This article was written by Ed Hatton for the column the Start up Coach and published by the South African edition of Entrepreneur magazine in February 2013 and is posted here by their kind permission.
Capitalising on strengths and overcoming problems are essential entrepreneurial abilities
This entrepreneur-to-be has identified her major strengths and weaknesses. She then asks for advice about a significant weakness. This is smart thinking. All too often would-be entrepreneurs simply dive into their dreams without evaluating their talents and skills and then become frustrated when they cannot get start up finance, or attract customers because they lack a vital skill or simply do not understand the complexities of the business they wish to enter.
In this case her strengths of having an eye for trends and understanding the manufacturing process are significant advantages in a business where being the first with a trend is a huge competitive advantage. She worries about her inability to get her ideas on paper, and correctly so. If she cannot overcome this weakness then all the talent for spotting trends cannot be turned into saleable garments.
Many people I talk to have a dream of having a business in a field they are passionate about, but never venture into a start up because they have identified a weakness or threat which seems insurmountable. This is sad because many of those dreams could be realised by finding ways around the obstacle, and learning to overcome obstacles is a crucial skill for entrepreneurs.
This entrepreneur needs to think creatively about how to overcome this problem, or she risks falling into the same trap and never realising her dream. The most obvious solution is to learn to sketch and draw, on paper or electronically but there are a few other avenues she could try. She could outsource the drawings to a skilled clothing designer who did not have his or her own products or she could find a way to bypass the drawing stage altogether engage directly with seamstresses who can translate her ideas into products. She should look at the latest computer design tools, but something as simple as a mind map may be enough to convey her vision to those who could translate it into products.
She should also consider her business model, because it has a direct impact on this problem; will it be a boutique, an online catalogue, a manufacturer? For instance if she really wants a fashion boutique she may be able to use her talent of spotting trends to buy from like minded designers, and so eliminate the problem. Or she may be able to partner with a technically skilled designer who lacks her flair for trends.
If she plans to sell a dozen exclusive creations a month she could work directly with skilled individuals to tailor make her ideas. But if she wishes to have thousands of women wearing her brand she will need to employ designers and production people who can accurately translate her visions. She would have little time to do the technical work because she would have to market the products and manage a substantial business. As with all start up entrepreneurs she needs to identify what she really wants – recognition, wealth, growth, freedom, a reasonable income, power, trend setting, leadership, innovation, change or fame are only some of the possibilities. This should be done in the early stages of planning so that the business grows towards satisfying that want. There is no sense in leaving one mundane job to set up an enterprise which is equally unfulfilling, even though it makes money.
And finally she needs to look at the practicalities. How much capital will she need and where will it come from? Who will buy the garments and how will they know about them? Where will they be made and sold? She needs to find answers to these and other basic questions. The all she needs to do is to plan well and then make her dream a reality, and I hope she does.
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