Dear Future self,
From a young age I have always wanted to start my own business, how, what and when I did not know about. The day I was asked during my GSCE interview I told them I wanted to start my own business and that was the reason why I had chosen the three subjects; business studies, textiles and ART.
While completing my undergraduate degree I was then sure I wanted to start my own business within the fashion industry. As part of my business start-up module I even created some product samples, which made me realised I can do this! I wanted to combine my Balochi culture with modern fusion wear clothing for women. With the use of handmade traditional Balochi attire to modern wear.
I was and I am still motivated about my business idea. Once I completed my undergraduate course, I was not sure if I wanted to do masters but after a year gap, I decided I wanted to do masters at Kingston University. The reason to why I decided to do masters than to work on my own start up business was because I felt I needed more knowledge on how a business works and the innovation side of it.
The lessons that I have learnt in the Design Thinking for Start-up module will be always remembered and relevant for me to use always. For this module we had to redesign a product or service that solved a problem. However, instead of redesigning a product or a service that was solving a problem, we were creating a problem itself. We had many ideas of products as a group and individually that we had thought of but they did not meet the requirements of the module or any market need.
One of our ideas was a student planner, we wanted to create a student planner mainly based for Kingston University students. In order for us to create a student planner we needed to do some market research and find what are the needs that a planner would fulfil for students. We realised that everyone that owned a student planner had all kinds of different student planners. This made it quite tricky for us to solve as well as we were not fully happy with our idea of a student planner as it did not make us excited about our student planner idea. We decided we wanted a different idea but we were struggling a lot. As we knew a student planner was not the best idea we could think of as many people are already using a planner. We needed to redesign a product or service that met a need and a student planner was not what we wanted.
In the design thinking classes we were given different resources, activities and many other things to help us out with finding something to redesign and also help us as a team to work together as well as to get to know each other to begin with. In the classes we used different types worksheets to help us, they were very important to businesses or anyone starting up a business. The business canvas, lean canvas and empathy map were all very useful in their own ways in which I will write about in more detail.
Figure 1 Empathy Map Canvas (Brown,2020)
The empathy map was very interesting to me, the reason for this was because of the task that was given to us in class. The task that was set had three different roles which we had to work in groups of three. My role was being the robot, which meant I was only told what to say or do, and without being told what to say or do I was not meant to talk or take any action without being instructed. The other two roles were a mute person and a visually impaired person. This meant that the mute person could not speak but they only could see and hear where as on the other hand the visually impaired person could not see but could speak and hear too. This task was quite tricky to begin with however, the aim of this task was for the three roles we had a group to take a journey to the toilet and back to the class. As the simple as the task sounded it was not for example; when I felt I needed to talk to give directions I could not as well as the visually impaired person felt unsafe as they could not see anything. We had used the empathy map after the task and we found it very interesting, the reason for this was the empathy map was to simply visually capture knowledge about a user’s behaviours and attitudes. It is a useful tool to help teams better understand their users. This exercise is to create a solution that requires good understanding of the problem and the person that is experiencing it (Brown,2020).
Figure 2 Business Model Canvas (Enterprising Oxford,2020)
Business Model Canvas
The business model canvas was created by Alex Osterwalder, and within the business canvas model there are 9 areas to fill in. These 9 areas that are included are as follows; customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships and the costs. The business model canvas will help in many ways, it will lead to insights about the customers you serve, what value propositions are offered through the what channels, and how your company makes money. The canvas can also be used to understand your own business model or that of a competitor (Business Model,2020). This business model canvas really helped us as a team, while we were struggling with our student planner idea, we were then able to create a new an idea which was then our official and final idea the card game It’s Not Just a Game.
The lean canvas was created by Ash Maurya, and it was adapted from the business model canvas that was created by Alex Osterwalder. Using a lean canvas is less time consuming compared to creating a business plan which I have in the past in my previous university. We had used lean canvas a team for many of our ideas and it had helped us to improve our ideas too especially our final idea the card game. The lean canvas uses the same 9 blocks of area like the business model canvas however, they have been adapted slightly to suit the needs/ purposes/ requirements of a Lean Start up. The Lean Canvas is a single page document to help brainstorm possible business models, the 9 blocks guide you through steps staring with your customer problems right through to your unfair advantage (Mullen,2016).
