May 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
If I could hop into my 1981 DeLorean, speed up to 88mph and visit my past self before my Kingston experience, there would be a hundred things I would tell past Natalie to prepare for. Unfortunately I’m certain my past self wouldn’t listen, but hopefully the future class of MACE 2013 will. Here are my key reflective points for surviving the next year, and making it a success.
Have you had a healthy dose of creativity this morning?
By the end of my first month I was so sick of hearing the word creativity I contemplated changing my major to Law. Personally, I can’t see why I would be here if I wasn’t creative, and a 5 year undergrad in the performing arts should be enough to prove that I am. It’s taken me a while to realise, but I think I finally understand why our Creative Economy Professors seem to use the word like it’s going out of style.
You see, creativity is the key factor to succeeding in both your Young Enterprise experience and the workplace. And exceptionally creativity will make the difference between a thriving YE business and a mediocre one. However, don’t get hung up on the words “original” and “novel”, because you’re business is not about creating the wheel or reinventing sliced bread, and sometimes the best ideas are ones that already exist, with a unique spin to them. Ken Robison could possibly be the best speaker/author on creativity I have encountered, read through “Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative” (2001) and start thinking about what creativity means before MACE begins.
Procrastination is Suicide
In September it seems like you have a lifetime to get into the swing of things.
And if you’re an avid procrastinator (like me), it may be difficult to get the ball rolling in September when your deadlines are months away. However, I guarantee that if you procrastinate from the start, you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary hardships and failure.
One of the greatest regrets “Quanto Basta” had as a team was not beginning the processes of manufacture and marketing sooner. These two crucial aspects of a successful business became the difference for us financially in May, as we had yet to break even by the last Dragon’s Den. Now profit is not the be all end all in the YE experience, but it is a mark on the success of your business. Alas, every failure is a learning experience.
Here is a procrastination test by Dr. Bill Knaus, take it early! And if you’re like me, and score a 30, use the tips suggested to remove those procrastination triggers before they inhibit your success.
Don’t get discouraged.
This experience is not easy, and there will be obstacles every step of the way. From the entirety of the YE experience, designing a product, manufacturing, selling, presenting, working in a team, etc. To debates in Contemporary Issues, projects in Leadership and Management, maintaining your Social Media presence and Networking, and working on the four other modules in your particular concentration, it seems to never end. The most significant obstacles “Quanto Basta” faced as a team were our initial product creation, delegating tasks amongst team members, the creation of our website, and manufacturing. (Most of which I can confidently say would not have been such problems had we gotten the ball rolling in September)
But don’t become discouraged!
I can’t tell you how many people were surprised by disappointing grades (myself included), inconsistent with deadlines, or had near nervous breakdowns at the thought of everything we had to do.
Keep going! The worst thing you can do is give up, if you quit, you’ll never know how far you could have gone, or how much you could have learned. Read through these inspiring stories on not getting discouraged from young people who have been through it all.
Like I said before, you’re not reinventing the wheel. Try to come up with creative solutions to existing problems by having conversations with your teammates, a great way to come up with a product or service idea is just by having normal conversations.
And remember that products don’t have to be world changing, they can just be for entertainment purposes or assistance for everyday tasks. Browse through shops and think about what you spend most of your time doing and what interests you, then bring your ideas to your team table. And if you need any more ideas, check out Steve Johnson’s “Where good ideas come from” (2011) to give you a running start.
There is no I in Team
Working with people from various backgrounds is difficult, however this is what you’re facing out in the job world, and you have to be prepared to find democratic solutions to contrasting opinions. Remember to separate friendships from working relationships, this will help you in the long run. Here are a few Tips on Teamwork from Keith Yamashita who has worked with some of businesses biggest names, Steve Jobs and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. – Ric Ocasek
Two of “Quanto Basta’s” greatest challenges (website creation and manufacturing) could have been easily solved had we asked for help right at the start. There are so many professors and students all over campus, and you will be surprised how many will be willing to help you for a worthwhile project.
Ask for tutorials, ask for assistance, the worst that people can say is no.
Had we asked for advice about our personal website initially, we would have realised how difficult it’s construction was going to be, and would have hired a student or professional to do it right from the beginning.
Had we realised the flaky nature of manufacturers, we would have started hand making our product right from the start, and as such would have had a multitude of selling opportunities before our initial stock was completed at the end of March.
Amanda Palmer has an excellent TedTalk entitled “The Art of Asking“, Watch it! And remember, there is no shame in asking for help, we all need it, and we should all be willing to give it.
Don’t be a big head!
