By: Mark A. Gagnon, Editor in Chief
You and your friend have discovered an idea for what you think is an exciting and promising business. Your discovery wasn’t in your parents’ garage like Wozniacki and Jobs or in your dorm room like Mark Zuckerberg and cohorts. However, you’re both just as excited, and perhaps stumped and overwhelmed at how to pursue this opportunity in front of you. All sorts of questions arise about what may be needed to bring the business idea to fruition. Should we write a business plan? What about setting up an LLC? How do we approach prospective customers? Where can we find money?
Indeed, the “to-do” list for an entrepreneur starting a business is daunting. However, you’re off to a great start by participating in the SAGE entrepreneurship module. This module provides 12 essential skills that you can engage with and practice to better prepare for your entrepreneurial journey. Our expert contributors will take you along the journey, from starting to think and see as an entrepreneur to learning the essential mechanics and best practices to organize and bring your idea to fruition. You should be confident that you’ll benefit from the over 250 years of combined contributor experience in entrepreneurship and business, plus additional insights from the 15 entrepreneurs who appear in videos throughout the module.
Before we begin, you may ask what is entrepreneurship? Venkataraman (1997) defines entrepreneurship as a scholarly field that seeks to understand how opportunities bring into existence “future” goods and services, how they are discovered, created, and exploited, by whom, and with what consequences (p. 120). In short, entrepreneurship is about people utilizing resources to newly organize and act upon opportunities to create new products and services.
Starting Your Entrepreneurial Journey
The entrepreneurship module begins with understanding your thought process and how to enhance your entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurs have often been described as those who see differently, test limits, and take action when most of us do not. Seeing and acting upon opportunities for value creation is central to the entrepreneurial process, and our Skill on Opportunity Recognition will provide you with techniques to better discover, evaluate, and act upon opportunity. By module completion you may even create your own pathway to test your next idea.
Have an Idea?
You may have ideas for your next start-up, and some of these may already be customer-validated. So how do you reach more customers to build a market? Is the market large enough to provide reward? Moreover, what business model will you employ to earn a return for your efforts? In our Skills on Market and Competitor Analysis and Developing Your Business Model, you’ll have access to and will be able to apply the latest market research and business model techniques to your idea.
What About Funding? Is an LLC Appropriate?
A common reason why startups fail is due to lack of money to keep the business afloat until it generates a positive cash flow. Without funds, your business activities will halt or be significantly reduced. You’ll likely be in a better place for your next start up by completing Skills on Funding Your Business and Business Structure. Not only will you be provided with essential financial information, you will also be introduced to types of funding and commonly accepted approaches for engaging investors. In addition, you’ll learn about different legal structures and which ones may be best for your business.
How Do You Build Your Team?
Perhaps you’ve secured initial funding and now need to build your team. Questions arise about what types of people you need to have on board. You may even have certain people in mind for both your management team and board of directors. Building and managing teams can be complicated. In the Skill on Forming Your Team, you’ll identify ways to build team trust, constructively deal with conflict, and align your team to best accomplish start-up goals. In Regulatory Considerations, you’ll also learn best practices for operating in accordance with government regulations such as GDPR and for engaging licensed professionals to help you navigate the complicated waters of regulation and compliance.
Do You Have a Story to Tell?
Customers are more compelled to buy from companies that provide an emotional connection to their goods and services. Think about a product or service that you really enjoy. Does it have a compelling story that resonates with your values? Crafting a highly engaging start-up story relies on the purposeful intersection of savvy communication and art. Helpful strategies and tips are provided in this module that allow you to critically evaluate other start-up stories to help create your own. Moreover, you may be looking to incorporate positive social and environmental impact in your venture. Skills on Brand Storytelling and Sustainability will help you tell your story and incorporate sustainability as a core business capability.
How Do You Break Into the Market and Protect Your Idea?
Imagine you went into a grocery store and found that nearly all of the brands of product they offer change each week. You were looking for Cheez-its® but they are no longer there; a product called Cheez-thems are now in its place. Would you buy this new product? Breaking into established sales and distribution channels is challenging and costly for a reason. Change is difficult and significant investment has been made to sell current products and services. As a start-up, you need to understand distribution channels and related sales processes in order to gain access to customers. In addition, like Kellogg, the company who makes Cheez-its®, you’ll want to protect your brand and valuable intellectual property (IP). Kellogg would not let Cheez-thems infringe upon their IP and take their shelf space. Channel analysis tools, access strategies, and best sales management practices are provided in this module along with IP basics. To find them, navigate to the Skills on Sales and Channel Development and Intellectual Property.
After completing this module, we assure you that you won’t have it all figured out. However, you should be better prepared to found and grow a business that is both disruptive and responsible, grounded in the present while looking forward to the future, and flexible in form yet uncompromising in values. Similar skills are taught and utilized in many university and start-up incubator programs. However, SAGE has streamlined skill delivery and interaction to optimize your learning experience. The good news is that you won’t have to offer equity or take out a student loan to learn and practice these skills. We invite you to journey forth and share your experiences!
Page citation: Gagnon, M. A. (2021). Entrepreneurship. SAGE Skills: Business. https://sk.sagepub.com/skills/business/entrepreneurship
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