Hi there, as you probably realize this week’s blog theme is the short introduction to the internship themes. As I will not be doing the full minor program you can expect me to post various stories confronting entrepreneurship theory and practice instead. You can treat them as the engaging anecdotes.
The topic of this week lectures was the institutional perspective on the entrepreneurship. The concept that caught my attention is legitimacy. Namely, how do you make people accept your business idea? Here I mean the people who might support or disturb your plans: investors, chamber of commerce, potential customers, local community etc.
I thought: what business might have problems with convincing the actors to accept their idea. Criminals? Yes, I know. But why would I talk about the legitimacy of an illegal business? Instead, I have talked to one of the founders of a first condom shop in The Netherlands. This shop combines the condom’s sale, erotic art and sexual advice. It is not a sex shop and does not remind one at all. It was founded in 1987 and I expected it to had faced multiple acceptance issues. It is because although the business had a sexual theme it was not hiding from the public.
Surprisingly, the idea had a lot of positive reactions and “only one anonymous death threat”, as the founder mentioned. Why? How? First, the core of the business has a very positive contribution to the society. The philosophy is to stop the spread of the sexual diseases (it all started with AIDS prevention) and to proliferate the awareness and knowledge on sexuality. You can probably recall that it was in the beginning of the 80’s when the first AIDS case was documented and since then the problem begun to increase. Therefore the philosophy behind the condom shop received a broad acceptance.
Secondly, the acceptance was supported by one special stakeholder. Below you can see a diagram of many stakeholders that an entrepreneur might want to convince to accept and support their idea. During one of our lectures the speaker said that an entrepreneur should work on each and every tie. Well, during my talk with the founder of the condom shop a bypass stakeholder was recognized: the media. They are able to manipulate the perceptions globally and to shape the opinions. Here – that is a leverage tool! Of course, the media are hard to predict or control but if you succeed with that, like the condom business did, you might receive a lot of positive attention beginning with the opening day of your business.
In the end, I would like to clarify that a business with such a special theme did have to face the problems linked to the “entrepreneur’s dilemma”: how to fit in, while standing out. Namely, the shop did not fit in any legal classification (condom retail combined with a gallery) and was classified under strict legal requirements that could not be met. It took multiple years until the authorities acknowledged that their demands were irrational and the shop could be finally opened.
This week I received the good news that I was selected for the mini internship at SEEDS for setting up a crowd funding platform. I am really delighted with this news, because this was also my first choice.
The reason why I put SEEDS and the crowd funding challenge as my first choice, is that I’m really interested in the project. Entrepreneurs, small or big, has to be very creative and keen with money and how they set up future companies. Banks do not lend you money that easy no more and, especially for the small entrepreneurs, the risks of investing in ideas that are very innovative and a bit revolutionary are too high for a bank. This proces is very interesting to follow and now that I can work in this sector on this case makes me feel even better!
I think crowd funding is the solution for many problems that starting entrepreneurs nowadays will face. With this platform we can bring entrepreneurs, investors and other related parties together, so there can be a creation of new projects etc. I also think crowd funding makes the step to actually being an entrepreneur smaller and more accessible for young, ambitious people like myself and many others in my environment. So this project also has a social value, it is good for the society when there are developments like this.
Next week we will have an introduction meeting with the operational director from SEEDS. In that meeting we will be informed about the challenge and from that moment I will keep you posted about the daily activities and more!
Have a nice weekend!
It was Thursday evening while I was walking around the Albert Cuypstraat in search of an entrepreneur. Suddenly I spotted a very familiar language I have been missing since I come here – Thai. I walked toward the Thai restaurant and a middle-aged woman came to greet me, welcomed me into her restaurant. She was super nice and friendly and we were talking for two hours. The owner was born in Thailand. She was a designer in England and used to work in an importing field in the Netherlands. She studied a Dutch course and Dutch law in order to have a better understanding of the country.
During the talk, I learned how she applied the concept of the stakeholder map into her business. There are mainly 4 stakeholders discussed here; the owner, the supplier, the employees and the customers. First, as the owner, she run this business in order to fulfill her need in financial stability. She needed money to move her family to live in Amsterdam with her and to take care of them. Second, the restaurant has a long term contract with the supplier. The supplier was an importer of fresh food ingredients from Asian countries. With their long lasting relationship, she was able to get a high quality at a relatively low price. Third, most of her previous employees were Asian people in need such as college students, friends and acquaintances. She lend a hand to help them get up and had enough money to pursue what they want. These people always came back to visit her and brought in new customers even after they left the job. The last point is the customer, which is the heart of the business. She said she wanted to provide the customers with the best quality of food. The materials and ingredients were carefully selected. She and her sister cooked every dishes by themselves to ensure the best quality and taste. She treated everyone nicely and equally whether they were kids, businessmen or celebrity. The owner usually greet the customers with a bright smile and talked leisurely with them. This process of customer intimacy was the key factor that made her business survived and successful in this dynamic and competitive environment.
Getting to talk to the entrepreneur not only help me understand more on institutional perspective and the stakeholder map but also teach me to one important lesson; if you want to be successful, pay attention to every little thing.
As I told you last week already, I’m quite interested in the nature vs. nurture debate in the field of entrepreneurship. So, I decided to pick up this topic for this blog entry.
