The module designing a business is by far one of the most interesting module I have taken at Kingston University over the past years 4 years of my under and postgraduate studies. The experience of doing a module which is more practical rather than theoretical has taught me many valuable lessons which I will be able to take forward in future job roles I will undertake as this module has enabled me to experiences different aspects of business such as a sales, advertising, marketing, communication, networking and building business relations with costumers which are all key components to business in today’s age (Mattern, 2013). Furthermore, I have been able to learn a great deal about myself when it comes to coming more out of my shell and how to conduct myself while working in a team.
Throughout my academic career the general scope has been doing everything by the law of the book where a teacher sets you a task, I complete it to the best of ability and then I get graded. Well this module literally throws that book out the window and forced me to think outside the box in an unconventional way. What is creativity? What is entrepreneurships? These were key words to which I would have to familiarise myself with first in order to be successful in the course. A creative person is deemed as someone who has the ability `to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions (Naiman, 2014). While a successful entrepreneur is known to be `tenacious, risk tolerant, creative and intuitive` ( Andersen, 2014). However the first internal challenge I had within myself is that I am neither of those things!
Enter week one, where the first task is to create an advertising campaign in a group of 3 for breast cancer. Start of the year means new class members and being in unfamiliar territory, I have always been the reserved type person where I often keep to myself so you can imagine how I felt when I was asked to create an advertising campaign with 2 strangers which involved me being `creative`. But as the process went on I eventually realised coming up with ideas is not that terrifying, because the worst thing that someone can say to you is `that’s a bad idea ` to which you just have to come up with new ones until you eventually find the right solution; this process is a never ending cycle and a valuable life lesson which I have learnt.
The week where we had to find our groups for the project was very spontaneous and a speed dating exercise gave me the lucky opportunity to find my amazing Veles team. However at the time I was on the spot, under pressure and way out of my comfort zone having to sell myself to various groups in order for one to finally choose me. I eventually realised from this exercise that nerves are best confronted by calmly collecting the words your about to say and that you should always be prepared as you never when the opportunity arises where you will have to market yourself. Thinking on the spot and improvising is also a key feature of the course and was not only used during the speed dating process but also during our various attempts to come up with a product.
According to Steve Jobs the success of a start-up business depends on the how much passion the entrepreneurs have towards the product they have produced (Alhanati, 2013 ), hence we knew in order to have a successful start-up we would need to manufacture something we could all relate to. In the initial stage we had many ideas and we struggled to make a final decision up until week 5. This was also a surprisingly time consuming concept as lots of research is involved such as potential target market and potential copyright products (Edmunds, 2015). Eventually, we decided to make students our target market while producing a product which will help students with organising their utensils. The key learning to take from this was that effective background knowledge is necessary in order to launch a product successfully and this module showed me that there are many steps which need to be considered in order to make a product come alive ( Pierce, 2005).
Once we decided on creating Veles we had numerous group meetings to discuss various things such as what materials are we going to use to produce the product, what colours we will offer, what sizes of sketchbooks Veles will be applicable to. Conventionally, throughout my university life group meetings would consist of allocating the given report into different sections and then going your own way just to meet close to deadline day to put everyone’s pieces together; this module does not allow you to do that as you need constant interaction and brainstorming with your colleagues.
The group meetings in this module have made me realise the importance of listening to your colleagues and respecting their ideas as often an idea triggers another idea and builds eventually builds up to be your final solution. For instance our idea evolved from targeting students > pen with freshmint spray on the flipside> sketchbook utility which holds pens, pencils and many more. Although none of these have any logical links, just by throwing key words such as students and pens Veles was born and I have learnt that even if you think an idea is bad do not be scared to voice it as creativity always has a knock on effect towards another idea.
I never realised how important advertising is for a company to be successful and underestimated the power of social media. After we uploaded our commercial to our individual Facebook pages we were able to raise awareness about our product worldwide; this was because Jason come from the US, Asia and Alisa from Russia, Andreas from Greece and myself from Germany. The general queries we received for our product was interesting as some were asking about potential shipping costs and whether it is only a product exclusive to the UK. Following on from our commercial one student from Russia has even considered to buy the company and is currently negotiating with Alisa and Asia. As time went on costumers were coming up to us asking about Veles rather than us going up to them; which outlined the power of social media (Linton, 2015) . Through this I realised that promotion is a crucial aspect to any business as your product can potentially become high in demand and put it in the face of the public.
