Reflective essay

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your business won’t be either.” (Gerber, 2009)

Design a business was one of the most interesting, practical and at the same time challenging module during my academic year in Kingston Busines School. It is an elective module, when I had a dilemma what to choose as my optional subjects where I was curious and not really awared of what Design thinking exactly is and gave it a try. My pathway of International Business Management MS’c is Entrepreneurship and I can say without missing a beat that this elective course I found the most useful and efficient for my future entrepreneurial activity than many other obligatory modules. I got a freedom to create something in a safe environment of the university in real, to run a business in practice, learn how to be a team-player, pitch, face obstacles, failures, mistakes which I would face after graduation. Looking back and analyzing the done work throught the year I would like to cover several critical topics reflecting lessons I learned.

What is design thinking?

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 First of all, searching the definition what is the term “design thinking”? According to Roger Martin a follower of design thinking in modern corporations it is explained as follows “design-thinking company applies to the designer’s most critical tool to the difficulties of the business or enterprise. That tool is abductive reasoning” (Martin, 2009). In the end on 19th century American philosophers John Dewey and Charles Pierce tried to examine the restrictions of formal types of logic: deductive and inductive ones. They claimed that a person can gain understanding only through their own experience, later on appeared a term “abductive logic” which is a new idea of “logical leap of the mind” (Pierce, 1992). This form of reasoning has an objective not to declare a conclusion to be true or false. Integrating abduction as the equivalent of deduction and induction represents an interest for any “business that wants to prosper from design thinking, and every person who wants to be a design thinker” (Martin, 2009). My personal understanding of design thinker is a person who has an open mind, willingness to learn, explore, cross the boundaries of his/her mind cage, full of ideas and able to listen, listen to his/her own team because design thinking mostly take place in groups.

Secondly, the first step of the design process is usually about defining which constraints are important and aiming to to assess them. Constraints can be vizualized in terms of three corresponding principles for a successful idea: feasibility, viability and desirability. Professional designer may resolve this obstacles but a designer thinker will bring them into a harmonious balance in a creative way (Brown and Katz, 2009). It occurs since design thinkers can turn their reasoning from a problem to project.

 Project

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 The project is a train, which brings an idea from theory to reality. Such project experience I had during this module was a chance to create an innovative product and try to run a business from a scratch. After long brainstorming sessions and sharing interests my team came up with an idea to create something for travellers, something what would make their life easie and simpler. First, it was bag, which makes skateboard or longboard more transportable, then socks for feet massage and even special boxes for tissues, but it was not exactly what everyone in the team wanted. Suddenly fli. was born. Now our company calls Detour and we are in the beginning of our business journey. We had several prototyping sessions improving and working on the future product development. It taught me that you have to have willingness to be patient towards achieveng success. Thus, fli. undergone several important changes, especially after the first trade fair, based on the feedback of the customers we realized gaps which inevitably were supposed to be fixed mostly from technical point of view. Though it were things to improve during trade fairs everyone was willing to try and to have their own unique experience of a queer device which many people wore sitting comfortably in the chair.

 Fli.

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 About product itself. fli. a unique hand-made resting device for any purpose: when you need your private space, noisy neighbours, annoying long flight, trip by train. Why did we choose it? Because we all share one passion — travelling. It combines light proof and sound proof features, wraping head softly with an option plague your own ear phones inside and enjoy your favourite music. When it comes to music when we had our first prototype our gear reminded me of Daft Punk helmet, the same futuristic design would be cool to have them advertising fli. some day.

During the year Detour and fli. had to face many events such as: several trade fairs, rehearsal and real Dragon’s Den with pitching in front of 16 judges, start-up weekends, winning the main prize of 1000 pounds on the Bright Ideas’15 competition, getting an award for the Best Display stand from Young Enterprise and the biggest luck to win an opportunity to go to Manchester and represent Kingston University for YE on 13th of May. Shine of glory is pleasant but running a business in practice made me realize that you devote most of your time to it and meetings lasting for 7 hours do not seem too long anymore! Most of our time we spend on Podio – special tool for small company collaboration between team members, now it is impossible to imagine existence of DEtour without using it.

 Team

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 I believe that success of fli. belongs to our team, smart skilled team is the crucial ingredient for the prosperous future business (Frisch, 2011). Being an introvert, I began my work experience from seeking some job vacancy where I can avoid much communication, team working, something where i could make my own hours. For that moment I didn’t know how limited in the potential to grow personally and in business meaning i will be on my own. Though for results team should be comfortable place to stay in, with honest and respectful communication allowing working independently. Teamwork is actually a key for creative power of the business and there are several favourite qoutes for team inspiration one of them is of Kenneth Blanchard: “None of us is smart as all of us”.

