Business Startup - 6 Tips
This is a quick blog not on the Pizza-Porta product, but on the process of launching a business. Many people ask me about the thrill of going from idea to product to distribution. It is the coolest job in the world. right? Not a cubicle for miles. Meet new people. Cook at fun events. Trade pizza for beer! For those who are thinking about doing something like this, I offer the following advice:
You need Product Passion - You are going to have to love your product for a couple of reasons. First, you are going to doubt yourself and the product over and over, and over. Second, some people are going to tell you that your baby is ugly - to your face! Third, you are going to need to demonstrate your product a lot. You need thick enough skin to gently defend your idea, but not so thick that you don't listen for feedback - when it is good.
Find a "Go" signal - I have invented a number of "fantastic products" in my career. Most of them are thankfully still in a notebook and did not get an investment. I am a lean entrepreneurship consultant and advocate. In this practice you spend as little as possible to find out as much as possible as fast as possible (I should trademark that maybe). Drawing pictures, creating brochures, and using look-alike products to gain an understanding of what your consumer wants are all really cheap methods to get feedback. Keep testing/refining your product concepts until your consumers give you a real "go signal". Make this hurdle high - collect deposits, get down-payments. For example: If someone hands you cash it is pretty much a "go". If they tell you your idea is awesome - they could just be polite. (working with Moves The Needle taught me well)
Listen, but do it carefully. You want to gain insights into how your product concept fits into the life of your consumer. Don't forget, though, that not everyone you speak to is a target customer. You need to make sure that your are crystal clear on what type of customer you are targeting, and speak to them. I received a lot of feedback that was completely misplaced because the person I was speaking with wanted to help me, but did not understand backyard pizza.
Don't polish it too much. Until your product is purchased for full price and put to use by a consumer that you did not personally sell, you really don't know how it is going to go. As soon as you have something you can put in the market, Go! All the study and second guessing and design iterations just cost you money beyond that point. Get your product good (not perfect) and go. Then work on improvements based on real market feedback.
Figure it out-ness. The fantastic part about being an entrepreneur is that you have new challenges each day. The brutal part about being and entrepreneur is that you have new challenges each day. You are going to have to be very versatile. How do you do accounting? What if someone wants to ship a pallet? What happens if your website dies? What do you do when a competitor launches a knock off? You don't have to make everything up every day, but be prepared for some creative problem solving on the fly.
Love life. Don't forget to enjoy the ride. Thankfully people remind me of this at shows all the time. "Wow, you have the coolest job!", "Wait, you get to drink beer and make pizza at your job". "That is a cool invention". It is easy to get bogged down in accounts receivable and lose track of how extremely lucky you are!
I hope this is a helpful list. I am grateful to all those folks who did favors, cut deals, took a risk on me, or offered feedback along the way. Let me know if I can pay it forward to you - send me an email.