Reflective Essay

Reflective Essay – K1437937

My journey with “Designing a Business” entered its seriousness phase when we had to form our teams. I was approached by Renzo and Julia to join their team; they were trying to form a team with a variety of skills and approached me as I was a manufacturing engineer. Since then we formed a bond of trust and friendship that allowed us to have worthy and fair teamwork which would prove to be very valuable throughout the course. As mentioned by Hoegl and Gemuenden (2001) Teamwork has six main facets, these are: communication, coordination, balance of member contributions, mutual support, effort, and cohesion. We balanced these six main pillars of teamwork between us and managed to go through the year without any conflicts.

In the beginning, we took Corrine’s advice and started looking for problems before we jump to the conclusion and pick a product. We started off by brainstorming and looking at areas in general; we ended up picking environmental issues and disabilities. After close consideration we picked the area of disabilities, mainly due to the reason that some group members have some experience in dealing with people with disabilities. As Mikkel had a brother suffering from epilepsy and Julia’s dad worked with children with disabilities. Since it was Halloween time back then, our product started off being a costume for children with disabilities on wheelchairs. Little by little the product changed and became many different ideas, including a spoon to help people with Parkinson’s eat better (shown in my sketch below), until it finally became “Once Upon A Wheel” which was colouring learning materials for people with learning disabilities.

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Our time together passed very quickly and I personally managed to learn and develop many great skills that will surely benefit me greatly in my future endeavors. The full sets of skills I’ve leant are teamwork, blogging, networking, design thinking, brand persona/ story telling, packaging, fairs display/ sales skills, pitching/ presenting, marketing/ branding, prototyping, finance and creating a value proposition canvas. Due to having a word limit, I will only go into detail with the skills that I believe had the biggest impact on me.

Networking

 The importance of networking cannot be stressed enough. In a study on 5 different focus groups of 41 managers working in anonymous companies, De Klerk, S. (2009) mentions that 97% of participants depended on networking to lure in new business opportunities to the companies they work in. In our course we had the opportunity to meet several high profile inspirational people as I mention in my blog post “Trade Fair 2 – Part two + meeting inspirational people”. In addition to creating the opportunities for us to meet these inspirational people, we were also encouraged to network on our own as part of an assessed networking report and for me personally that resulted in meeting amazing people including Prince Fahad Al-Saud, a well known entrepreneur which has several startups and was one of the first 100 people to work at Facebook.

More important for me, are the networks I created with my own classmates. For example, I had a startup idea that I shared with Jonas and he was very interested in it! So we will be perusing this opportunity together starting mid-May, and who knows? It might result in something amazing!

 Design Thinking

 “Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes and even strategy.” (Brown 2008, p.1)

We are undoubtedly very lucky to have a lecturer that has a PHD in design thinking, as it is an important trait of innovators. The U.S.E.R model (an acronym for “USER, SYSTEM, ESTABLISH, REALISE”) of design thinking proposed by Beaumont (2010) is a model that “represents the four stages of design thinking. Each stage has a set of activities, which alternate between analysis—synthesis and concrete—abstract. When four stages are completed, it forms a phase. Each phase increases in progress from develop to implement to evaluate. In a design thinking model, the goal is to develop a product/service that has been developed, tested and found to be successful with users. Once the project has reached success, it is transferred to entrepreneurial and business activities to bring it to market” (Beaumont, 2010). This model was used by our team in the earlier stages of development to investigate the reasons why customers would purchase our product. The outcomes greatly impacted the circular design of our product which resulted in easier and swifter shifting between images when colouring to reduce the effort exerted by the disabled customers.

Another inspiring part of design thinking was the sympathy/ empathy rationale, where we were advised to empathize with our customers and try and be in their shoes to understand their needs in a clearer way. Our team has done this by making various visits to the Bedelsford School for disabled children in Kingston to spend time around the disabled kids and let them try out our prototypes. These visits resulted in huge changes in our product throughout the development phase. It also gave us more credibility as we can now say that these products have been tested and proven in real practical situations.