There are numerous scientific papers that discuss this topic to find the ‘right’ answer or (probably rather) ratio, but what I wanted to focus on in this entry is an exchange of perceptions and thoughts. This is why I scheduled a time and prepared for a conversation with a business network founder to share her ideas as he has worked with many entrepreneurs and is an entrepreneur and entrepreneurial professional herself. However, as things don’t always turn out as you had planned them – probably a situation known to many entrepreneurs out there – the talk was cancelled on very short notice today and I had to find somebody else in the little time remainig. As I’m not the kind of spontaneous person as regards assignments, you can believe me that this was not the most comfortable situation I’ve ever been in 😉
Anyway, so I had a short conversation with an entrepreneur operating in the real estate industry. When asking about his perceived ratio about nature vs. nurture he said, “I guess that is quite balanced out – you will never be a successful entrepreneur without ambitious character traits, nor without the knowledge of how to transform a brilliant idea into something substantial – so I’d call it 50/50.” Abilities, which are innate to him, are enthusiasm, a strong will or even compassion – whereas all other kinds of business skills ought to be learnable.
Even if the interview wasn’t long I was stimulated to some further thoughts: Imagine, you come up with a good idea which can possibly create value when being exploited. However, you’ve never really had “anything” to do with entrepreneurship, except hearing of those extraordinarily successful examples as Bill Gates, etc. Wouldn’t you – out of the admiration and unattainability that is conveyed through media, etc. – be guided to think that it’s more of an innate issue? So, the question I’m asking myself is: Does one’s perception on ‘nature vs. nurture’ in the field of entrepreneurship have an influence on whether one will engage in entrepreneurial activity? Would more education on entrepreneurship (e.g. already in high school) create more value for society as people would discover that it’s something you can (partially) learn and thus be encouraged to exploit opportunities?
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Wikipedia says: “At worst, an exit strategy will save face; at best, an exit strategy will peg a withdrawal to the achievement of an objective worth more than the cost of continued involvement.” In other words, an exit strategy will always be beneficial.
Therefore, with every commitment you make, big or small, it is important to always have a proper exit strategy. What if there was no exit strategy for airplane travellers? What if you were stuck in an elevator for a week? People’s lives could even depend on it. What if you don’t dare to break up a relationship because the lack of an “exit strategy”? What if you were in a spaceship that couldn’t return to our world no more? Once people are taking risks, they should be rational and sensible and take the “worse case scenario” into account.
As a matter of fact, it is exactly the same for (starting) entrepreneurs or business owners. They take a leap by starting their own business and investing time and money in it. Obviously all measures have to be taken to make it work, but what if it doesn’t work out the way they planned it and the business plan fails. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
The other day I had an interview with a woman about this and she told me that her boss didn’t dare to speak with his employees about the fact that the business wasn’t going well. He was too afraid to tell because he had no plan what to do when things went wrong. His employees however felt that something was the matter and they weren’t able to work with the pleasure, accuracy and energy they needed. Things turned out bad for this company, while basically this wouldn’t have been necessary.
Having a “flight plan” therefore, to my opinion, increases confidence in running a business.
We had to talk to an entrepreneur about a topic from one of the lectures this week. Because I was already going out to the chamber of commerce to find entrepreneurs for another assignment where we had to let entrepreneurs fill in a survey I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to also talk about the topic I chose. The topic which really interested me in this week’s lectures was legitimacy. Legitimacy is basically the validity of your company, that the actions of your company are appropriate in our society.
After a lot of failed attempts to get an interview with someone, either because they were in a hurry or just didn’t want too (I guess I was to intimidating), I got talking to someone in a suit with a semi-hipster look. He had his own part-time business next to his fulltime job. His part-time business basically runs Facebook pages and from time to time companies approach him to advertise on these pages. It all started when a friend who had a company asked him to run his Facebook page since he didn’t have enough time himself. Here he saw the opportunity. He really likes running this business and it gives him a little bit of extra cash in his pockets.
After explaining to him what exactly legitimacy was I asked him what kind of role it played in his business. He said that legitimacy was a key role in his company since he needs to get firms approaching him for advertising, if people are in doubt they will most likely back off. He also mentioned that he has to be particularly careful about what exactly he posts and that it doesn’t offend anyone since this is also bad for business. “You need to be accepted,” he said, when you are not accepted by the society you are in you will miss a lot of business. Like we mentioned in the lecture, you need legitimacy to grow. Legitimate companies are the once that are most valued by the public.
See you next week,
Matthijs de Mari
Hey readers of this blog! I got some great news for you, actually for myself, I got accepted at Enactus VU to follow an internship!
Enactus VU is a student association that seeks to create social and economic value to underprivileged groups in the region of Amsterdam by means of social entrepreneurship. During this internship I will be challenged, together with two other classmates, to come up with a business model that forms the basis for a future venture that reduces the amount of unused waste in Amsterdam significantly.
So the challenge is about Circular Economy, one of the most important recent topics among the world. As the European Commission published in their document ‘Manifesto for a Resource Efficient Europe’ (2012), “In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy.” Industrial development during the last two centuries certainly has led to vast economic growth, but through a system that is VERY unsustainable by nature. A small calculation can clarify this: The earth is 4.6 billion years old. Scaling to 46 years we’ve been here 4 hours and our industrial revolution began just 1 minute ago. In that time we’ve destroyed more than 50 percent of the world’s forest! This is NOT sustainable!
Fortunately, more and more people become aware of the amount of waste that we are creating as a society. And so is Enactus! Since a lot of initiatives have already been implemented to reduce the amount of food waste, Enactus particularly challenges us to focus on circular enterprises that aim at non-biological waste (cloths, metal, chemicals, electronics, etc.). I really hope that together we can significantly contribute to the sustainability of our beautiful environment.