Throughout the year our class was fortunate enough to have had guest speakers coming in to give an insight on their successes and failures during entrepreneurial experiences. Valuable lessons can be taken away from the failures of these guest speakers as it was highlighted that it is important to always keep trying as to finalise a prototype or an idea it could take up to 50-100 remodelling stages of the first idea ( Waring, 2013 ) . By attending these talks I was able to realise that the entrepreneurial element to the course is more than just a university module but can also help you to orientate your career. The most important information I have taken away from the various guest speakers is that for a business to be successful a large capital to start the business is not necessary, it is more important to have a sustainable idea as that sets the foundations of any start-up business. Overall an idea will only be as strong as the teams faith in their product, therefore if the team has sufficient product knowledge it will also be able to make its costumers believe in the product.
The 2 dragons den during the course were the most nerve wrecking and exciting part of the course. On the TV the judges seem ruthless, cruel and the whole concept seemed terrifying from the start as I was fearing what would happen if we get criticised and sent away like on the TV show, on the other hand doing a similar process was aspiring which increased my eagerness to be involved in such a process. After the completion of both Dragons Den we received positive feedback about Veles, this was a huge confidence boost especially after the first Dragons Den as we started to believe that we are heading in the right direction not only as a team but also as a start-up business. The judges also recommended that we can add some variety to our products by adding limited editions or personalising them to customer needs, for example giving customers the choice of where to place their pockets and how many pencil/pen straps they want. From this I have taken away that businesses must continue to evolve and offer new products as public demand is constantly changing.
Personally I was able to learn an incredible deal about conducting business from the Penrhyn Road and Kingston Hill trade fairs. The practical aspects of the course enabled me to interact with costumers which is something I enjoyed in hindsight. Sales are a lot harder than I thought and it came to my knowledge that you can never plan how you are going to approach the sell as your approach needs to vary depending on the aura you receive from the costumer (Pride and Ferrell, 2011). I was able to learn that trade fair is more than just selling but it is also important to consider the decoration and layout of your stall as that is what attracts costumers to visit. During a trade fair it is also vital to have a good pricing strategy, at the end of the first trade fair we would dropped our prices from £30 to £15, this pricing strategy is known as market penetration) and this instantly helped us to sell more products and increase interest ( Watkins, 2015).
In conclusion the course has taught me many valuable lessons for my future career. Being a reserved individual I have never been keen on public speaking, this course enabled me to publicly pitch ideas to judges and fellow peers from which I have been able to gain a great deal of self-confidence when it comes to public speaking. The group work element made the course worthwhile as it teaches you how to collaborate with colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures and although conflict did arise at time we always managed to overcome it. Through this I have learnt that patience, communication and respect are essential attributed needed in order to collaborate within a group; attributes which I feel have improved within me since the start of the course. Overall the designing a business module has educated me on how to begin a business from scratch, I have realised that research, promotion, brain storming are the most important elements which contribute to the final product and with these foundations a start-up business will have the potential to be a success.
Alhanati, J. (2013). Follow Your Passions And Success Will Follow. [Online] Available at: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/12/passion-success.asp [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Andersen, E. (2014). 5 Things You Need To Become A Successful Entrepreneur. [Online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2014/10/06/5-things-you-need-to-become-a-successful-entrepreneur/ [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Edmunds, S. (2015). The Nature & Importance of Business Research. [Online] Available at: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/nature-importance-business-research-69189.html [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].
Linton, I. (2015). Six Benefits of Internet Marketing. [Online] Available at: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/six-benefits-internet-marketing-31382.htm [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Mattern, L. (2013). 7 Important Components of Your Small Business Marketing Plan. [Online] Available at: http://bmighty2.com/7-important-components-of-your-small-business-marketing-plan/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].
Naiman, L. (2014). What is Creativity? | Creativity at Work. [Online] Available at: http://www.creativityatwork.com/2014/02/17/what-is-creativity/ [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Pierce, S. (2005). 5 Steps for Turning Your Invention Ideas into a Product. [Online] Available at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/77962 [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Pride, W. and Ferrell, O. (2011). Marketing express. 2nd ed. Mason, Oh: South-Western Cengage Learning. p420-421.