Brand Persona/ Story telling

 “The strength of your brand will come from the strength of its persona and your commitment to its behavioral implications. Your audience will be interested in the brand story and its actions because they understand the persona.” (Herskovitz and Crystal 2010, p.28)

For our product “Once Upon A Wheel” it was very important to create a brand persona that represents our product in a positive way. We created the Mirus character, who is a 31 year old academic that takes care of his younger autistic brother. When creating this character we went as far as picking what type of watch he wears and the colour of his hair. Everything we picked out about Mirus had its purpose; we wanted to create a character that would appeal to our customers that are mainly therapists and parents of children with various disabilities (The full persona is available in my blog post “What now).

Prototyping

 One of the most memorable lectures we had is when we learnt about prototyping. Without any previous preparation, we had to make a prototype of our product in 5 minutes using only what is available around us in the classroom. Since we were still in the Halloween costume for disabled children phase of our product, this is what we came up with.

Prototyping

Prototyping this way allows people in the group change certain things in the prototype without hurting the feelings of others by scrapping all their hard work. As mentioned by Kelley and Kelley (2013) in their book “Creative Confidence”, prototyping quickly and cheaply allows you to keep multiple options alive for longer. Instead of taking a big risk on one approach that is based on a gut feeling, you can create and test many ideas. When you end up picking a direction; you will be making a more informed decision, raising the chances of success in the end.

 Blogging

Throughout the course we were required to create and maintain a blog on WordPress. Before doing this, I never imagined blogging to be as important as it really is. Bunskoek (2013) mentions 4 main benefits of blogging, which are: Driving traffic to your website, Increase your SEO (Search engine optimization)/ SERP (Search engine results per page), Position your brand as an industry leader and Develop better customer relationships. A brief recent example of how blogging is very important; is what recently happened in my country, Jordan. A group of important bloggers from North America visited Jordan In April, 2015 as tourists. When the Queen of Jordan, Queen Rania heard of this, she quickly arranged meetings with them and made sure they were enjoying their time here so they would blog positively about Jordan to attract tourists in the future. Jordan tourism board ended up making a video for their visit and Queen Rania shared it on her official Facebook page. This incident clearly shows how influential bloggers can be. Follow the following link to watch the video: https://vimeo.com/125510406 (Jordan tourism board, 2015)

As for the future, blogging is one of the things that I will definitely continue doing to help me advertise any business that I do.

Pitching and Presenting

I used to get very nervous when presenting before, but somehow the friendliness of the people in our course made it much easier and more easy going. I can confidently say that I have become a better presenter. One of the most important skills I have gained is how to keep the presenting process short, clear and straight to the point. By using the concept of the “Elevator Pitch” an entrepreneur should be able to catch the attention of the person he’s presenting to in the time it takes for the elevator to reach it destination, hence the name “Elevator Pitch”. “Being able to sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others should be a fundamental skill.” (Pincus, 2007). Pincus (2007) also explains that there is no such thing as the perfect elevator pitch for all types of audiences and occasions, the pitch should be tailored for the specific audience and also for the specific purpose of the pitch.

packaging

I will definitely be tailoring my own elevator pitch along with Jonas in our upcoming start up idea.

Packaging

 In her article, Dallin (2012) mentions that “good packaging equals increased sales”. She explains how people are usually drawn to the products with the “cool labels” and how that is a decisive factor for picking out a certain product after assessing its quality. In one of the memorable lectures we had about packaging I had this particular image stuck in my head as I also believe it fits the criteria Dallin (2012) mentions. The image below is shows the attractive packaging of fruit juices.

In our case, the shape of our product inspired our packaging, as it looks like a vinyl record, so we decided to make the packaging look like a vinyl record sleeve.

Issue faced

An issue that I have encountered during this course was the assumption that I knew everything about production and packaging since I was a manufacturing engineer. As a manufacturing engineer I have learnt a lot of complicated manufacturing processes but that does not mean that I automatically knew everything it takes to manufacture our product, which mainly had to do with simple things that I haven’t learnt like printing methods and creating a die (mold). This was not really a problem as I like new challenges but the only thing I needed was a little bit of extra time (around 2 days), in this time I learnt many things about printing, from paper types, thickness, different types of colours used and how to create dies. All the things I learnt about the printing world are mentioned in more details in my blog post “Gaining experience in unexpected areas”.

