Need-based entrepreneurship has always been around – for those who are savvy enough to understand the need and do something about it. There have been successful female entrepreneurs who have built and continue to build businesses on needs they themselves have experienced. They have been smart enough to go beyond merely experiencing a need – instead of complaining about the lack of a service or a product they have succeeded in building a business around it.
Lady Middleton’s‘Party Pieces’
Take the case of Kate Middleton’s mother Carole who is not only known as the future king’s mother-in-law but also as the woman who started a business from her kitchen table that eventually made her a millionaire. The need she discovered early on – buying online. Carole’s ‘Party Pieces’ broke new ground in buying online and created a thriving business that continues to do well.
Talia Goldfarb launched a thriving business of belts toddlers can fasten themselves – when she realized that she could not find such a belt in the market for her toddler who was outgrowing his toddler pants. Her belts were also ideal for those with dexterity issues and needed simplified belts. From toddlers, she grew the business to include adults – her success story was based on clearly identifying a need.
There are many other women who have been able to identify a need and create a business around it. Simply identifying the need alone isn’t enough. We need to be able to understand the market dynamics involved and do the homework studying the market. Applying good business principles to a start-up venture does not always require an MBA – just financial common sense and a sharp eye for the opportunities.
An unfulfilled need is best utilized as a business idea. If there is competition, then there is a possibility that you would have to try harder. One good example of this is the cupcake trend we saw going around Colombo. A few years ago, almost everyone was opening up cupcake businesses. Today, we see most of those places closed down; granted, a few have been able to continue based on their own unique formula of success but that wasn’t the case for everyone. The rule of thumb is that more competition means less opportunity.
Good ideas alone are not enough - every business needs to be planned. You need to do your homework on the investment needed and the work it involves. The plan should cover the core areas of business objectives, strategy and action plans along with cost ideas. Ideas are good but without financial planning and strategic focus, an idea cannot be turned into a successful business.
Selling online is the future
As Talia did, it may be a good idea to look for new customer groups in addition to the customers at whom the initial business is aimed at. The product range can expand, new customers added and new services offered. Good business is always about expansion, growth, change and continuing to stay relevant. A good example is how online buying has changed the way many of us shop. Selling online is not only the future but it is also a monumental business opportunity for those without access to large retail networks and the funding needed to build such networks.
Need-based entrepreneurship appeals to women mostly because as women, we ourselves experience needs that sometimes go unfulfilled. There are many times when we wish somebody ran a service or offered a product we would have loved to buy. It could be as simple as home cooked yet simple meals to getting someone to clean our homes when domestic help is lacking. It could be as relevant as thinking of a gift wrapping service to offering unique child care products.
Adding value to an existing service is also an ideal avenue to explore need-based entrepreneurship. Someone may be offering a service, which could benefit from value addition or a product extension. You may even be able to combine your business idea with someone who is already in business and thereby ride the wave together.
There are plenty of opportunities everyday around us. As you go through the day, keep your eyes and ears open for such openings, moments when you know that doing something that someone is not doing but could be doing is worth your while to start doing. Opportunities are always there. We need to be able to focus on them, study and evaluate them to get the ball rolling.
With technology coming in as a business partner that can connect you to the world with a computer, entrepreneurship is alive and thriving better than ever.
Go out there, get your business skills sharpened and chances are you will never look back.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)