*Reflective Essay*

It has been 9 months since the course started and the least I can say is that it was filled with experiences. This module has been one of the most interesting, enriching and rewarding module that I was given to study during my academic time in England. It gave us a lot of opportunities through networking events, and class exercises to open our awareness. Coming from a marketing and human resources management path, when I applied to Kingston University I chose entrepreneurship because I thought it would give me the right theories and the right knowledge, but I never expected to have learnt this much in such a short period of time. In this reflective essay I am going to go through each point that I have learnt throughout the two semesters.

In the first week of the programme I was introduced to the customer needs model, we went to Sainsbury’s to observe consumer behaviour. We were explained during the class that these principles constitute the three major things to fulfil customer’s basic needs. I learn that it was important to observe consumers in order to understand their need and be able to reach their needs and attract them. During our experience in Sainsbury’s I saw that some consumers cognitive needs were met by price acknowledgement, but also by seeing ingredient and knowing the quality of the products.  These are the information they needed to know. Going to the shop also provided them with information regarding the origin of the products.  On the Emotional level, consumers need to feel touched by a product, it could be related to the quality of the product, for example some consumers might be more willing to buy fair trade coffee if they know it is helping someone in the world. Consumers also need to feel like what they are doing has a sense; they might prefer products from local farmers because they will feel like they are helping their local economy. On the Physical level, consumers need to be attracted by the product, its shape must appeal to them and they need to touch and see the quality, the texture etc. Some consumers might prefer to go to Sainsbury’s stores, rather than ordering online as they might prefer to touch and see the products.

The second point that we learnt was about learning how prototyping would help us to notice every single point that had to be taken into account. We realised that prototyping was about using cheap and easy materials in order to reduce our expenses. The class exercises were really straight forward. We had to interview people from the university and ask them about their shoe preferences. Whether if they preferred comfy shoes, or stylish and fashionable. Out of the results of our questionnaires we had to create a persona an create a shoe perfect for it. We had to occasion to learn that: persona = mask = role = behavioural repertoires (Pe´ rez-Alvarez,  Garcı´a-Montes, 2006). We had to create the prototype of this shoe with anything that we had in our bags. This exercise was really interesting and taught us how creating a prototype with inexpensive items and quick research was allowing us to be much more flexible and learn much quicker about the product itself than if the materials we were using were expensive or rare… “Doing mistakes was not important and easy to fix; In addition, everyone was participating, even boys were creating a woman’s shoe and loved it! It was much more different from creating a basic marketing plan with an actual report etc. We were all involved and each of us brought our own little idea to create that prototype:” (Bibiscus.wordpress)

During this year I attended a few art fairs, and it was the first time that I was attending fairs where the pieces exposed where not really art, but more like disturbing pieces to chock the audience. I went to the Frieze fair, where most of the art work exposed was very bizarre, most of the creations there were quite strange, and probably aiming to create questions in the visitors’ mind and to show what kind of stuff could be done with material we would never think about. I also went to Damien Hirst’s exposition, and it really puzzled me. The question that I asked myself was, is art now becoming an exhibition of scandalous pieces in order to create questions and shock the audience? What can be considered as Art nowadays? It seems that now a days artist are divided between those who have a breathless enthusiasm for novelty, and those of a more sober and historically based turn of mind (Gilles, 2011) . Where does Damien’s Hirst’s dead cow’s head  in a decomposition state locates itself next to renaissance paintings? “Unfortunately for many of them, artists of Hirst’s generation were predominantly taught attitudes rather than skills, so that replacement skills in matters such as the manipulation of the media were designed to paper over the consequent cracks.” (Gilles, 2011)

Motivation was one of the key words for the Handy-Cleaning team this year. We realised after the first dragon’s den that critics were hard to take, especially when it was for the first time and with a brand new product. We realised that the hardest part was not to stay motivated when everything was going fine and as we expected. Indeed, the hardest part is to stay motivated when something wrong happens, and when we need to pull all our resources to our side to make the best out of our project. “Almost everyone manages to see the bright side when things are going well and no issues are in sight. However the hard part is to not to give in to discouragement when things do not go as planned.” (Bibiscus.wordpress)  . I realised that without motivation, an entrepreneur could not subsist. What is more, three most frequently studied characteristics of entrepreneurs are motivation, self-efficacy, and risk attitudes.(yszka,Cieślik, Domurat, Macko, 2011)

During this masters’ year in Kingston University, I was made aware of the important of networking. It was not a spontaneous thing to do (Byham, 2010), but then when we realise the advantages it can give to young business, anyone would think it was worth trying. Indeed, I learned that talking to people about our activities was extremely advantageous as it could lead to unexpected surprises. “You don’t have a network unless the people in your network come through when you need them. A business network is not built with a single email exchange or by meeting someone at a convention. Its quality cannot be measured by the number of friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn. It’s a more personal relationship, usually involving at least one face-to-face meeting” (Byham, 2010). It is also important to create a small and strong network, rather than a big but superficial one, indeed, “People who don’t have a network don’t benefit from the ideas or connections of others, but people who spend too much time on having a large network may not have time to be creative. They aren’t purposeful” (Zhou et al, 2009)