There is nothing worse than attempting to work with a condescending colleague who consistently treats you like you were raised by wolves. This is not the attitude to have in the classroom, Young Enterprise, or god-forbid the workplace. Yes, it is great that MACE consists of a colorful array of individuals with various backgrounds and experiences, but that is a learning opportunity, not an opportunity to exhibit to an international palette your awesomeness. Here’s a fantastic blog about how to deal with these condescending know-it-all’s, if you happen to encounter any in your MACE experience.
And if you are the condescending know-it-all, refer back to There is no I in Team.
Likewise, Speak Up and Often!
If you’re not comfortable with public speaking, engaging with people you don’t know, and asking questions, this is going to be a very difficult year for you. These are things that will be expected of you from Day 1 of your MACE experience, so accept it, get used to it, and take advantage of it.
There are certain character traits that are imperative to a thriving MACE course; inquisitive personalities, imaginative ideas, flexibility of thought, inspired interaction, and motivation and ambition. Now I’m not saying if you’re lacking in any of these areas you should immediately decline your Kingston placement, but you should make an active effort to work on these areas, if not for the betterment of the class, than for yourself. This may be the last time in your life you have a net to fall on, practice working on your shaky points now, and water your growing confidence for the future.
Here are 3 Strategies for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety by Deborah Grayson Riegel that I’ve found quite useful.
And remember, even the most confident people get nervous, they’re just better at hiding it.
And if all else fails, eat a banana and sing a funny song to yourself when you get nervous. It always works for me!
Opportunity doesn’t always knock..
Sometimes the only way to get opportunities is by changing out of your sweatpants, getting off Reddit and going out into the real world to make opportunities for yourself! This is the attitude MACE tries to teach you.
Thinking that successful people are going to throw opportunities at you left, right, and centre is just unrealistic. Likewise, YE won’t hand you all the things you need to be successful in your business, you will have to go out and find manufacturers to work with, create your own advertising to get the word out about your product, and find places to sell. If you don’t take the reins you’re not going to be where you want to be come the Final Dragon’s Den in May.
Robert Magowan of “The Independent” has written an excellent article “Don’t just hope – Make your own career” about the nation’s (and frankly the world’s) recession of jobs, opportunities, and prospects for prospective graduates. His number one way to avoid being swept under the rug of recession? Be braver! And join the thriving movement of student enterprise! MACE is designed to teach you the entrepreneurial skills necessary to go out in the world and succeed in today’s economy, and whether or not you want to start your own business or work for someone else, these skills are invaluable and transferrable through any employment channel.
Of all the lessons learned through Design Thinking, the importance of storytelling has stuck with me the most. I have always been an informal writer, and I have had few negative reactions to my writing style (and even won quite a few awards). So learning about the importance of storytelling and connecting with the audience has given me confidence in my writing and presenting ability (outside of usual dry academic writing). Our lessons on storytelling have really taught us how to connect to the reader through empathy and humor, two aspects of writing I consider imperative to informative and entertaining works. I have even taken our lessons on storytelling and utilized them outside of the MACE modules as well, and it has worked wonders.
Our leadership classes also left a lasting impression on me. Although I’m not entirely pleased with how the classes themselves were conducted, I did find the subject material quite interesting and imperative to success within the creative economy. Especially after our theatre workshop with Piers, the leadership qualities we learned within the module seem blazingly obvious when observing classmates, and individuals outside our MACE group. And understanding the characteristics of transactional and transformational leadership, allowed me to make conscious decisions as to how to relate to teammates when working within a leadership role.
Personally I found the entirety of MACE to be centered around Design Thinking, it was the module that connected the class and connected the rest of the modules, as well as the basis for the majority of our work in MACE and the connecting factor for the principles we learned in our other MACE experiences.
And for MACE 2013, there is no doubt you’re going to make mistakes through the entirety of this process, we all did, and we’re all expected to. Have a look at Mike Greene’s book, “Failure breeds Success” (2013), where Greene explains his fascination with the negative outlooks on failure. Greene believes only through failure can we learn the lessons necessary to be truly successful, which is a truly MACE belief.
And when you’re writing you’re own reflective blog, remember that all the things you wish you could have done, or didn’t do, are irrelevant now. Everything that happens is a learning experience, and no matter where you’re currently standing, everything you’ve gone through (and I’ve gone through) during our time at MACE, has made us all the stronger.
