Ayman’s Reflective Essay

The popularity of design thinking in a business environment is related to proven positive impact of design thinking on the bottom line (Herrmann & Goldschmidt, 2013). I selected this module because of my interest in innovation (as my pathway is entrepreneurship), and because it allows me a better understanding of the practical application of entrepreneurship; i.e., as a part of the process by creating a new business. The design thinking for startups module was a new journey that I embarked on over last seven months. This is a usual journey for entrepreneurs that start from the stage of observing problems or needs in the market to the stage of establishing, managing and developing an enterprise. This essay is going to provide a reflection of my experience during the studies of the module, and the knowledge & skills that I have developed.

From the first week of the module there was an emphasis on problem solving as one of the role of the designer. In fact, design thinking can be described as an innovation method and ability that helps to generate innovative solutions (Brown , 2008). Furthermore, design thinking refers to the sensibility and techniques of designers that are used to solve a problem (Lockwood, 2010). Hence, design thinking is focused on providing innovative solutions. I had the opportunity to experience a designer’s role by solving problems that we observed in the market. In other words, to initiate one of the most important characteristics of entrepreneurs that is the alertness to opportunities that arise (kirzner , 1973). The most important lesson I have learned is to use empathy think about problems from different perspectives; e.g., consumers, users and business owners. Meeting potential consumers, listening to their needs and observing their behaviors are some of the skills that I have used. After identifying a problem, we were required to generate an innovative idea to solve that problem.

During the ideation stage, I had the chance to gain knowledge about developing an innovative idea following guidance from the course module criteria. There are some elements that I have learned about generating innovative new ideas for new products. These include social contexts in which a new product can create value for potential users, current consumers’ behavior “trends in the market”, manufacturing processes that are needed for the final product, available technology that can make the production of the final offering possible, as well as costs and the social impact of production. Another significant lesson that I was exposed to is related to the difference between invention and innovation. Joseph Schumpeter distinguishes inventions from innovations; inventions relate to new ideas, whereas, innovations are about converting new ideas into commercial products (1939). Therefore, it was a crucial element to focus on inventions – new ideas – that can be introduced to the market as a new product. This was an interesting stage as it is related to the first task for my group, Emperatigo, in this module.

Generating new innovative ideas as a group was an eye-opening task. Group members have introduced many innovative ideas over a number of brainstorming sessions. Actually, the brainstorming sessions were successful because of the equal involvement of all group members and the acceptance of any ideas – good or bad – that were introduced. This can be considered as an effective brainstorming that delays judgement and criticism, accepting all ideas and involving all members for developing these ideas (Reeves, 2016). After that, there were needs for a tool to evaluate these innovative ideas.

One of these tools was the business model canvas. Actually, the Business Model Canvas is “a business model concept that everybody understands: one that facilitates descriptions and discussion” (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010, p. 15). I was surprised by how useful these methods were compared to traditional business plans, as the flexibility of these canvases allowed us to pivot and chose the most feasible business model. Based on the discussion of the group members, The Man Apron was the most appropriate product that met most of the criteria that were needed for a successful business. The canvas’ identification of various constraints revealed to us the products that were less likely to work, and as a result were able to fail fast at an early stage and avoid unnecessary loss of resources. Therefore, the Man Apron has been taken to next stage of development. This stage is to make the minimum valuable product (MVP).

The advantages of making MVP are to obtain data about the potential users of the product at minimum cost. Consequently, it helps to avoid developing the “wrong product” (Maurya, 2014). This was an important phase of the development of The Man Apron. The importance of the MVP includes prototyping. In fact, this was a critical stage that has helped to improve the design, materials that were used, and the functionality of the product. It was the first time for me to be involved in making an MVP and to understand how the MVP is a powerful method to save efforts and resources before introducing the final products in the market. In fact, the first potential customers of the products will be during the trade fairs.

The trade fair was a real test of The Man Apron. Feedback from customers, judges and lecturers was crucial for further development of the product. The most important element that has negatively impacted selling The Man Apron was the poor packaging. Great packaging can make a mediocre product sell well and poor packaging can make a far superior product fail dismally(DeMatteis‏, 2005, p. 220). The poor presentation of the product in the first trade fair created pressures on us to improve the packaging, sales & marketing, and presentation skills for the second trade fair. These were successfully improved for the second trade fair, and our efforts were reflected as our team won the Young Enterprise Best Sales Team 2016 award. This is a good example of how we as a team learned from previous mistakes and improved the areas that need to be enhanced for future successes.