Waring, D. (2013). How to Come Up With a Business Idea in 5 Steps – Fit Small Business. [Online] Available at: http://fitsmallbusiness.com/how-to-come-up-with-a-business-idea/ [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Watkins, D. (2015). What Is Market Penetration Pricing?. [Online] Available at: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/market-penetration-pricing-20346.html [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].
Yes the module has finished but that does not mean the end of Veles? Luckily due to Alisa and Asia a fellow Russian student has contacted both of them regarding to carry on Veles forward in Russia. If the interest is sustained and the deal is finalised as co-founders we would be entitled to be stake holders and continue to make profits. Although this is talk for the future and might not happen it is still encouraging to know that Veles stimulated enough interest for someone to try and buy Veles. That alone is arguably the most satisfying element I am taking away from this module.
Building up to the dragons den we had many group meetings where we rehearsed our presentation intensively which eased my nerves, this is because all my group members and me where all confident to be pitching our ideas and we all had a broad understanding of our individual bits of the presentation.
The presentation went very well and the judges gave us positive feedback. We may have not had the best or most exciting product to offer but as we worked well within our group we were able to market it very well. I have not only grown as in individual but I also had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. The module has turned into a memorable experience and thinking back to my first blog where I sensed that this would be a module providing a practical scope of learning I was right and am very glad to have elected it as no books can teach you anything if you don’t put it into a practical concept. As the module came to a close there was a sense of excitement to have completed it but at the same time there was an element of sadness as this would be the end of our journey, or would it…..
During our second trade fair it was important to learn from the mistakes we made on the first one. Pricing too high was identified as an integral mistake at the first trade fair so we began how we ended at £15 per Veles. We also decided to print posters and decorate our table as this all goes into presenting the product and making it appealing to the costumers; a further mistake we made at the Kingston Hill trade fair was having a dull stand.
More stalls, more students and an open environment ensured that this trade fair had a high attendance then the first one. This automatically made it easier to sell and at the end of the day we were able to sell 5 products. The first trade fair acted like a practice sessions and now we all seemed to find it easier what to say to entice customers to buy the product; such as highlighting the key features of the products and how they would benefit the consumer became easier to express.
The annual gala for the best advertising campaign for the project was underway, although it wasn’t an event which required a 3 piece suit popcorn and drinks were provided! The general sense after showing our campaign is that our ad was a little bit too long and some class members were unsure what we are trying to sell; some suggestions were it could be a chewing/mint or a dating ad.
Nevertheless the feedback was crucial as one key thing I have learnt from this is that while advertising a product you should ensure that the product gets sufficient camera time and that the back story of the commercial is not necessarily important as the actual product being highlighted. If I was to ever work in an advertising job role I would certainly take these experiences into account.
The Kingston Hill trade fair was all about sales, but this module tackles more aspect of business then just sales. For our next task we had to create our own advertisement to market the product on social media sites and to our fellow class mates. Unfortunately, Jason was ill and was not able to join us for the shoot so the remaining group members ended up going to the National Gallery in London to create magic. Given my previous experiences in performing arts I opted to act within the video with Asia while Alisa and Andreas were responsible for filming, direction and cinematography.
To our luck we found a completely empty room in the gallery and were able to film without any distractions. Below you can see our advertising campaign and also our bloopers. To be very honest I am astounded that we have not been awarded an Oscar for it yet, I guess that’s pat and pending …
This was our first opportunity to go test Veles to the public and see if there is a demand for the product. From the offset we knew getting even one sell would be extremely difficult as most people at the fair were there to sell their own products and the occasionally student/lecturer that came in was seldom. Despite that we stayed optimistic and were pleased to discover that the general sense was that our product is unique and offers students an easy to use utility; overall the feedback was surprisingly positive.
Pricing was a key element to the day and we began with £30 per product. As the fair continued we sunk the price to £15 (which was still ok as manufacturing costs is £4) and interest instantly increased. Costumers were approaching and leaving contact information to contact them for future trade fairs and keep them updated if we were to offer future limited editions.
The day concluded with one product sold which was incredibility satisfying. The feeling to know that as a team we worked hard and manufactured a product from scratch and were able to sell one fulfils you with great pride. The overall experience is one that I won’t ever forget as I was able to learn how to effectively communicate to costumers ; with sales being a key part in business I realised sales is actually harder than I thought and you really need ` the gift of the gab` to be good at it.