Well, this is my last official MACE blog post. It’s crazy that I just started my course in September and it’s already June. My actual courses have ended, which means my workload is about to get quite a bit lighter. However, it also means that my class of international mates will be permanently broken up as some of us go back to our countries never to return to the UK.
Despite this mix of emotions that would break me into tears were I a crying person, the journey through MACE has been nothing short of incredible. It honestly was everything I hoped it would be. Not only have I been able to travel Europe and meet people that will continue to be a part of my life, but I’ve gotten hands on experience running a business from start to finish. Curpy is officially released from Young Enterprises and Kingston U at the end of June. So, my team and I will get to go through that whole process and find out how we can legally continue the business, if there is such a way.
In going over my blogs, the one thing I realized was that, if you really want to start a business, you have absolutely no excuse not to. This year my class of 30+ students had to come together (under duress and blackmail of our grades) and create a business. We’re talking about people who had never met before, who had different cultural and artistic backgrounds, personalities, patience levels, everything.
We had virtually no time to get this done. Teams were officially formed in October. We had to have a product in hand by 1st December. We did it. In fact there was no task where a team just didn’t have something done. The result may or may not have been spectacular, but the task was done.
It seems to me that if people want to start a business, they really only need three things: an idea, motivation, and a team.
“There is something that is stronger than all the forces in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” –Victor Hugo
When I was trying to come up with a list of ideas that I could present to my team, I thought about small things that have a made a huge difference in society. Bernard Sadow, who thought to put wheels on luggage, changed the way we travel (Sharkey, 2010). How many people and companies can survive without staples? If you’ve seen transformers, you know that without a screwdriver our world would be lost. I knew our idea didn’t have to be a complete society changer. It just had to make life a little bit easier.
The bookmark/penholder was a completely self-serving idea that happened to work for others. What I learned is that it’s kind of like having a question in a class; if you’re thinking it, someone else probably is, too. Some other great ideas that came out of our class was Cuff’d, the Flow scarf, and Popcup.
“Progress isn’t made by early risers; it’s made by lazy men trying to find an easier way to do something.” –Robert Heinlein
One of my sisters-in-law always tells me about these ideas that she has that she knows could make her a lot of money even if she just sold the ideas (which is what she really wants to do). Yet, despite the monetary gains, I cannot get her to write down her ideas to even get to the selling part. (I swear people’s eyes glaze over whenever I say the word, “write,” regardless of the context). So what would motivate her to get these ideas going sine obviously money isn’t enough?
One of the central motivations for myself and fellow MACEr’s for starting a business and continuing the way we did was that our grade (=lives) depended on it. But consider this, the motivation for completing the course has as much to do with wanting to get good grades and graduate as it does with knowing the consequence if we don’t pass, which, for me, not wanting to fail was far more important than the grade. Not passing means that I would have to repeat the course; I’d have to explain to my mother why I failed. I’d have to get my visa extended. It would just be so much more work than if I just pass the class.
For our Managing Creativity, Professor Mark Prassera gave us an article called, “Killing Creativity,” by Teresa M. Amabile (Amabile, 1998). In the article, she talks a little about extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivators like money, grades, and whatever else are okay, but they’re not enough to maintain any kind of real drive. The real drivers are intrinsic motivators. These are things like pride, sense of accomplishment, and so on. The intrinsic motivator is what will allow you to find creative way to move your idea into the stages of actualization.
“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” –SEAL team saying
Those of you who are fellow writers will understand what I’m about to say. We work alone. We are primarily creatures of solitude. We may have a circle that we allow to read our work for the purpose of useful feedback, but we tend to keep our ideas to ourselves, sharing only with the paper. The problem with this method is that we are essentially working in a silo (What is a silo?). It’s our ideas, our personality, history, and understanding of people and the world in a constant loop being recycled and reused. These ideas tend to bounce back at us, often changed and distorted after running laps up and down and around the metal tube, and splintering and merging with other ideas. Yet, despite how different the ideas may be after the fact, they are still our own ideas and can only be interpreted in the same manner with which we interpret everything.
For creative writers, this process is all we know and is necessary. For a business, it’s kind of hit and miss. Check out the list of successful businesses. There are a few that started as one man armies. But most are at least a duo. I look at it this way: If I’m a solo rower and I’m rowing against a team of rowers, will I make it over the finish line? Of course. However, the team will not only get there faster, but the members will be less exhausted because they’ve had they’re mates to share the load.
