Most people define innovation as a new combination, or simply something new. Try it. Ask your neighbor for his definition and I bet he will say, “something new”. But innovation is more than that. The real definition of innovation demands the element of a product-market match, i.e. innovation needs to satisfy the needs of your market. You can make a new mouse trap that’s shinier, faster, sharper, cooler, and sleeker. But if customers won’t buy it then your innovation is a waste. The world doesn’t always need a better mouse trap.
I’m working on launching the beta version of Twuzzr, my new web startup. It’s essentially going to be a buzz building tool for product-based companies trying to generate pre-launch buzz. The platform will be based on Twitter. Our followers are eligible to win super sweet prizes by simply tweeting about our corporate sponsors and their products. I’m currently working on the content and page design with my business partner. We’d love to hear your feedback!
Follow. Tweet. Win!
The Kauffman Foundation recently published an interesting report on the anatomy of an entrepreneur. Here is a list of its key findings:
- Company founders tend to be middle-aged and well-educated, and did better in high school than in college
- These entrepreneurs tend to come from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds, and were better educated and more entrepreneurial than their parents
- Most entrepreneurs are married and have children
- There is an early interest and propensity to start companies: 52 percent of respondents had some interest in
becoming an entrepreneur when they were in college, but 34.7 percent didn’t even think about it, and 13.3 percent had little or no interest. Those from lower-upper-class backgrounds were more likely to have been extremely interested in starting a business than the average (25 percent vs. 18.5 percent).
- Motivations for becoming entrepreneurs include building wealth, owning a company, startup culture, and capitalizing on a business idea
- Not important or less-important factors: inability to obtain employment or encouragement from others
- Most had significant industry experience when starting their companies
- Early entrepreneurs and those with an early interest in entrepreneurship are different
- 60.3 percent said that working for others did not appeal to them. Responses to this question were relatively evenly distributed in a rough bell curve, with 16 percent of respondents citing this as an extremely important factor and 16.8 percent of respondents citing it as not at all a factor.
The Nielsen Company looked at how today’s uncertain economy is shaping consumer attitudes and behaviors and how marketers can navigate this new landscape to uncover growth opportunities:
“People have come to accept the reality of the economic crisis. What’s really important is how they are changing their priorities and decisions. Consumers are really focusing on the basics. Instead of eating out, they are eating in. They are finding many more ways to save that are different than traditional methods.
“Consumers may be pulling back luxury purchases but they’re not pulling back on the media. They watch more TV than ever. And they are very connected with the media via the Internet and other cool technologies.
“How do you actually achieve clarity in the face of uncertainty. You can’t forget the big trends. They never went away. Consumers are still aging, for example. Since all your competitors can also see those trends, you have to keep innovating.”
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Can’t afford the price tag of a major TV commercial production but want to leverage the power of traditional marketing channels in your marketing plan? Try Google TV Ads. It essentially works like AdWords, except you bid on airtime instead of bidding on search terms.
Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of HP, discusses the difference between leadership and management. Leadership is all about changing the order of things and only leaders can drive change.
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I interviewed Isaac Childs, Founder and Manager of Rustico Leather. His experience is a compelling story that any entrepreneur can learn from.
Isaac, describe your company for me.
Rustico Leather is a Utah-based designer and manufacturer of leather goods. We have 9 employees and average just over a million in annual sales. We are currently in over 600 retail locations across the country ranging from resort town boutiques like the Sundance General store to larger distributing retailers like Barnes and Noble. We also do a lot of custom projects in the entertainment, corporate and promotional industries. Some of these clients have included Disney, Oprah, Philip Morris and many more. We also sell direct to the public through our online website and are constantly providing unique custom leather products for individuals across the country.
Rustico specializes in hand-crafted leather journals, photo albums, binders, presentation covers, pad folios, satchels and accessories. All our products are proudly made here in the USA. All our products are Handmade to order. This allows us to create individuality in each one of our pieces, creating a “one of a kind” type feel to our products. We have our leathers specially designed so that they wear into a beautiful patina with use and age. All our leather and paper is all purchased here in the US. We have roughly 84 great standard products to choose from, and we are constantly creating new and unique custom products for individuals and companies.
Okay, Isaac, let’s dig a bit deeper. What’s the value proposition?
Custom products with very small or no minimums, short lead times and surprisingly affordable prices. They are hand made in the USA. Each product is made to order by skilled artisans ensuring a “bespoke” style of service and product. This increases its value as a keepsake or gift item and is meant to last a lifetime. Our best value is that we work with a company or client to create a product that will not only attract attention to the receiver but also be kept and used for many years to come. All our products can be personalized with names or logos of companies for added effect.
What motivated you to launch Rustico? How did it all begin?
After creating the initial journals and having pretty good success selling them to family, friends and one local shop (Sundance general Store), several friends from college and I launched a website with the intention of selling these online. Shortly afterward, Disney gave us a call to help with a press kit for their upcoming series storm stories. From there we just launched forward, never looking back.
What is the mission and vision for Rustico?
We will be the premier custom leather goods maker. Ideally, we would like everyone in America to carry or have a Rustico Leather journal sitting on their desktop, bookcase or nightstand. We want people to turn to us for high end custom projects that require great quality and workmanship.
What would you say is an entrepreneur’s greatest or most valuable resource?
Passion. Passion for the plan, product, vision or business model is probably the most important resource an entrepreneur can have. Next would be a great mentor. Unguided passion can spell disaster pretty quick.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I faced would probably be learning how to manage people effectively. I am not sure if I have overcome this completely but I have read a lot of books, watched others that I felt where great managers, picked their brains for info, gone to trainings and hired others that have more experience than I do.
What motivates you to overcome your challenge with managing people? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My inspiration comes when I travel. I’m able to get a breath of fresh air and then come back and dive back into the thick of it even stronger. I really love what I do. I honestly can’t think of another thing I’d rather be doing. When the challenges seem to come in waves I just have to remember that perspective and then I’m good to keep moving forward.
What role has innovation played in the development of Rustico?
Every project we do is a variation of something we’ve already done–continuous innovations. Many of our products have been developed due to problems that needed to be solved or a necessity that required some smart solution. So in that regard, innovation is very key. While many of our products are based off old world standards (i.e. leather, paper, handstitching) being able to create and produce such labor intensive and raw products in a larger scale and affordable takes 21st century planning and ingenuity. Without constant innovation and reinvention of our products and processes we would not be competitive.
What do you wish you had known before launching Rustico? Any regrets?
I wish I had a better understanding of forecasting and knowing what to look for in a balance sheet or P&L in order to see what is happening with the business. At the same time, had I known everything I know now, I’m am not sure if we would have continued moving forward; my naivety pushed me to move forward when conventional training would have told me to stop.
Got any advice for rookie entrepreneurs?
Be passionate about your idea. Remember, bigger is not always better. Develop a process. Have a healthy tolerance for the unknown. Constantly be ready to change. Improve. Innovate.