Greene, Mike., (2013) “Failure Breeds Success.” Westminster: PGPress
Groth, Aimee., (2012) “Tips on Teamwork from the Man who Reinvented Starbucks” American Express Open Forum [ONLINE] Available at: <https://www.openforum.com/articles/tips-on-teamwork-from-the-man-who-reinvented-starbucks/> (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Knaus., Bill., (2010) “A Procrastination Test to Uncover Delay Patterns” Psychology Today [ONLINE] Available at:<http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-and-sensibility/201006/procrastination-test-uncover-delay-patterns?page=2> (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Johnson, Steve., (2011) “Where Good Ideas Come From: The History of Innovation.” USA: Riverhead Trade
Magowan, Robert., (2013) “Don’t just hope – Make your own career.” [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.independent.co.uk/student/career-planning/dont-just-hope–make-your-own-career-8574665.html> (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Palmer, Amanda., (2013) “The art of asking.” Ted Talk [ONLINE] Available at:< http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html> (Accessed 18 May 2013)
Penttila, Chris., (2011) “Do you work with a know-it-all?” WordPlaceDiva [ONLINE] Available at:<http://workplacediva.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/do-you-work-with-know-it-all.html> (Accessed 20 May 2013)
Riegel Grayson, Deborah., (2013) “3 Strategies for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety” [ONLINE] Available at:<http://www.fastcompany.com/3004857/3-strategies-managing-public-speaking-anxiety< (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Robinson, Ken. (2001) “Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative.” Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Shah, Dhruti., (2012) “Young Workers: Never forget you dreams.” BBC News [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19464117> (Accessed 20 May 2013)
May 4, 2013 § 2 Comments
The final Dragon’s Den.
And guess what?
It wasn’t so scary…
Sorry little guy, but it’s true.
Now Maria and I had spent the entire two days before the Dragon’s Den slaving away on the business report.
So by the time I had gotten home, I was absolutely exhausted.
And before I knew it, it was morning.
I don’t think I’ve woken up before double digits in months, but that day I was up by 7am, to eat a good breakfast and head down to the library to proof check everything before we had to hand it in.
I was done….
Now don’t get me wrong, QB was still stressing hard about this. We rehearsed our presentation and went through our Powerpoint slides multiple times, we even (unintentionally) presented in front of an entire classroom right before our final meeting with the Dragons.
And still, we were really nervous.
But what more could we do?
The Business Report was finished.
The Powerpoint was finished.
We had practiced and rehearsed.
We knew what to say, annnnnnd we had eaten bananas, proven to make you less nervous! http://www.20minutestolessstress.com/Banannas.html
Now, there was nothing left to do but wait outside until it was time.
And then, we started to get a bit stir crazy.
Now maybe it was stress relieving mechanism, but we all started singing…
And it kind of helped.
So when we were finally called in, and the presentation began, and I started to feel a bit nervous…. I sang a bit of this to myself.
My advice to future YE entrepreneurs? Sing a silly song to yourself to calm the nerves.
Well, the Dragons were all very courteous and constructive, and before we knew it, it was all over. We were walking out the door feeling relived and elated, we had done great!
So take that Dragons!
You’re not as tough as you think you are.
And this YE experience is finally over.
May 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The Business Report is finished!!!!!
FINISHED FINISHED FINISHED FINISHED!
I have to say, when I first read about the contents of our business report in the syllabus and brief it seemed a bit over-whelming.
With the amount of challenges and problems our team had through the entire YE process I didn’t think this report was capable of being done.
How to positively reflect of what seemed more like a year of lows than a year of highs?
And I’ve never been much of a liar, it takes more effort than I’m willing to give.
So how do I put a seriously positive spin on the past year of ridiculousness?
The answer? I don’t.
Well, this is what I figure.
Regardless of all the ridiculousness of the past year, in the end this experience is really about what we learned. How we tackled our challenges and overcame our obstacles to complete the tasks laid out in front of us.
Our presentation and our report had to reflect what was really important about this experience, what we learned.
I’d like to recite for you what I learned now, but I’m saving that for my finally reflection.
Either way, THE BUSINESS REPORT IS DONE!
April 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Ok so as you all know we had out “mock” Dragon’s Den on Friday, well…
The night before the “mock” Dragon’s Den, when submitting our presentation, I found out that I had in fact modeled the Prezi slides on a post I saw on Facebook, as opposed to the brief that Janja had sent.
I did however model the Business Report on the correct brief, (go figure).
As such, we were five slides short…
And then I found out our Prezi file was too big, and we would have to convert it to a pdf….
and it being the night before, it was kind of hard to change it.
So not only did we have to worry about what we were going to verbalize in our presentation, we now had to explain 5 missing categories, (INCLUDING FINANCES) without slides.
But, I was glad to find out I wasn’t the only person who made this mistake..
It was a bit of a collective fail… kind of like this.
Anyway, we got together the next morning and put together everything we had.
To be honest, although I thought our presentation was pretty good, I didn’t have high hopes for us considering it’s been quite a while since we’ve had any encouraging feedback.
But we went in there, fully armed, to kick some ass.
And guess what?
After our awesome skit, kick ass presentation, and 5 sweet slides…
Now don’t get me wrong, we got both positive and negative feedback, but all of it was extremely productive and we couldn’t have felt better about ourselves, and couldn’t have been more awesome.
I mean, unless we were this kid…
So heres to this Friday!