To conclude, I know that in the future I would hate having a normal 9-5 job. I have the entrepreneurship spirit in me and I would love to have my own startup or at least work in one. This course and all the different skills I gained from it definitely helped me take several steps towards my goals; surely many of these skills will be put into practice at work and at my everyday life. I step out of this course a different man, and for this I am deeply grateful, thank you Corrine and thank you Mace 2014/2015 for this amazing journey.

References

Beaumont, C. (2010) USER design thinking model. MACE Kingston. Available at: http://macekingston.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/usermodel-corrinebeaumont.pdf

Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard business Review. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION.

Bunskoek, K. (2013). 4 Reasons Why Blogging is Important for your Business. [online] Wishpond. Available at: http://blog.wishpond.com/post/47804902390/4-reasons-why-blogging-is-important-for-your-business/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].

Dallin, A. (2012). The Importance of Packaging Design. [online] Redrocketcreative.com. Available at: http://www.redrocketcreative.com/blog-post/importance-packaging-design [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].

De Klerk, S. (2009). The importance of networking as a management skill. X6001. Potchefstroom: School of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University.

Herskovitz, S. and Crystal, M. (2010). The essential brand persona: storytelling and branding. JOURNAL OF BUSINESS STRATEGY VOL. 31 NO. 3. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, p.28.

Hoegl, M. and Gemuenden, H. (2001). Teamwork Quality and the Success of Innovative Projects: A Theoretical Concept and Empirical Evidence. Vol 12. Washington: Washington State University, Department of Management and Decision Science.

Jordan tourism board, (2015). Journey to Jordan.Available at: https://vimeo.com/125510406 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].

Kelley, T. and Kelley, D. (2013). Creative confidence. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

Pincus, A. (2007). The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch. SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, BUS 1121-Widdel. Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

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Dragons Den

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We only had 5 minutes to present the business we have been working on since September. Although there were only 4 dragons in our case, it was still nerve wrecking. Especially that when we arrived we saw all the groups rehearsing like there’s no tomorrow!

Our presentation went well, each person did their part very well and for the questions part, each person directly answered their own part. If there was something we couldn’t answer, we were honest about it and promised to fix it in the future. All in all, I believe the dragons were satisfied and we did well.

After our presentations we all moved to the a big lecture room to see who the finalists were. I managed to get this great picture with Jonas and Kaitlin before the announcing the finalists. Me and Jonas were dressed very similar haha!

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The winners and finalists turned out to be Fli! I was really happy for them and believe that they deserved it, they really put their hearts into it.

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Congratulations to Felix, Olga, Sam, Irene and Michelle! I wish you all the best with your product and hopefully you can make it big with it!

How our packaging ended up looking like

If you remember from my previous blog posts in semester one, I mentioned that we were aiming to make our packaging look like a vinyl record holder due to the shape of “Once Upon A Wheel”. This idea was inspired by a great lecture we had about packaging and those memorable juice containers that were designed to look like the fruit they contain.

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For our packaging we succeeded in giving it the eye catching “colouring book in a vinyl record packaging look”. Although our colouring book and vinyl records don’t have much in common, but they look exactly the same, thats why we chose this packaging idea. Here is how it looks like.

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The packaging will have a sample picture of the discs available inside, the price, the name of the drawing set, our website and the name of the company. We decided not to overcrowd it with writing and just mention these important points, everything else can be found on our website which we provided on the other side.

When you open the packaging, which is made out of hard cardboard to protect the discs, you can pull out the colouring discs exactly how you would pull out a vinyl record from its packaging. Im pretty happy and satisfied with how it turned out to look, its colourful and cheerful just how it should be.

Podio!

Podio is an cloud based online project management tool that greatly helped us manage all the different tasks for our business “Once Upon A Wheel”.

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Podio allows you to create different workspaces where you can manage different tasks like finances, manufacturing, marketing, etc…

Mikkel first introduced us to Podio and it took a couple of hours for us to properly learn how to use it, but after we learnt it, it made our lives much easier and saved a lot of time. I recommend it to all future Mace students that will undertake the Design a Business course as it could be a great hassle coordinating and organising tasks when there are a lot of members in a group.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how our Podio page looked like, on the left side you can see all the workspaces we have created and on the right side you can see my recent contributions:

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Trade Fair 2 – Part two + meeting inspirational people

For the second part of the second trade fair we were moved in to a warm room where we displayed our products to more people and some guests from Bright Ideas, and then had the opportunity to listen to various inspirational people.