Since I came from a business background I took responsibility of finance part of our start-up. It was very useful experience for me taking into account that when you build cash flow or a break-even point yourself and when you read a theory about it its totally different things as well as exploring Young enterprise software and opening a new business bank account. Apart from finance we had a requirement to produce a business report reflecting all parts of the business such as: marketing, financial performance, sales, findings and future plans. I have a feeling that for startup business writing a business plan is the same as to write a game plan in sports to create a winning strategy for the game. A business plan for the young enterprise lays all the cards on the table revealing strong and weak spots. It demonstrates the ways to capitalize on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. It is important to realize the financial position and consider all operational and other matters as follows: business objectives, strategy, ways to attract funds, market analysis, what is the order winner of our product, marketing plan, break-even analysis and advertisement. There is a saying «There is no second chance to make a good first impression»(H.Hogan) which is highly relevant for the business plans for startups.

 Finance department

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 The main sources of cash in our team were prizes we won during the year and our capital investments with a fixed amount agreed by team. The main difficulty was that the product was produced and manufactured in the UK, producing abroad for instance in Asian region would decrease our costs dramatically but even now with the selling price of flI. at £24 where profit margin is calculated to be £8.7 equal to 36.2% whereas costs including manufacturing service are 11.3. Taking into consideration that fli. is mass-market oriented product such profit margin is pretty high.

There are two main things investors pay attention before signing a cheque: right team and potential profitability of the business to make sure they will have a high return on investments and smart team in case of failure to carry on with something new (Osnabrugge and Robinson, 2004).

One more important issue from financial point of view was decision to start a crowdfunding campaign and Kickstarter was singled out for this purpose. After modest calculation to start a mass production based on the current costs producing in the UK we need 25 000 pounds excluding our salaries. Nonetheless, it is necessary to build a base of followers using a strong marketing campaign to get enough followers/ fans on Kickstarter.

Conclusion

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 Once we had a lecture dedicated to storytelling. And key message of our guest lecturer Rob Grundel was: it is all about emotions. You are able to build an emotional connection with a customer only if you yourself passionate about it, telling them your unique story through your brand.

Furthermore, I really enjoy reading quotes of Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, who is a great entrepreneur himself and provided dozens of remarkable inspiring statements. He said: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” The worst thing you can do launching the product is to confuse people, customers, investors, followers. We also try to keep it simple, be transparent and honest, be ourselves and look forward to build a modern company based on our passion, talents and friendship.

References

Brown, T. and Katz, B. (2009). Change by design. New York: Harper Business.

Fitzpatrick, R. (2013). The Mom test: How to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you.

Gerber, S. (2009). 6 Steps to the Perfect Pitch. [online] Entrepreneur. Available at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/201826 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].

Goodreads, (2015). a quote by Kenneth H. Blanchard. [online] Available at: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/56863-none-of-us-is-as-smart-as-all-of-us [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

Martin, R. (2009). The design of business. Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage?. Harvard.

Newlands, M. (2014). 5 Things Investors Want to Know Before Signing a Check. [online] Entrepreneur. Available at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234536 [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

Pierce, C. (1992). Reasoning and the logic of things. Harvard.

Preston, J. (2015). 10 inspirational Richard Branson quotes — Virgin.com. [online] Virgin.com. Available at: http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/10-inspirational-richard-branson-quotes [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

Frisch, B. (2011). Harvard business review on building teams.

Osnabrugge, M. and Robinson, R. (2004). Angel investing: Matching start up funds with start up companies : The guide for entrepreneurs.

Online:

Fli. advertisment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggmr_gDJZms

Rob Fitzpatrick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_xjb7LB7VY

10 inspirational Richard Branson quotes http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/10-inspirational-richard-branson-quotes

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Hello Manchester!

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Currently DEtour team actively preparing for a significant event for us — UK competition under Young Enterprise in Manchester in May. There are two main trophies we can get: 1) cash prize of 15000 pounds and 2) opportunity to go to Lisbon in Portugal for a European competition.

This time judging criterias differ from ones we needed to meet during academic year. This time it should be as close as possible to the business plan with more detailed information and financial forecast for three years.  For better results, we were provided two coaches who will grill us with tips, questions, rehearsal sessions to make sure we are handling well. It has to be said that to Manchester is going another team from the university a BeBra girls. They did a great work with their product and preparation, quite interesting presentation! I really liked it, but my main concern that how come it was chosen product where women shall keep their gadgets next to the chest, from cancer awareness point of view it is not healthy at all. Furthermore, in the beginning of the year we had a #knowyourlemons campaign, my very first post was about it, dedicated to breast cancer. Anyway, I want to wish luck to the girls, maybe I am overthinking this issue.

To my mind, main strength of Fli. is its team =) We do have meetings lasting for more than 7 hours quite often during the week, but when you work on something you really passionate about time flies, you dont feel you really work anymore, you do what you love. And it is the main thing every entrepreneur heading to. Now back to work…

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Final Dragon’s Den.