Three of these documents, the empathy map, the business model canvas and the lean canvas had been very useful not just for us as a team but also for me. The reason for this is because as I have mentioned before that I want to start my own fashion business; I would apply these canvases models and the empathy map to gain a better insight of my business and users too. This learning has been great and very useful knowledge will be remembered and applied for my business or will be shared with anyone else who is thinking of starting up a business.
First Dragons’ Den
During our first Dragons’ Den every team had presented in front of other groups as well as in front of the judges who then at the end asked questions and gave comments. One of the things I learnt from working as a team that they are there to help you and to support you. I personally felt nervous when we were practicing over and over again, I thought it may not work out for me. There was a time when I needed a break as I could not think properly and felt really nervous so I had stepped out of the room we were practicing. The good thing about my team that day was that they understood me and just told me it is okay and we are a team and I do not need to worry. When we had finished presenting, I had realised that practice does make perfect and not matter how many words or sentences you miss out only you would know not your audience, as long as you don’t show your nervousness. This is something I have learnt that as long you have practiced your speech or presentation you would not feel nervous or forget your main aim of the speech.
During our first trade fair at Kingston Business School, I learnt that time must be used wisely. Even though we did feel that we were using our time wisely as our card game had a name called It’s Not Just a Game and we knew the aim of the game but we just needed to final the design of the game. We spent most of our time on creating the perfect design than we did with the content and spent time choosing the colours of the cards. This was quite tricky because we needed to use a design and have colours that would be suitable for our target audience which we were still struggling at with stage a little. However, we had a prototype ready for the first trade fair and we received good comments about our game and people who came to our trade stand did not leave without playing the game and found it interesting too. We also won best product on that day too which as a great achievement however, we were told our branding was not good due to the canvas aisles we had used and the scrabbled letters confused the people in the trade fair.
When we had our second trade fair at Kingston Eden Walk, we made sure we used the feedback we received about our branding especially in order to improve our stand. However, this time we did not win the best product but we did win the best sales team and came third for best trade stand. This had shown the improvement we had made as a team. I personally learnt on this day that standing around does not help you need to talk to new people in order to get responses for your product and engage with people and who knows they may become your customers.
The great achievements which we had made as a group from the trade fairs, the Bright Ideas competition where we came second runner up with £250 and being selected for national competition was a great a motivation for us. It felt so unreal but we knew we could do this if we work together and work hard as nothing is impossible. This was not possible without the help and support of our lecturer, business mentors and the feedback we received from our classmates and potential customers too. One key lesson I have learnt is that in future it is important to know the target audience as well as to know if there is a market need for the product or service in order to meet the customers’ needs.
This experience of the real world has helped me a lot and will help in future too when starting up my own business in the fashion industry. From creating an idea to making it a real life product the whole journey as amazing and with the help of my team I was able to become a better and more confident speaker whether it was in front or judges or potential customers in trade fairs.
Link to my blogs: https://wealwayslearn247.wordpress.com
Business Models Inc. 2020. The Business Model Canvas: Tool To Help You Understand A Business Model. [online] Available at: <https://www.businessmodelsinc.com/about-bmi/tools/business-model-canvas/> [Accessed 9 May 2020].
Eship.ox.ac.uk. 2020. Business Model Canvas Explained | Enterprising Oxford. [online] Available at: <https://eship.ox.ac.uk/business-model-canvas-explained/> [Accessed 9 May 2020].
Leigh Brown, J., 2020. Empathy Mapping: A Guide To Getting Inside A User’s Head | UX Booth. [online] Uxbooth.com. Available at: <https://www.uxbooth.com/articles/empathy-mapping-a-guide-to-getting-inside-a-users-head/> [Accessed 9 May 2020].
Mullen, S., 2016. An Introduction To Lean Canvas. [online] Medium. Available at: <https://medium.com/@steve_mullen/an-introduction-to-lean-canvas-5c17c469d3e0> [Accessed 9 May 2020].