On the other hand, the journey of design thinking has not only given me knowledge about developing a new innovative product, but also has helped me to enhance the skills necessary to be an effective member of a team. The achievement of Emeratigo in the final Dragons’ Den is a result of the teamwork culture that we have built. Focus on the achievement of the team’s goals and commitment of all members to accomplish tasks, face to face meetings, a collaborative teamwork environment – in which each member of the team becomes self-manager -, specified objectives with the support needed to accomplish tasks are some of the elements that make successful teamwork (Cassidy, et al., 2015). This is what I have experienced when we have started to work as a team from the day of generating new product ideas to the final presentation of our business in front of Dragons’ Den.

In addition, I had the opportunity to improve my time management and communication skills. In the first three weeks, I faced some challenges balancing my time between company meetings and other responsibilities. However, I managed these challenges by preparing for the meetings; e.g., for a follow up meeting, I prepared an updated schedule with a percentage of accomplishment of my tasks. Therefore, the time that I had to spend during group meeting was reduced as all required information was prepared and available.

In addition, my communication skills have also improved. They developed as a result of the requirements of each phase of the design thinking module – from the first week of the module to the last – and to the meeting culture of the Emperatigo –i.e., empathy, active listening, clarity and open mindedness are the main characteristics of the meeting environment between members.

Furthermore, pitching a business idea is another challenge that I experienced for the first time. It requires skills in different areas such as storytelling in order to make the business pitch more exciting, summarizing the whole business ideas in few sentences and requiring practice in order to be improved (Duening , et al., 2010). The key successes of the final pitch of our business idea was related to our efforts to meet the pitch presentation guide that has been provided by our lecturer, as well as feedback from the mock Dragons’ Den and the practices of our team to the final business pitch. The biggest lesson for me here was the difference that practice of a pitch makes, and the critical nature of engaging investors to persuade them to share our enthusiasm.

To conclude, the design thinking for startups module has helped me to experience all stages of new venture creation; from generating the innovative idea, making the final product, selling the final product to pitching in front of the Dragons’ Den. I had never before experienced this complete process, and I believe that the experience I have gained is invaluable insight. The knowledge, skills and experience that I have obtained from the module will help me in the future as I have become more interested in entrepreneurship, and this will be translated into establishing my own business. The knowledge and skills that I have obtained from observing consumers’ needs, generating innovative ideas, market research, understanding and evaluating business model, building an effective teamwork environment, selecting appropriate source of finance, and effectively approaching potential investors are some of the areas that will help me a lot for establishing my own business. Therefore, the cost and risk associated with establishing my own venture in the future will be mitigated thanks the core lessons that I have learned.

 

References

Brown , T., 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review , 86(6), pp. 84-92.

Cassidy, C., Kreitner , B. & VanHuss, S., 2015. Administrative Management: Setting People Up for Success. Florence : Cengage Learning, Inc.

DeMatteis‏, B., 2005. From Patent to Profit: Secrets & Strategies for the Successful Inventor. 3rd ed. New York : Square One Publishers.

Duening , T. N., Hisrich , H. A. & Lechter, M. A., 2010. Technology Entrepreneurship: Creating, Capturing, and Protecting Value. San Diego : Elsevier .

Herrmann , M. & Goldschmidt, G., 2013. Thinking About Design Thinking: A Comparative Study of Design and Business Texts. In: A. Chakrabarti & P. V. Raghu, eds. ICoRD’13: Global Product Development. Haifa: Springer, pp. 29-40.

kirzner , I., 1973. Competition and entrepreneurship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lockwood, T., 2010. Foreword: The importance of integrated thinking. In: T. Lockwood, ed. Design thinking: Integrating innovation, customer experience, and brand value. New York : Allworth Press, pp. vii-­xvii.

Maurya, A., 2014. Why Lean Canvas vs Business Model Canvas?. [Online] Available at: https://app.leanstack.com/why-leancanvas-vs-business-model-canvas [Accessed 24 April 2016].

Osterwalder, A. & Pigneur, Y., 2010. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Reeves, D., 2016. Management Skills for Effective Planners: A Practical Guide. London : Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.

Schumpeter, J., 1939. Business Cycles : A Theoretical,. Historical, and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process. New York: McGraw-Hill.

