by Rachel Ma (Singapore)by
To be honest, I never, never saw myself as an entrepreneur. In a sense I never saw what was coming for me in this class. So it is quite amazing to see that at the end of thirteen weeks, how I have come out of this semester with an entrepreneurial journey to share, some lessons to talk about, all coupled with a little story of my own to tell.
It all started when it was time to brainstorm and come up with a business idea; in the following weeks ahead, my group mates and I proceeded with the course requirements. And then came Prof’s suggestion that we set up a cooperative in SMU, just as the one existing in NUS today.
We had a meeting with the SNCF shortly after that and had a lot of good inputs from them with regards to enhancing our value proposition to the school and to the government registry.
Up until our decision to go with the idea of setting up a cooperative, it was difficult for the entire team to come to a consensus about the business model we wanted and the order to delivery process. And this was our main problem because until we could finalize this, there was no way we could get started as a business. The business model especially was a big rock we needed to fit into the jar before getting the smaller stuff in.
A good amount of time was spent bouncing different ideas off each other: whether or not we wanted to be an online shopping portal, somewhat like ETSY.COM; should we or should we not sell second hand stuff; and later when we spoke with NUS Co-op- whether or not we ought to model ourselves after them.
With each new idea, we needed to return to our IT friends to seek their advice on the feasibility and cost of our ideas. In the midst of it all, we were calling on banks and checking out their e-commerce solutions and considering alternatives such as wireless terminals for payments in the future, etc.
You need to be able to manage your time and commitments well if you are serious about entrepreneurship, else your entrepreneurship will never take off. It takes time to meet with people, to speak with people, and this is not inclusive of waiting time.
For me as the marketing and sales person without any marketing and sales training- time had to be spent reading up on stuff- simple things like the 4 Ps (price, product, placement and promotion) were foreign to me. I must say that it is in times such as these where you learn to be much appreciative of the Internet!
Lesson number 2: do not be afraid to ask. I think I have mastered the “thickening of face” in the course of entrepreneurship. For most, if not all, of the IT related issues, I have learnt to ask for help from IT friends, all of who are friends from school and church- and in the process of doing so, I have found human goodness. People have been willing to help and I have learnt to be gracious and thankful. In a way I have a resolution to take steps out of my way, within my means, if I can help a friend in need.
This flows nicely into lesson number 3: Help someone where you can. A short clarification on lesson number 3- it is not about being opportunistic, but the idea behind this is that we do unto others what we would have others do unto us.
At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur can bring about a good deal of sweet satisfaction, joy and consequently disappointment and despair as the attachment to the business builds up. This I have found to be true even when you don’t see yourself as a business person.
I must say that I have been taken for an unexpected ride to new places. But the learning curve through it all is steep. Where there are new places, new experiences and lessons are derived and I do think one emerges fuller as a person from the whole course of learning how to set up a business. I did for sure, and I hope that if you are intent on pursuing your own start up, that this encourages you too, wherever stage you may be!