Trying to combine simalteneous assignments deadlines, business report, advert and other fuss we didnt have enough time to prepare our presentation in advance though this day was very important for us. We started our day in early morning after sleepless night in the library and came up with an idea to integrate a role play for our presentation. Felix was our pilot inviting to a journey on a lowcost airline, me and Irene were flight attendants demonstrating how to use fli. during the flight adjusting the standard words for safety measures to fli.After a short role play we cam back to ourselves and explained more detailed what the fli. is and why we believe in it.

We passed first round and appeared among finalists, the last stage was to pitch in front of big audience including 16 judges we were all stressed hoping to to win. The prize for the winning team was an opportunity to represent a Young Enterprise for Kingston University in Manchester on the competition with other UK universities. After tormented of waiting we were sitting on the floor, extremely tired, waiting for the names of final team and finally one of the judges came with a happy news that fli. is going to Manchester!

In the end when I look back I remember how much efforts we all put in our treasure. And all this competitions, events and etc. gone successfully just because of our passion, creativity, skills and of course friendship. I am very happy that i knew one day my guys and had chance to become entrepreneur in the safe environment of the university while studying. And I want to tell you something…

…fly with fli. and your journey will never be the same.

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AD

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It was required to prepare a 60-sec video advert for fli. which also was attached to the business report. After long brainstorming and different wild ideas we decided that for 60 sec it is uneasy to explain what our product is since its innovative creature. We chose storyboard where in the beginning the problem is framed (noise, irritating sounds, crying baby, stressful environment) and when the passenger (our classmate Riccardo) almost blacked out because of the stress fli. is appearing as some salvation, and he start to skip various kinds of music and ends up with an ambient silence and smiling happy face because he finally found his personal space of calmness.A big big thanks from our team to TOGADA company which belongs to Riccardo with profs especially Carbo who filmed our video.

Michelle was our talented animator, who  edited the video. Firstly, we filmed our actor and then mixed real video with illustrations. This manoeuvre was chosen to reflect what was reality and what was imagination of the character. After some Cannes festival with our classmates and Corrine we got few interesting feedbacks and ideas how to make it more catchy and easier to understand for people who dont know back story of fli.

I am a cinemaholic myself and process of filming was so interesting for me, that now I am considering to get another  Master degree in Cinematography =))

Here you can enjoy our fli. ad.

Business report.

Group business report with a final presentation is one of our main assessment for the Designing a business module. This business report was supposed to be a conclusion of executed work throughout the academic year.

Some time ago Irene suggested  to use a convenient tool for a team collaboration regarding our product — Podio. This is a quite useful application where you can create projects, tasks, share pictures, comments, set the deadline and see how the process goes, in one word, puts everything in order and makes working life much easier. I would highly recommend it for the teams of entrepreneurs and cant continue my blogs without mentioning this tool where now DEtour spends lots of time.

Back on topic, first of all we decided to share roles for the Business report according to ours specialization. Since i perform as a Finance Director of the start-up I was in charge of Financial analysis including:

  • pricing strategy
  • cash flow
  • balance sheet
  • profit&loss account
  • business model canvas and
  • crowdfunding request calculations
  • break-even point

Most of the financial activity was supposed to be done through Young Enterprise programme which appeared to be pretty easy and convenient to track our  inflow and outflow. We had a financial session with Fazzl in advance to make sure we are on the right track. It was very useful experience for me since when you build cash flow or a break-even point yourself and when you read a theory about it its totally different things, I found it very practical for my education in business management. Nonetheless, the whole team was participating in creation of the business report, we all corrected and worked on it conjointly. For instance, sales and crowdfunding crossed with the parts of marketing so we tried our best to apply our skills and knowledge to make a professional business report for Fli. It had following chapters: 1) teaser 2) the product (frame the problem and find the solution) 3) marketing & branding 4) financial analysis 5) findings/ lessons learnt and 6) future .

Additionally, we have an amazing designer Irene who made layout and report design look top-notch!

As future plan we consider to prepare a more elaborated business plan for potential investors/ partners, its also good to summmarize our done work.

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YE Trade Fair

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It was freezing, windy, the worst weather ever for the outdoor trade fair but we handled it by dancing to oriental beats from Palestinian society as you can see above!

Without jokes, as any trade fair this one also required lots of work to be done, we were looking forward to win, to sell fli. and test the water and to see how it goes. Our sales speak for us, we sold all devices we brought for the trade fair. And I call this  success. Even in such inappropriate weather, in student campus not in a travel shop fli. found its fans among students and our classmates.In order to produce 10 devices for the trade fair, we spent all weekend preparing product for the taylor, stitching, cutting, glueing and etc. Since spending so much time together we all became good friends in the team its a pleasure to work with each other and to see fruitful results.

