In truth, anyone can be an entrepreneur however not everyone can make it as an entrepreneur. All it takes to be an entrepreneur is to have an idea and decide to pursue. Anyone can do it if they so wish. The issue, of course, will be achieving success from such entrepreneurial endeavors. Of course, when I say success, I mean the completion of one’s idea and the ability to turn a profit.
Entrepreneurship comes with its sets of difficulties and challenges (financial, psychological and emotional). And, not everyone is cut out to weather these challenges. It is not an easy path to take, contrary to the hype created by the tech boom.
The journey to turning a profit is not clear-cut and sometimes entrepreneurs do not break even, not even to talk about making profits, for a couple years. It takes a lot of discipline and determination to stick to your ideas when it is not yielding enough money, especially as your bills pile up.
Take, for example, Roxanne Quimby lived in a tent and had to make do with “an abandoned one-room schoolhouse with no heat, running water, windows, or electricity [and] traveled to fair after fair, sleeping in the back of a pickup truck” (p. 91). How many people can do that and keep at it? Not much.
Also, it takes a lot of market research and shoestring budgeting to get from the bootstrapping stage to the investing/expansion stage. It also takes understanding your weakness and soliciting help from professionals while voraciously learning everything one can learn about one’s industry.
Most, importantly, it takes a couple of failures before one becomes a successful entrepreneur. We do not talk a lot about failures when discussing entrepreneurship, but it is as much a part of the journey as success is.
Entrepreneurs must be willing to tell themselves that an idea is no longer viable and willing to listen and accept when mentors and professionals point out that there is not really a market for the product or idea. Yes, the hallmark of entrepreneurship is forging a path where others could not see one, but one must be willing to accept that others were right about the non-marketability of a product.
Only when we allow ourselves to fail can we allow ourselves to get to our success. So again, while everyone can be an entrepreneur, not everyone is cut out to be one.
Chapter 6: Does the for-profit avenue chosen by Eileen O’Brien make sense for Grassroots Business Initiatives, Inc.?
I think the for-profit social entrepreneurship makes a lot of sense for Grassroots. The business model is not a complete 360 degree as Grassroots had developed into a nearly $75 million organization in 2000 by lending money to businesses. It obviously had some interest-earning service in place. The already put in place services was just scaled into a bigger machine: a venture capital fund.
However, there should have been a wall of separation between Grassroots and NCV. O’Brien’s micromanaging, which I inferred, did not help the fund. Foster was brought in for her expertise in the financial industry. The social good mission of Grassroots is not the same as the social good of NCV. Which is evident in the narration about O’Brien’s opposition to Sostenga, Inc. Her reservation that it “could grow without adding people” shows just how much the wall is needed (p. 158). The goal of the fund is to make money at an IRR rate while funding socially good companies. O’Brien needs to allow NCV be what it is meant to be.
Chapter 7: Discuss the process used by Sarah Foster and her partners to bring their medical device to market. How might they have avoided some of the pitfalls they encountered?
The company’s main customers were urologist and medical centers. So, Foster gave the stents away to medical practitioners in order to establish a following and market test the products. Newland Medical Technologies also filed patents and applied for FDA approval. The team also conducted pre-FDA approval trials.
However, when the researchers at New England Medical conducted research on pigs, they found out that the stems would not fit in the ureter and were difficult to place because they had used “an insertion guide that was larger than the standard” (p. 190). Also, they could not get a place that catered to all their manufacturing needs and had to have a supply chain of specialists.
The team seems self-aware enough and actually offered the solution to how they might have avoided the pitfalls they encountered. They should have talked to enough doctors early on. Foster and the team fell into the trap many entrepreneurs fall into: wait till a product is completed before asking the customers what they want and what they need the product to solve. Often times when entrepreneurs delay this part of the process, they often have to go back to fixing the product.
The final pitfall discussed in the book is investor interference. An investment banker they brought on antagonized Taylor Medical Supply (TMS) when he called to let TMS know was pursuing an acquisition. The indiscrete communication caused TMS to stop the test marketing of the SRS. Also, Chris Fallon and Claudia Grimes, late investors, started pushing for changes that would give them a larger return. Honestly, I do not think Foster and the Newland team could prevent or avoid these issues. Investor drama is something one has to prepare for and navigate. The goal of investors is to get the most bang for their buck. Also, humans are unpredictable. No matter how much research you conduct on your prospective investors, you can never tell how the relationship will play out until you are in it.
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