 

 

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Ayman’s Reflective Essay

Innovation

During my studies of design thinking for startup module, there are two terms that always interested me the most. These are innovation and entrepreneurship. There is no doubt that innovations are results of entrepreneurial activities. These entrepreneurial activities we had the opportunities to experience them throughout the design thinking for startup module. These include realizing business opportunities that arise, developing a new product, prototyping and testing the minimum viable product, producing the final product and introducing the final product into the market.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned is to understand that innovative products can be any new products that introduce in the market regardless of the innovation degree of these products. In fact, this was one of the discussion topics that we always had with my classmates-especially after the final Dragons’ Den- .We had seen all products of different groups in the design thinking for startup module and how potential consumers perceive these products especially during the trade fairs. I have noticed that there are demands for any new products that meet expectations of potential users regardless of the market segment size.

I remember one day I had a discussion with one of my group member about the differences between the products of our classmates. This discussion has taken us to important area of innovation. This includes the type and the degree of innovation. Importantly, there was one concept of innovation that has been mentioned during this discussion which is a disruptive innovation. In fact, there are two types of innovations that companies face a challenging decision to adapt one of them; these are sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation.

Sustaining innovation type is about the situation in which companies enhance their products and services to meet the expectation of its existing clients, such as adding new features, improving functionalities and quality. Whereas, the disruptive innovation is about innovative products or services that are initially introduced with basic applications that gains a low market share and then grows its market share to the level of overtaking the market position of main players in the market. In general, the main difference between the sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation is related to the needs of customers; i.e., sustaining innovation focuses on the current needs of customers while the disruptive innovation targets the future needs of customers (Christensen, 1997).

innovation

source

Therefore, there are a possibility that a disruptive innovation to introduced by a new businesses irrespective of the history and the size of these businesses. I think that the products that have been developed by students can be classified as disruptive innovations that serve a small market segment with simple features of products. Consequently, understanding the concept of disruptive innovation gives more acceptances for all products that we see in the market unrelatedly of our needs of these products. In addition, this innovation concept helps to avoid underestimating products that are developed by students in terms of potential market successes.

Reference

Christensen, C., 1997. The Innovator’s Dilemma. Boston : Harvard Business School Press.

Innovation

Final Dragons’ Den

There were two main tasks that were related to the final Dragons’ Den. The first task is to prepare a business report that covers different parts such as a business pitch, marketing, finance, sales and brand. The second task is to pitch the business idea in front of Dragons’ Den.

Both tasks were important for our final marks of the module (Design Thinking for Start-ups). We have assigned tasks between our group members; for the business report, my task was the financial part. In general, the business report covered all areas required, an important guide which we have used is the last year students’ reports especially the high mark reports. In addition, we had the opportunities to ensure that our financial part was accurate as possible by contacting Mr.  Fazl who has helped us to improve our financial part.

On the other hand, the business pitch task was a challenging task, however it was not as the first business pitch in December 2015. This is related to the experience that we have obtained from the first business pitch. Another important factor that has helped us a lot was the mock Dragons’ Den- that was before the final Dragons’ Den. Judges were Richard, Yannis and Irene. Their feedbacks were significant for us especially the areas that were need to be improved; such as not reading from notes, covering sustainability aspect of the product, editing the demonstrating video and focusing more on branding. After that, we have met more than three times to improve our business pitch and significantly more practices.

The final Dragons’ Den on Friday 18 March, was a very especial day for all students, judges and lecturers. Before the time of our business pitch – which was around three afternoons-, we (Emperatigo) met again for practices. Finally, we pitched our business idea in front of Dragons’ Den. After pitching our business idea, our group members were happy about our performance. It was not because that the business pitch was perfect, but more about understanding that we did our best.

About 6 pm in a crowded lecture theatre, all students were waiting for the announcement of winning groups that were going to compete for the second round. Our group was one of the groups were selected for the second round. Thanks to our preparation for this possible situation. Again, we did our best to compete with other groups. Finally, we were one of the two groups that selected for the Young Enterprise National Start-up Final.

final

source

The whole stages that we have been through to reach the final competition were great experience and knowledge. Furthermore, I think over the times that we have spent for the final Dragons’ Den, there was an important factor -perhaps the most important factor – which is a good collaboration between group members.

I think, I am fortunate to be a member of this group. Some of the things that I like the most about our group are the helps between members, well-coordination and importantly highly devoted members to achieve the common goal of completing tasks successfully.

Two important lessons that are related to our achievement in the final Dragons’ Den are the following:

  • Preparation and practices help a lot to improve the business pitch.
  • Group members can make challenging tasks more possible by devoting their skills and knowledge to achieve group’s goal and prominently each member does his or her best.

 

Final Dragons’ Den

Trade Fair in Kingston City Center

The trade fair in Kingston city center was an important stage in marketing our product (The Man Apron). The importance of the trade fair in Kingston city center not only to sell the product but also to improve our skills in presenting the product to consumers.

