Step T(w)o It!
Alright. So we've found our one or two (or more) ideas. We have our springboard ready. What next?
Step 2: Define Your Idea
Define why you chose these particular ideas out of your initial list. Define what it is that you could do with each of your ideas. Define your dream. Put it down in writing (whatever kind of writing that works for you - I personally prefer the old-fashioned pen-and-paper route).
It is true that "define" is a blanket term for what is a crucial step in the pre-war strategising phase of entrepreneurship. Let me attempt to explain (in brief, hopefully) how my steps one and two went.
I have been enamoured with all creatures great and small from when I was a child. I now chalk it up to too much Animal Planet and Discovery Channel, but a large part of my formative years was dedicated to my own, small version of a green crusade - using fountain pens instead of ballpoint ones (because I felt that I would run through a large number of refills, and God forbid all that plastic go out into the world because of me!), driving my folks - and friends - up the wall, asking them to "please turn the tap off when you're not using the water!", pontificating to my peers about how many square metres of rainforests are "DISAPPEARING off the face of the Earth because of nasty human beings!" and so forth. And I'm thrilled to say I haven't changed. Much. (Okay, at all!)
Now that I think about it, it is probably this interest in all things living that was one of the main reasons my subconscious veered towards biotechnology as my choice of what-to-do-when-I-grow-up, beating out my favourite subject of chemistry. Fancy that!
Another one of my ruling passions was/is books. Books, thick or thin, hardbound or soft, new or old, fiction (no non-fiction, thankyouverymuch): they all held for me the fascination of far-aways and long-agos that I could experience just by turning pages. I still have the rough illustration (alas! art was never my strong suit) of my dream library, and I'm very, very serious about it. (I see you sniggering there :-|)
I have also been a classical dancer for most of my life, and a non-classical one for the rest of it. Music is to me probably what alcohol is to most - a way to get lost in a feeling bigger than oneself, and a means of expressing emotions that normally would be tightly bound within.
I am confident of the backing of a zealous brethren when I confess my love for stationery, and card-making. I had a sneaky little wish to start a greeting card company in my foolish youth (read: early teenage), before the advent of e-cards.
So when the itching in my fingers and toes to "start something of my own" reached fever pitch, my list of ideas was pretty manageable - a library with pizzazz, a greeting card manufacturing company, a something-to-do-with biotech company, or a consultancy. These were the top contenders.
Then Step Two happened.
What did I want to do? No less than save the world, contribute to society, an' ye harm none. Oh, and make decent amounts of money doing it.
What did I want my start-up to become when it grew up? An empire. A conglomerate. A force for good.
Once I had defined the scope of my dreams (limitless), I looked at the flip-side of them.
Would I love to have and run my own library? Yes, of course. Could it become all of the above? Yes, possibly.
Consultancy? Not so much.
Greeting cards? I might not make a living, and my start-up might not survive. Hallmark and Archies exist. (Read, the would-be entrepreneur is not convinced, ergo, not going to fight for it).
Biotech + environment? Hmm.
And I applied the step one logic here:
"Now go through the list, and ask yourself, would you do this if you are pretty sure you would not get paid for doing it for 5 months. Or a year. Would you do it if there was a HUGE problem that you had to sort out for your idea to work?"
I was passionate about the environment. Enough to fight through dark days that might (WILL!) come, enough to love it again after hating it on an off-day.
I knew enough about biotechnology that I could innovate, learn and expand. I knew enough about management principles (or so I believed, wee innocent that I was!) that I could get the hang of navigating through at least the initial first few years, and what I did not know, I could learn. I wanted to learn.
Other points that I wrote down included a superb support system of scientists and engineers that I already had in my family and network, a basic idea of the science of it (I did not know much about printing presses or design software, but I could do a mean T streak and had my labcoat swag down pat).
Kidding aside, this idea made sense to me on both practical and idealistic levels. I was able to define - that word again - the vision, mission and values for my enterprise. I was able to chart out a rudimentary three-year plan. An optimistic five-year plan. And a sky's-the-limit long term plan. The more I wrote, the more sense it made to me. The more research I did about the market for biotech products, the better the chances of financial survival seemed.
And thus, Aeka was born.
If you found the above story to be a quagmire of TMI, allow me to break step two down for you:
- Define the concept: what will your start-up do? Will it provide services? Or make goods? Use the idea list that you have from step one
- Define the scope of your idea: proprietorship? Partnership? Company? Small-scale? Large-scale? Local? Global? Online? Brick-and-mortar? (Some background research would not go amiss.)
- Define the future you envision for your start-up: size, revenue, geographical presence, customer base, market size, product or service range, differentiation - pick as many parameters as you think you need, that work best with your idea(s).
Seem like too much work? Now would be an excellent time to rethink entrepreneurship.
Done with the defining? Onward and upward to step three we go!
[WARNING: I am not an expert in any area, and all views expressed in here are only my opinion, or my take on things based on my experiences, to be remembered if useful, and promptly forgotten if not. This article is NOT meant as a substitute for expert advice in respective domains as required.]