Social media is another tool that we used a lot this year, not only for networking, but also as a promotional tool for our handy cleaning products. It was an exciting tool thanks to which I learnt that we could use social media to develop a business venture. “Social media not only serve as communication tools for students but shape the way they construct their social and professional identities” (Hartman & McCambridge, 2011). We used Facebook as a advertising tool, we uploaded pictures every week or so, in order to keep track of our popularity and keep potential customers updated with our work. We also posted status about where potential customer could find us during trade fairs. Here is an insight of what we achieved in terms of audience: Facebook Statistics: 469 views since 07/02/12; Total followers: 67; Number of updates: 16; Number of gloves sold via updates: 7; Using social networks was really useful as many people can be reached within a short amount of time and it has no costs. The bas aspect we noticed was that it was hard to measure the impact our updates had on followers. We opened a twitter account to follow cleaning companies, multinational executives and individuals and let them know about our updates. “The explosive popularity of social media platforms presents an attractive opportunity for businesses—millions of people use these online services daily. Social media offer intriguing new communication channels for organizational members to share information and talk to various stakeholders”(Meredith, 2012).  Aside from promotional tools, social medias can also be really helpful in terms of professional careers. Indeed, I registered on LinkedIn to keep connected to professionals, and after joining a group called French people from London, I received a job offer. “Learning social network principles empowers students to match social media tools to recognize who is in their current networks, to develop networking goals, and to use the appropriate social media to achieve each goal.” (Sacks and Graves, 2012)

Finally what I learnt this year is the importance of risk taking. “Risk taking refers to the propensity to accept greater levels of risk”. (Lumpkin & Dess 1996) During the manufacturing of HandyCleaning gloves we had no back ground in the sector to be able to judge companies’ quality. We had to look for affordable gloves so that we could sell them with some added value later. One big risk for the company was to order a batch of gloves from the Internet even though we had no background in the industry, its competitors and their standards of quality. “New product success has been an important issue in new product development (NPD) research” (Tien-Shang and Badri Munir, 2011) .We ordered 60 pairs of gloves for the first batch from a website that was selling a pair 37p. The price was very attractive however we had the risk of being disappointed by the quality of the product ordered. Luckily enough, the batch arrived within 2 days, and even though one pair or two were faulty the rest of the order was in perfect condition. (Bibiscus.wordpress).  As illustrated by Frishammar and Hörte (2007), new product may fail in the marketplace but if no risks are taken, no new products will ever be marketed. I learnt that taking risks was extremely rewarding, and thanks to it, we managed to be productive and be successful in terms of stock being ready for trade fairs that were organised. “The team’s propensity to engage in risky decision accelerates the positive effects of team reflexivity on product innovation.” (Tien-Shang and Badri Munir, 2011)

As a way of conclusion, it can be said that this year has thought me to be more aware of the tools that were available to young entrepreneurs to be successful. There are no traditional paths, and no way to follow, but there are wide ranges of opportunity that must be taken in order to develop as an entrepreneur, and I am thankful to have been introduced to some of them.

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References

Frishammar, J., & Hörte, S. A. (2007). The Role of Market Orientation and Entrepreneurial Orientation for New Product Development Performance in Manufacturing Firms. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 19, 765–788.

Hartman, J., & McCambridge, J. (2011). Optimizing millennials’ communication styles. Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 22-44.

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=178ece3f-68e9-49e3-abe2-c5d54f27a2af%40sessionmgr11&vid=1&hid=10&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=67679398

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=c2feec72-0a67-4368-a09e-63ea259d9089%40sessionmgr10&vid=1&hid=10&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=59774535

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=25&hid=10&sid=9997db8f-4bfc-4897-8b81-d12c5af1c6a0%40sessionmgr10&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=50256396

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=4e7d58a7-9a83-4ed6-9dff-8ba70082f259%40sessionmgr10&vid=2&hid=10

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9997db8f-4bfc-4897-8b81-d12c5af1c6a0%40sessionmgr10&vid=13&hid=10

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9997db8f-4bfc-4897-8b81-d12c5af1c6a0%40sessionmgr10&vid=19&hid=10

http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9997db8f-4bfc-4897-8b81-d12c5af1c6a0%40sessionmgr10&vid=28&hid=10

Lumpkin, G. T., & Dess, G. G. (1996). Clarifying the entrepreneurial orientation construct and linking it to performance. Academy of Management Review, 21, 135-172.

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Visit to the Tate Modern.

Walking through the exhibition Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern in London, we can think that the audience will certainly get closer (or almost) to his works of which they have heard so much about in the press, but I am not sure everyone would be able to understand clearly in this confusing and complex work.

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

This artist is fascinated by death, and he uses real dead animals, insects and other creatures to create pieces of art.