For years, I had the idea for a bookmark/penholder, by which I mean, while in the drama of tearing my room apart looking for my pen (or book) I would think, “Damn it. Someone needs to invent this.” I simply lacked the will, understanding, and talent to create this product on my own. It wasn’t until I was teamed with a fashion designer, a product designer, and a business major that this idea became reality.
There are the standard physical teams and thanks to technology, teams can also be made via internet. Although, myself and members of my team live in the same building, we also made a Facebook group just for us. We also have a What’s App group and share documents on Google docs. We’re all from different countries and may or may not continue living in the UK. This way we can constantly exchange ideas and information.
According to Joan Magretta, “The business model answers the questions: Who are your customers? What does the customer value? And how do you make money in the business?” (Magretta, 2002) Business model canvas helped us with this part of the project. Admittedly, I had trouble with the paperwork parts of Curpy. However, when asking talking to investors and pitching our company and ideas we were asked a lot of questions that seem self-explanatory at first, but that we had to come to agreements on. The model and business plan helped with that.
Great British Business
The Great British Business Show happens every six months. I’ve been to it once. (Read about my experience). It’s really a good place to get resources and information for your business. It was there that I was able to talk to a gentleman from the IPO and get information for not only one of my classes, but to help my team decide how we wanted to handle our own IP situation. There are lawyers, people who help build websites, people who help with marketing and advertising, you name it. (EXHIBITOR LIST). The next show will be Nov 22-23.
Curpy has attended many trade fairs, some sponsored by the school, some not. Our courses teach us about product research. We started with prototypes and got feedback from students. As we progressed with the company we were able to research with customers outside of uni.
We had a really good time at the uni sponsored markets. It was there that we got real-world practice on our pitching and to see if our ideas were really something that people who did know us would understand. Also, these events doubled as a competition between all of the Young Enterprise companies at Kingston. Curpy actually won our first prize. We were honored by given the overall prize for best product, best pitch, and best stand. Cannot say how excited we were. It was a really good sign that we were on the right path.
When it came to more in-depth product research, we learned more at the outside markets. It was at these that we learned to perfect our stands, which helped earn us placement in the top five of Young Enterprise companies in England, did not help us earn new customers because the stands didn’t show how the product worked.
For a start-up, money also seems to be one of the easiest elements to acquire. Once I realized that no matter what I always seem to have money for things I don’t need, I realized that I have lots of money for a business. Sites like Kick-starter (for those with a US bank account) helps people get investments for their business.
There is also Lean Start-up which helps people learn to be more efficient with their investment. “Lean Startup isn’t about being cheap [but is about] being less wasteful and still doing things that are big.” (Ries, 2010)
As a writer, it’s easy to forget about the industry of writing. Fact is, if writers want to make a living doing what we love, we have to remember that and become part of the industry.
During my studies I had the good fortune of befriending some of the publishing students. They kept me up on different conferences they went to. I had the pleasure of attending both Pub Now! And the London Book Fair. Both conferences helped give me a sense of the industry, how it works, its future, and also my place in it as a writer.
At these conferences I’ve been able to meet members of the publishing industry and add them to my Twitter contacts. When I have questions about the industry or want to know about any programs, I can contact them. They’ve also read and tweeted a few of my posts. One of the gentlemen I’ll be interviewing for my dissertation I met at the LBF. I talked to him for a hot second, but he gave me his information. Which is all I needed.
Young Enterprises (known as Junior Achievement worldwide) ”is the largest organisation in the world dedicated to educating students about entrepreneurship and financial literacy through hands-on programmes.” This is the group that helped us get business accounts at Santander. Curpy also had the honor of being one of five team selected to compete at the national competition. I haven’t blogged about it yet, but I will. In the meantime, you can read my teammate Simone’s account of what happened.
END (of the year! *big long relaxed sigh* …and smile)
The moral of this story is that anyone can start a business. Everyone year 20+ students start a business with nothing and from brand new ideas. Curpy has had an amazing time running our business. I would love to continue with it. We actually have a trade fair coming up on June 21st. We will post all of that information on our site and Facebook.
I’ve had incredible times during this program. But now, it’s time to start on that dissertation. Cheers.
A Theory Of Human Motivation By Abraham H. Maslow
Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business … By Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, David Robertson
Human Motivation By Robert E. Franken
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation By Steven Reiss
Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior By Edward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan
Pitching to Angel Investors: What problem do you solve? By Hall T. Martin
Teamwork by Philip R. Cohen and Hector J. Levesque
Why Working In Silos Won’t Work By David Grint And Heidi Travis