in business world and did not quite sure how it is going to work practically. Even we have a couple of sessions where we have to get out of the room and asking people what they want, I still have no idea how this is going to help because most people are just trying to end the conversation as soon as possible. But because I really interested in this school of thought, I tried to dig deeper about it and found one particular item that really help me not only this project but also my future career. It is the book called Well-designed by Jon Kolko. This book taught me step-by-step on how important it is to understand customers and also how to convert all these understanding into something practical for the business.
When it comes to this project, the understanding about empathy helped me a lot especially when I have to write a business pitch for Bright Idea competition which we ended up in the final round just because of that pieces of writing. This mindset influenced me significantly because it helped improve my career directly and more importantly, it also helped improve working process internally. Despite the fact that me and my group have to do business together, we do not have anything in common at all. Without empathy, it would looks like a battlefield. Empathy helped me stepped back and looking at the context rather than just content. Conflict is undeniable when people working together but at least, if we tried to understand other opinions, the work can proceed further. Therefore, even in reality, it is difficult to let go of self and try to see the world from another perspective, it is important that the business which know the value of empathy both externally and internally is the one that sustainable most in long run.
Just for fun business model
When people started doing something just for fun, the power is far beyond any other motivation such as money or reputation. A couple of days ago, I have been to the talk of a man who quit his job as a senior copywriter and decide to travel around the world offering to use his creative skill in return of accommodation and food. He started his talk with a simple question
‘Do you have a gut to quit your job,
leave everything behind and do something just for fun?’
Although it sounds inspiring and persuasive, the fact that we have to sacrifice something reliable such as house or salary with something just for fun is still questionable. In our business, at first, we did not think of anything about making profit or any big plan at all. We just wanted to produce something just for fun and something we all want to keep. However, when the project keep going on and on, there was real money involved, some emotional arguments and also a good mark we needed to get, the project gradually became more serious and the fun part just disappeared. It was just when we finished the project that I looked back to the starting point and found this crucial point. On one hand, it is good especially for startup to take things seriously. In contrast, when things getting too serious, it comes with pressure and consequently, counter productivity of team.
Doing things just for fun could potentially be one of the best starting points of any startup because it allows team to go beyond conventional barriers of a business such as market research, proper business plan or even wearing a suit in a pitch. More importantly, it will pushes business to go as far as they can without realising about making profit or when to break even point. Therefore, though among many school of thoughts or business models of running a proper business, it is hardly to deny that doing things just for fun could leads to crucial value not only for business but also in the perception of customers as well.
In conclusion, though there are many things happen along the learning journey of Lucky 5 throughout the year, three most important factors for me is the balance between planning and doing, the way to put empathy at the core of business and lastly, start and sustain business only just for fun. These three topics had influenced me most not only in terms of entrepreneurial mindset but also life in general. Despite the fact that I do not have any plan to open my own business at the moment, everything I have learned from this course gave me confidence to startup my own business whenever I want. Therefore, even this project was just a very small scale of startup compared to the real world, it is interesting and surprising at the same time that I have learned so many things which I never thought of before when started this project.
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