Our actual Dragon’s Den is not looking to be as intimidating as I thought, and then this long-long-long year, will finally be over.
Except for all the assignments we still have to do and the dissertation of course!
March 20, 2013 § 4 Comments
So, you can all remember (or scroll down and read about) our epic journey to the manufacturer Tracy Adams???
When we were so happy to finally be expecting products!!!!
Heres a story about that.
After a lovely meeting with John Woodworth, the Managing Director of Tracy Adams,
who helped us pick out fabrics, lining, and everything we needed to create our product, as well as giving us pricing and promising us a send by date.
They stopped answering our calls.
First, Angelika called to finalize the order. At which point they kind of gave her a round about. Promising to get back to her.
Ok fine, perhaps they were busy. So we waited a day.
Then Maria called, at which point they gave her some b.s about not having our order and or knowing what we needed….
Then Angelika called again…
At which point we were all getting seriously annoyed and worried. If we couldn’t get this order finalized we weren’t going to have a product for the trade fair.
So we got together during the break on Friday’s class and called again. At which point we found out, the price wasn’t going to be close to what he promised. And there was no way the shipment was going to make it in time for the Kingston Market Fair.
Now, this seriously put use back. We had no manufacturer, and no idea where to get one.
We were also running considerably low on funds, (The £70 ride just to meet Tracy Adams in Warwickshire not helping much.)
We were so annoyed we almost decided to pay them a surprise visit.
But as lovely as that would have been, we decided it would be best to spend our time a bit more productively, since we were going to have to make these bags ourselves.
The four of us have since set up our very own English sweatshop in Surbiton, sewing like we work for Kathy Lee Gifford.
We have since successfully manufactured our own products, enough to sell at the trade fair, with the rest remaining “made upon order”.
That being said, we’re all a bit exhausted.
And tomorrow’s the Kingston Market Trade Fair!
Happy Trading Everyone!
February 18, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Last week three of our group took a road trip up to Warwickshire to meet our manufacturer. We decided it was best to decide on the intrinsics of our product in person before committing financially, and it turned out to be a fantastic decision.
Tracy Adams is a textile manufacturer recommended to our former member Lucy, who received the name through a work contact. John Woodworth is the Managing Director we spoke to, who gave us great tips on fabrics, ties, spill proofing, and packaging.
We chose to work with Tracy Adams for many reasons, partially because of finances and their willingness to manufacture our desired amount of products, and partially because they fit our philosophic criteria: creating a sustainable product, in England, that can be delivered to customers at a reasonable price. By working with Tracy Adams we are not only keeping with our own philosophy, but giving profit to small business as well.
Here are our current fabric choices:
With our choices for both black and white spill proof linings.
Colors were decided based off our desire for a natural look to each lunch bag. Black straps will be used for each to match our brand label at the corner of each bag.
And each will be made in England.
In the same week we also spoke to our mentor Brian. He gave us great ideas to help with our finances, including how to deal with our shares and fundraising.
Making steps forward all week! We’ll be ready for the trade fairs soon!
February 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This week Maria and I did a bit of Market Research, going through Kingston Hill Campus we decided to test our original Target Market theory.
Is this product really geared towards students?
Is this a product that will appeal to both men and women?
Will our Philosophy and additional features be something that will attract customers?
So we tested our original theory, with a simple and to the point questionnaire put together by Maria.
4. Do you cook your own lunch?:_
5. Would you use/buy this product?:_ (A question we asked after we described the product, philosophy, concept, website, and features)
6. If so, how much would you pay for it?:_
7. Comments/Improvements to the product?:_
And with this, we had a multitude of responses.
For the most part the people we questioned were between the ages of 20-28, all students from undergraduates to post-graduates, both male and female. Prices students offered to pay went from £2-£20, the lowest prices being said by men, and the highest by women. Various comments and improvements included a range of things. Most students agreed that darker colors and an extra pocket would make our lunch bag far more appealing. Other comments included: adding a strap handle, a zippered pocket, a knife and fork, a water bottle pocket, a larger bag, and a selection of smaller lunch boxes.
Just from our interviews with students I could tell that our Target Market decision was far off. This did not seem like a product geared towards men at all, and not really a product that would attract a student customer base. Although we did receive positive feedback, it doesn’t look like this is where we should focus our energies. We’ll have to commit to further research, but its starting to look like our Target Market should be shifted towards slightly older women, between the ages of 25-35. Women who work or have children would be more inclined to spend money on a product and a subscription to a website focused on healthy eating, as they are concerned with their own health and the nutritious welfare of their families far more.
This may be just speculation, but as for right now, it seems like this is where our second point of attack in terms of customer base should be.
Here are two separate interviews given by students at Kingston Hill.
(Don’t mind the quality, they are still unedited.)