This is how our stand looked like for this second part:

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As in the morning part of this fair people expressed great interest in the idea but did not buy anything as the product is irrelevant to them personally.

After displaying our products, we had the chance to listen to some very inspirational people. One of which was a successful Russian entrepreneur that challenged himself greatly and went on a long marathon in the arctic. He mentioned how this challenge increased his persistence, especially when he was seriously considering to drop out after reaching the mid point because of the harsh weather conditions.

The second speaker was even more interesting, he started his career by trading oil and then after some losses he decided with a few other partners to invest in a company that turned out to be a success. They initially invested 15 million dollars and the company now is worth close to 600 million dollars. He currently runs a venture capitalist firm with the same group of partners.

Trade Fair 2 – Part one + reflection on our product

For the second trade fair, my group and I decided to divide tasks by having half the group attend the first part and the other half attend the second.

Luckily I was going to attend the second indoors part, as I have heard from several people that the first outdoors part was very windy and cold. The following words are quoted from my friend and classmate Christina (from her blog) “It should have been inside a building the whole time. That’s all I’m saying. We shouldn’t be forced to stand outside for three freaking hours and then moved to a much warmer room where we could have been the whole freaking time.”

The first part, although cold and without any sales, went well as people showed great interest in our product. Honestly, we were not expecting to sell much as our target market is a would not be expected to be at the fair. As we mentioned earlier our target market is mainly therapists and parents of disabled and mentally challenged children. We have made a late dicesion to change our focus a bit to increase our target market by also introducing our product as a normal colouring book that has the advantage of easy manoeuvring because of it circular shape. the figure below shows our product for the ease of understanding of my statement above.

Mikkel sqaure house design.fw

follow my second blog post to find out about the second part of the trade fair.

Our Brand Persona

Brand persona’s and story telling are very important when it comes to communicating your brand to customers. As a business you need to tell a compelling story that can connect the customers on an emotional level. Herskovitz explains that the “brand persona creates a long-lasting emotional bond with the audience because it is instantly recognizable and memorable, it is something that people can relate to, and it is consistent.” (Herskovitz and Crystal 2010, p.21). Good examples of companies that have a strong brand persona are McDonald’s, Nike, Disney and FedEx. All these companies have a clear personality associated with their brands. These companies understand that by placing that persona into stories that work with and help strengthen that brand persona is what makes the difference between strong and weak brand associations. The brand persona should drive the continuity of the overall brand message.

Here is our Brand Persona, we have created a character, the Mirus character:

Mirus is a 31-year-old academic. Therefore, he is not only academic-minded but also rational and knowledgeable. Because of his recently completed PhD, he is still relatively newly educated and energetic. His colleagues value his hands-on, goal-oriented approach to his work. Meanwhile, he is also easy-going and keen on learning.

Although he is average looking, his welcoming smile makes him appear a little handsomer than average. He is fair-skinned but not too pale with dark brown, straight hair. Rather than being completely shaven, he keeps short stubbles and wears glasses with a thick black plastic frame.

His dress style is smart casual, with brown chinos and a white shirt but no tie. He wears a TAG Heuer watch with a leather wristband. Since he is not married there is no wedding ring on his finger.

While he is a solitary person, he is also keen on helping. He is used to taking responsibility as second oldest out of four children. Together with his elder brother, he often took care of his little sister and the youngest brother, who is autistic.

With children of his own planned within the next five years, he and his long-term partner purchased a Volvo. However, for work he mostly uses his folding bicycle to get there from his suburban home. On the way to work, he prefers listening to podcasts or afterwards, to unwind, to Nirvana. Other than that, he attends live jazz concerts.

Since he has no children as of yet, he is well off. Therefore, in winter he goes on ski trips with his friends and partner, while he enjoys hiking holidays in the summer.

Reference: Herskovitz, S. and Crystal, M. (2010). The essential brand persona: storytelling and branding. Journal of Business Strategy, 31(3), pp.21-28.