This exhibition was rather disturbing because each piece of art was going over bounderies in terms of the acceptable. Is making art of a dead cow’s head in decomposition phase a good idea? The picture of it is purposely not put on here as I feel a little disturbed by the sight of it.  Is was also disturbing to see the beautiful things that were made out of dead things, for example a beautiful patchwork of butterflies, dead butterflies pined on a frame.

As obvious as it seems, the artist is fascinated by death and its representation. The question that could be asked is, what is the artist’s limit? If in his opinion presenting dead animals to his audience is an acceptable thing, would he go to the point of presenting dead human bodies under the name of art?

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~Business Report~

The opportunity to write a business report was very interesting because from the beginning of the year we were constantly in action. We never really wrote anything down, apart from notes in class, and this was the opportunity to sit down all together and write about the our project six months after it all started.

It was a great occasion to think about the project and take a look at what each team members were thinking about the project. As each of us had different responsibilities during the project, we all had something different to say and to share. We spent an hour talking about the different things we learnt in order to put everything together to write the business report.

It was interesting to see how Juan thought  that the way we faced challenging situations was also important given that we had the opportunity to discuss about the solutions for those situations and choose the most convenient for the project. Compared to Sai, who thought this experience gave her the opportunity to learn how to convert your contacts, friends and other people in your circle as your customers. Ellie liked contributing to different task with people from different back ground. Whereas I discovered that setting up abusiness was entirely possible and feasible as long as be believed in our product and had a strong motivated team.

Networking!

One thing I learnt from this entrepreneurship class is the important of networking. Indeed, I learned that talking to people about our activities was extremely advantageous as it could lead to unexpected surprises.

Indeed, during the bright ideas competitions I had to opportunity to talk about my future business projects with some young entrepreneurs and some of them give me their business card, and their contact in order to keep in touch and maybe help each other. Some had businesses that could help mine, and some where just networking as I was.

I realise how important it was to share we people in the same sector or field as us; putting what Corrine told us in class I tried to do some networking at a few dinners and it gave some really good outcomes. I managed to get some contacts to create some QR logo scanner for the company, and some printing facilities  thanks to Sai’s networking. 

Taking Risks!

Who dares win!

This is what I learnt from the manufacturing process of Handy Cleaning. People who never tried will never know if it was worth fighting for.

During the manufacturing of  HandyCleaning gloves we had a dilemma, we had no back ground in the sector to be able to judge companies’ quality. We had to look for affordable gloves so that we could sell them with some added value later. One big risk for the company was to order a batch of gloves from the Internet even though we had no background in the industry, its competitors and their standards of quality. We ordered 60 pairs of gloves for the first batch from a website that was selling a pair 37p. The price was very attractive however we had the risk of being disappointed by the quality of the product ordered. Luckily enough, the batch arrived within 2 days, and even though one pair or two were faulty the rest of the order was in perfect condition.

As regards risks, the main issue was the quality of products. In order to keep our costs low, we had to make sure our materials were of good quality but also affordable for the company to manufacture. Considering the fact that the product is a cleaning glove, it is going to be constantly in contact with water; therefore we had to find water resistant glue to guaranty good standards of quality. For that purpose we had to try several types of glue until we found one that met our requirements.

Taking risks is a part of every entrepreneurs’ life and being able to take risks on a simple task can help us  gain confidence for bigger decisions. 

 

Advertising.

One of the things I discovered to be a passion of mine was the creation of videos.

For the course purpose we had to create a video about our product that would summarise all the essential points. I really enjoyed doing the video creation for Handy Cleaning and making sure all the points were respected. It was an amateur job considering that  I had no background in video making, but I became really committed to it, and tried to do my best to obtain a good result.

I searched online for a few days to find the best video editing software that was free and easy to use. I first found a good software called Video Masher, but after a week on working on a video project I realised that it was not possible to upload it onto YouTube which basically ruined the project as I had to start it all over again.

This experience showed me that despite difficulties that come in our way, it is important to carry and and not let those difficulties bring me down. There were essential in self-building and everyone has to make mistakes to be able to learn from them.

Here is a link to our YouTube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB7z0XxP4ns

Trade Fairs

Participating in two trade fairs helped us a lot to understand how customers would perceive our product. Indeed, it was important and rewarding for us to see potential customers’ enthusiasm for our product.

For the first fair located in Kingston university, it was our first product launch and it was exciting to see how everyone coming near our stall would give us some good feedbacks and some interesting comments. The second one was in Kingston market hall and although we did not sell as much as we did the first time, we had represents from John Lewis who gave us good feedbacks and were really enthusiastic about our gloves. We realised that it was really important to keep good customers relationship, that we needed to be close to them as they would give us the necessary feedbacks to go forward.

Customer relationship management is knowledge of being able to target, attract and retain good customers and this concept represents a key determinant of business success. Being able to build and develop relationships with customers is a challenge, particularly when the company has thousands of customers who contact it in many ways. To achieve a satisfactory result, systems of Customer Relationship Management will allow business managers better understand their customers to adapt and customize their products or services.

This is what I learnt from participating to trade fairs and interacting with customers.