It was a significant opportunity for us to implement learned lessons that we have obtained from the previous trade fair. These are related to the packaging of the product, the design of our stand, an atmosphere that we need to create, and the information about the product that we have to know in order to answers any questions from the visitors of the stand.

The preparation for this trade fair has started by designing the stand. This was with helps from our lecturer and Mr. Yashar Sadeghi. The design of the stand was simple, elegant, and practical – it is based on using cardboard boxes -.

Our group members had a meeting before the trade fair. During the meeting, we have discussed some elements that include how we are going to present the product, the overall atmosphere that we want to create, and allocating tasks and responsibilities between our group members.

One of the most important factors that we have decided to use during the trade fair was to demonstrate how the product can be used. So, we have included a mirror in our stand -In which one of us stands in front of this mirror and shows how the product can be used-. In addition, we are going to bring a laptop and play the demonstration video – that we have made – to show the purpose and functionalities of the product.

The trade fair has started at 10 am, at that time our stand was ready to open for customers. people have started to come and ask us about the product. by 4 pm we have sold more than 10 packs of The Man Apron – each pack has three units – which was a good sign in the development of our presentation for the product, as well as, the improvement in our marketing and selling skills for the product. by 5 pm the trade fair has finished.

The good news that we have received after the trade fair is that our group has won the best sales team 2016 award. I think the preparation of group members for the Kingston city center trade fair- that has taken into account the feedbacks from the judges and lecturer from previous trade fair – has helped   us to win the best sales team award.

Thanks to Janja Song (our lecturer), Yashar Sadeghi, and Livia for helping us to design and build our stand for this trade fair. Also,  thanks to our  group members Luke Ducker,  Fernando G Trueba , and Tanis Isaac. They are very cooperative group members from the beginning of generating the idea of our product, designing and developing the product, and to the stage of marketing the product in the trade fair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trade Fair in Kingston City Center

Innovation Finance

One of   the main challenges that entrepreneurs face is an available finance source that they can use to finance their new businesses. In fact, there are many sources of funding new businesses.  These sources include the following:

  1. Personal savings
  2. Family, friends, and fools
  3. Bank loans
  4. Credit cards
  5. Business angel investors
  6. Venture capitalist
  7. Grants
  8. Crowdfunding

Generally, the sources of funding for new businesses can be classified into two categories, these are debt and equity financings. For example, bank loans are a debt financing in which entrepreneurs must pay both principal and the interests of a loan. Whereas, obtaining funds from business angel investors means that angel investors will obtain some equity ownership in the entrepreneurs’ business.

In fact, there are many factors that determine the source of finance that obtainable for a new business owner. Such as, the size of funds that are needed, the stage of the business, the potential growths of the business, the industry that they operate in, available collaterals, the years of operations, and the skills, knowledge, experience, and personal characteristics of owners.

Actually, there are many requirements that determine whether these source of funds available for entrepreneurs or not. For example, banks require some documents – including business plans and financial statements for previous years – and collaterals to secure loans.   Therefore, bank loans are not a suitable choice for entrepreneurs especially at seed and early stages.

Each source of finance has some advantages and disadvantages. Using an equity crowdfunding, business angles, and venture capitalist to finance a new business will help entrepreneurs to reduce the cost of funds in comparison to bank loans – that require principal and interest payments for the loan-. However, the downside of using these sources include losing control over their own businesses; i.e., as business angles, venture capitalists and people who invest by the crowdfunding platform will have shares in the company and they will involve in selecting directors of the business. Therefore, it is important for entrepreneurs to select the most appropriate source of funds that can be obtainable at the same time meets the entrepreneurs’ objectives from the funds.

For our new business (Emperatigo); if we want to raise capital, I think the most suitable source of financing will be through an equity crowdfunding platform. This is related to the requirements and the process of obtaining funds through  a crowdfunding platform.

crowdfunding infographic

Source: Nesta 

On the other hand, the main drawback of using crowdfunding platform for obtaining funds is the number of people who will invest in the business- as a crowdfunding platform is based on small contributions from a large number of people that can be hundreds or thousands of people who invest in a business-.  However, we can reduce the risks that are related to a big number of shareholders that can affect the management of the business by using different classes of shares in which few number of the investors can have more voting powers than other investors. For example, issuing class B shares with less voting rights in comparison to class A shares.