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Our team is famous for no ordinary approach whatever it is: presentation, pitch, stand. This time we again met the expectations and decided to build a wooden stand with fluffy clouds hanging freely, glass heads which we used before for the first trade fair in Business School, suitcase next to the stand and our bento-box packaging which attracted people to know whats inside this japanese style pillow. Thus, we won an award from the Young Enterprise for the best display stand

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while guys from TOUCH got Best overall award. I really would like congratulate them and wish all the best with their comfy gloves, which new design  with the sign Mind the Gap is adorable!

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Bright Ideas’15. We are the champions

Bright Ideas event is conducted in Kingston University every year to support young start-ups. After intense battling finalists from 7 different universities across London the most innovative team gets 1000 pound prize. Fli. won it. DEtour won it. We did it. I remember this remarkable moment when we heard our names.

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Workshop for KU start-up weekend was definitely one of the most useful thing for such forthcoming event as Bright Ideas competition. We had a chance to demonstrate our product to the judges, get practical feedbacks, get opinions from other participants of the workshop, build a business model canvas and chance to be well prepared for the event. The workshop helped me with the personal development since I had to pitch so many times and to so many different people that presentations and pitches stopped frighten me!

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Shine of glory is pleasant but running a business in practice made me realize that you devote most of your time to it and meetings lasting for 7 hours do not seem too long anymore! It has to be said that Bright Ideas gave us just more enthusiasm for further work and product development. Thanks for the support of the other teams and classmates and friends who were supporting and believing in our team!

The very next step of the spending prize is to register the design of Fli. and visit Cleveland patent company to find the best solution how to protect our intellectual property.

Trigger KU Start-UP Weekend

This Friday and weekend I will have an opportunity to go to my first Start-UP event. it will consist of three parts: Friday is about networking, brainstorming, Saturday dedicated to business plans and business models and Sunday is for pitching ideas.

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The event is located in Kingston Lodge Hotel in one room full of smart and talented people. Friday networking brought us lots of practical tips and recommendations regarding challenging issues with a product. Mainly it were problems with design, distribution and marketing. I found useful suggestion to consider luggage shops as a perfect place to distribute the product besides airport stores, tips about copyrights and also problems with sticky back part of the resting device, possibility to wash it along with colors inside and out how to make it suitable and practical even more. It was given 30 minutes to build as many contacts as you can, it was frenzy, but so useful!

What i got from the first day? New acquaintances, inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs and contacts/ insights.

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15/01/15. First trade fair

The time flies and I even didn’t realize how fast Trade fair sneaked in our schedule. The time of all work and no play. We had a general meeting to discuss all preparation for this important event, shared duties, prepared the device X which was about to introduce to the world.  Our team was quite excited about participation in a trade fair as for me I knew that I can promise and even guarantee the lucky owner of our resting device will feel much more relieved on the board compare to the previous flights.  We are still working on our design, distributions issues, marketing and the most vital part was to get feedbacks, recommendations and possibly fruitful contacts to establish working relations.

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All participants were well prepared and each of them had some competitive edge: well-designed mount, friendly and close-knit team, interesting samples to try. Our idea was to dedicate the stand to traveling with  toy planes, images of attractive landscapes, all designed was linked with flights and journeys. Lots of work was done, we prepared forms for customer survey, fixed two glass heads displaying our devices, printed out brochures with the logo and…it started to get crowded around.

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Fli got so much interest from fair attendants, everybody was willing to try it on to have an impression, to feel themselves is it a personal space of calm indeed? Three hours of fair passed so fast.

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We proved that it is possible to have your personal space of calmness on the economy class with a screaming baby on the board, with snoring neighbour and light from someone reading nearby. Fli is 3 in 1, sound-light-proof and works as a pillow as well. Raised interest from the audience gifted to me a feeling that we should move further, participate in trade fairs in Central London introduce Fli more and more and more. Our mentors gave us few practical recommendations and also positive insights. At the end DEtour team got «Best overall» award. And its the best motivation to work harder.

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2014/15

At the end of the year and the end of the first term i came to conclusion that the day when i decided to go to study in the UK was blessed. New friends, new experience, new impressions,  new educational system had influenced me, my mind, my perceptions. When it comes to this particular module I am extremely excited about launching our product, running our business and see the results of this campaign at the end of academic year. We have all the potential to make our stylish modern resting device outstanding and outperform the competitors due to uniqueness of our product. It’s not a pillow,  it’s not a mask, it’s not a headphones it is a set of all these things all together which allows to have a flight as convenient as possible. I have a competent and talented team of young professionals to make it come true: Irene, Felix, Sam and Michele. Taking into consideration all the comments we have got from the Dragon’s Den and our module leader Corrine, lots of work is about to come in the semester 2, it will be time of actions not planning and dreaming. I would like to wish everybody Happy New Year and Merry Christmas! Cheers!

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