Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 329 - Slight changes to goals and format.

Second day of the conference and it was extremely helpful. I was a bit more comfortable in this new role and found again and again the sense that most of us there wanted each other to succeed. I found myself rooting for each person I met and racking my brains to think if there was someone I knew or some connection I had that might be even a bit helpful.

We watched something called the "Elevator Pitch" Olympics. About 20 would-be entrepreneurs got up and gave their pitch to a panel with investment experience. And you really started to see the key things that were needed, which I'll share here for those of you that are also starting businesses.

And before I get into the four specifics, let me add three other observations. There really is a sort of playbook for lack of a better term to increasing your odds to succeeding in a new venture. Prior to the conference, I would have thought the very concept of working on an "elevator pitch" seemed kind of mechanical....I'm not sure the term I want, but something like being a "pure" artist who doesn't want to taint their ideas with commercialism. ;-) But after I heard about eight experienced business owners and investment bankers and venture capitalists hammer home the point that your elevator pitch is crucial, I began to see the truth to this.

The second point was stated again and again and again. You really have to know your market. Who would buy this product? Why would they buy it? The term at the conference was that there needs to be a pain that you are fixing, a real need. And you also need to distinguish who is the purchaser, the end user, and the buyer, and these are not always the same. So I plan to start learning about the basics of market research. Tonight, a friend told me she took a business class 20 years ago and had to find out if pantyhose sold at 7-11's on the counter next to the cash register would be a hit. She had to identify what would drive the consumer, what she would pay, etc. And she hit the business school library and its resources, trade journal, etc. for several weeks to answer these questions.

And the final point would be that people are your greatest resource. So many gave me tips and pointers, many of whom were fellow entrepreneurs, but also the speakers. Those of us starting out want to help each other and those who've already succeeded are incredibly gracious with their willingness to share their experiences and opinions. I could not recommend highly enough attending a conference like this to get your feet wet.

And the four points that the investors wanted to hear specifics on were as follows:
1. What is the problem - and prove that there is a real problem.
2. What is your solution - and have some evidence it is indeed a solution.
3. Who is on your team - a key here seems to be to find advisers who have experience in all the areas you lack to fill in the gaps. Just to give one example, a woman had come up with a great idea for a new kids' drink. She is planning to mix herbal tea with juice rather than water as the herbal tea has so many anti-oxidents and no caffeine. The judges liked the idea, but most liked that she had managed to get someone from Pepsi as an advisor, who obviously brought a lot of experience to the table.
4. How the idea will make money. And they wanted specifics, not projections that you would capture 98 percent of the market in two years;-).

After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided the goals to write a book and to start a business in the same year may be over stretching, so I'm planning to focus on the business and setting the book aside for at least a year.

In addition, while I still plan to keep up with my daily goals, I think I'll just keep a checklist on the fridge in order to more fully focus on building a business. And I definitely plan to remain frugal! If anything, this opportunity has shown me even more strongly how valuable the skill/habit of thrift is both in personal and business life.

Best wishes to you all! Eileen

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