For Women Entrepreneurs
Are you a woman who is interested in entrepreneurship? We recommend you check out 10,000 Women, a course available worldwide for female entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs. This course is a global initiative aims to help women entrepreneurs around the world with everything from business education and mentoring to networking and access to capital.
Compilation from a panel discussion “Tools of Success: Launching a Wearable Product”,
held on September 5th at Amazon AWS Loft
By Kalle Vikman
Speakers: Clarissa Schealer (Clutch), Vida Asiegbu (Evercore), Roxanne Elings (Davis Wright Tremaine), Amanda McIntyre Chavis (Women of Wearables) & Olive Shuai (LKK Innovation Group)
On September 5th, a member of the Kota team took part in an event with a theme of utmost importance: women-based start-up entrepreneurship. The panelists were all experts in their respective fields, which included investment banking, legal counseling, product planning and innovation, just to name a few. We at Kota feel this information can help a fresh entrepreneur to achieve success beyond measure, so we compiled the valuable pieces of advice the speakers gave into one simple list so that everyone can educate themselves freely.
Getting started. When you are ready to take the first steps on the path to becoming an entrepreneur and selling your product, the first thing you need to consider is: do you need a trademark (™) for your product? Does it need to be patented? If it is a new creation, something the world has not yet seen, you probably have to protect it so no one else can beat you to the market. After all, it may take a while before your product reaches the stores and finds its way to the hands of the consumers. Also getting your patent application approved can apparently take up to nine months, so bringing your invention to life can very well take as long as bringing a tiny human to life. However, you have up to three years from the day you left your application until your product needs to hit the stores (assuming your patent application was approved). So it’s best to be safe and make sure no one can take advantage of your invention.
From your ingenious brain to the production line. After all that’s been taken care of, you can start the actual production. Olive Shuai from LKK Innovation Group mentions that there are several companies that can help you brainstorm and innovate on what materials you want to use, what is the quantity you need for launching the product, what will be the initial unit price, etc. Usually the real hit products are based on the simplest ideas that focus on one problem and just make life easier for the consumer. So in a nutshell, solve a problem and make it work.
If you don’t happen to be loaded with extra cash or don’t know a generous philanthropist, you most likely have to convince an investor to fund your business, at least in the beginning. As we all know, people usually don’t tend to walk around town throwing money at you, least of all here in New York City. So how can you assure them that your business is worth investing in? Clarissa Schealer from Clutch offers us three simple words that emphasize the importance of marketing research: you do it. Meaning: know the market, know your audience, and be aware of your possible competitors. This way you are one step ahead and appear to be well prepared (as you are, naturally). First earn their trust and then earn their money. Just remember that the more you are able to picture what the future is going to look like with your product in it, the more they’ll like you. And you’ll achieve this by presenting comprehensive data.
When it’s time for the pitch. The idea of pitching can seem terrifying (and speaking out of personal experience, it might give one a slight twist in the stomach) but then again, no one ever accomplished anything by being scared, so woman up, sister, and make it clear why your product deserves the dough.
When the going gets tough. The business world is definitely not a playground and you’re bound to have a competitor or two sooner or later. So when the bubble is about to burst and your Fairy Godmother is nowhere to be seen, what do you do? Roxanne Elings from Davis Wright Tremaine made a couple of excellent points on how to proceed if you have a reason to suspect someone is selling a product that violates your patent: firstly make sure that you actually were the first. Contact the patent office and check who exactly has the initial rights for the design. Secondly, if, in fact, someone’s misusing your design, before bringing in the big guns (lawyers that is), write the company a letter. Maybe you can work it out without the situation getting ugly.
Are the sales enough to keep the business profitable? After launching the product, there might come a time when you realize an increase in sales would be most warmly welcomed. Depending on the nature of your product, you might be able to enhance it somehow, make it into product “XY 2.0”. This might mean you need some more capital. This time around the money might come from a different investor than the initial nest egg. Vida Asiegbu from Evercore says that naturally it’d be wisest to approach people who understand where your business is at the moment. Again, do the math and offer them the data. Make them see where you’re standing, where you’re going, and most importantly why this opportunity will be beneficial to them.
Going global. After conquering the local market, you’ll probably want to consider launching your product on a global scale. There are many options on how to do this: you might choose to license your product to a bigger company, or you might want to keep it to yourself, or you can focus on marketing and selling it online. These are big business decisions and should be carefully thought over. This can also mean that you need yet more funding, depending how your business has grown. If additional funding is needed, once again you might find yourself in a situation where you have to present the numbers and data to prove you have a market. That is how you impress the investors.
Last but not least, becoming an entrepreneur is going to take a lot, more than a regular 9 to 5 ever would. It is still perfectly doable, though. As with any job, it’s still best to do it well or not to bother at all. If you have your idea and you have your plan, we want to encourage you to be brave and take a chance.