Innovation Finance

Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses

In the last few months I had the opportunities to learn more about the importance of the entrepreneurship and small businesses for countries. One of the most significant reasons that has encouraged me to write about that is the efforts of Kingston University to promote entrepreneurial culture among its students that I have seen in some lectures especially Design Thinking for Startups module; not only the learning materials that we get, but also the guest lecturers such as the lecturers from Young Enterprise, and the activities that help students to improve their business skills and knowledge, such as the trade fairs and the Dragons’ Den Competition.

Entrepreneurs have some unique characteristic such as innovative, risk taker, and they have the ability to identify any new business opportunities in the market.   the most important attribute of entrepreneurs is innovation, according to Schumpeter there are five types of innovation that include a new product, a new business model, a new production method , opening up a new market , and the introduction of a new source of supply (Schumpeter , 1934).

In fact, one of the vehicles that entrepreneurs use to reflect their entrepreneurial activities is by establishing new businesses. Indeed, entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the economic growth of countries by their entrepreneurial activities; i.e., establishing new businesses generates new more jobs and increases the competition in the market. This explains the link between entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Essentially, entrepreneurs and small business owners need some helps in order to plan, establish, manage, and develop their new businesses. Therefore, there is a need for organizations to help these entrepreneurs throughout the stages of establishing new businesses.

During my studies at Kingston University I have observed two different organizations that promote entrepreneurial culture by helping young people to start their own businesses.

  • The first one is Young Enterprise which is non-profit organization that offers valuable supports to young people who want to start their own businesses, such as financial, training, consulting and mentoring supports.
  • The second organization is Kingston University which is an educational institute that provides modules in different educational levels –undergraduate and postgraduate- that give students the knowledge and skills that they need about establishing and managing their own new businesses.

The importance question is about how useful is the involvement of these organizations in promoting the entrepreneurial culture among the students?

I think– as a student- the involvements of these organizations are very useful in terms of knowledge, skills, and experiences that are more relevant to entrepreneurship. They help young people to test and start their own business ideas in a small scale. So, they can learn about the market, target users’ expectations, and the real business environment with a low cost level. In the real business environment these knowledge and experiences can be obtained by individuals but the cost in terms of money and time are very high- that can reflect one side of the risks that can prevent people from starting their own businesses-.

References

Schumpeter , J. A., 1934. The Theory of Economic Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses

Advertising Channels and Strategies

All groups have presented their advertising channels for their new business, there were common advertising channels that students have used, that include websites and social media; e.g., YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Students have presented good works in terms of the channels they have used, and the design and the contents of these advertising channels.

There are no doubt about the importance of social media in reaching out targeted audiences especially in the last few years in which people have more accesses to the internet anywhere at any time- that is related to the development of telecommunication technology and devices such as smartphones-.

A study in 2014 indicates that 92% of the survey participants (marketers) agreed about the importance of social media for their business, and the benefits of using social media include brand awareness, marketing research, and increase the sales of their products.

On the other hand, students have introduced their group’s new product advertisement videos to the class. Interestingly, the designs, contents, approaches, and goals of these advertisement videos were different between the groups; this is related to the differences between their new products, educational backgrounds, and skills.

I think all groups have made good advertisement videos in terms of the design and the approaches to grab the attention of the audiences. Our group Emperatigo has a good advertisement video design, and Lucky5’s advertisement video has a smart approach to grab the attention of the audience; the idea was good but I think the content needs to be reviewed.

However, all of the groups have new products that they want introduce into the market, therefore, these advertisement videos need to follow common goals that suit the stage of their new businesses and products.

The Objectives of advertising can be classified into three groups include informative, persuasive, and reminder. Informative advertising aims to create an initial demand of the new products or services, the advertisement of the introduction of new products or service into the market uses this objective -as the success of marketing these new products at this stage depends on informing people about the availability of theses products in the market-. Persuasive advertising is more about increasing the demands of existing products and services in the market, it is common to use this advertising objective at the growth and early maturity stages of the product’s life cycle. Reminder advertising which is about reinforcing previous marketing activates about the products, it is suitable at the late maturity stage of the product’s lifecycle (Boone & Kurtz, 2013).

Regarding the groups’ advertisement videos, a good example for suitable advertising objective at the stage of the groups’ new products is the advertising objective of Parachute’s advertisement video.

On the other hand, our group has presented the advertisement video of The Man Apron,  and from feedbacks that we have received from the lecturer and other students, there are some changes that we need to make, such as the advertising objective which needs to be more informative about the product.

References

Boone, L. E. & Kurtz, D. L., 2013. Contemporary Marketing. Mason : South-Western, Cengage Learning.

 

Advertising Channels and Strategies