Well…here we go again…

Honestly, I thought, that the end of MACE will be the end of this blog, but I decided to continue writing.

What I am going to write now about will be, again, my personal development. Why>? Because I want to share with different people my views on how it is to be out there in the middle of the ocean (where is plenty of different, bigger fish).  I want to document my way of doing things to be able to asses later if it works or not. And as “keeping a diary supports personal development” this seems to be a good way…

Which one is you?

At the moment I am working on my linkedin profile and on-line portfolio. Displaying my works on-line seems to the only way that I can introduce my thought process to other people.

On http://carbonmade.com/ anyone is able to publish up to 35 works for free. As for me- it’s brilliant. My sheep in box will be available on it as soon as I will manage to scan all my works (as  my creative works are mainly traditionally made- old-school but I like it this way).

Some people think it’s easy, some think that it’s hard…Some look like they have a natural gift for developing ideas, turning them into a projects and making them successful. During Mace we had to run a business. In the beginning it seemed like an easy thing to do, most of the people (including me) thought, that it’s going to be easy…but it wasn’t:( most of us ended up spending more than we earned, some of us we put a lot of heart into our work and all of us  definitely enjoyed of what we did.

After writing the rapport for final presentation, when I had time to reflect on the past year and what we did well or wrong. I wanted to share my ideas, about what one should do if he/she want to start a creative business:

1. Idea.

Have u got an idea of what your business should be doing? or you know that you want to run your own business, but don’t have an idea? or you are just scared?

My advice at this point is: think of what you are passionate about. It doesn’t have to be lifelong passion, it can something that you like at particular moment and find frustrating, that you cannot have it differently (like Pika- I didn’t like the rain falling down on my face, hands and laps, when I cycled and that was a starting point for the cape idea).This way you will gain empathy for your future customers, as you will know by yourself how they feel about the problem that you are trying to solve.

2. Don’t be scared, that your idea might not be good. There is no such a thing like bad ideas; the only thing that will happen is that you will approach it from the wrong angle and this is what will make it not to work. Think about who will buy it- make research if necessary.  Try to find out if there is something similar on the market; if it does, think how you could work on something that already exists to give it a new dimension  (Pika cape was based on one that existed on the market for 20 years).

3. No-one is a person of renaissance –  you cannot do everything by yourself. Look around, see if you have friends, who will be willing to help you with developing your idea, maybe they too would like to get involved in the business.  Another reason, why you cannot do everything by yourself, is that its better to work in a group, as you always have someone to support you and give you feedback on what you do. Besides, there will be times, when you will need second person with you otherwise, it will take you too long to develop a project and then it might be too late.  Remember someone can have the same idea as you, so don’t let make it before you.

4. Stay focus on what you do. If you want to achieve something, you have to dedicate yourself to the project- you need to leave your private life at home. Just put it on the shelf, roll up your sleeves and get ready to work. Sometimes, what is going on with your personal life can be too much of a distraction.

5. If you know already of what you want to do, who is your audience, what problems you want to solve try to see how much money you will need to make it work. Check your savings, see if there is someone who will be willing to help you with your finances. They are important. Don’t leave thinking about your finances to the last minute this might spoil all the effort, that you have already put into what you did so far. You need money and you need to think about it. You need it to generate the value, it doesn’t matter if it’s a service or a product that you are making – you will need it.

6. Try to foresee different scenarios for both success and failure. If it won’t work out, you won’t be surprised. And constantly try to check on yourself, on what you do right and what went wrong and why, this will help you to avoid future mistakes.

7. Listen to the advises, or if you don’t want listen just write them down – they may be useful.

8. Prototype. Draw, make cut-outs, play with different materials. Show it to people and ask for feedback.

9. Once made your final prototype, when you are content with it try it on yourself and see if you like it. You have to the most serious judge for yourself.

10. No one is sleeping on money, as they say in my language. Take your prototype and try to get more founding. If you have enough capital to finance the production find people who will buy it before starting producing it. This way you will avoid taking unnecessary financial risk.

11. Have faith in what you do and don’t lose it. If you failed once, remember, that it’s not the end of the world.

12. Make sure you enjoy what you do- this way you won’t get bored quickly.

13. Once you are running your business already don’t forget that most of the new businesses fail. Generating positive cash flows for young enterprises can be hard. Be prepared, that you might need to keep you current job to be able to support yourself and sometimes your business. Sometime it can take from haf to two years. unfortunately this is the time you need put your feet firm on the market.

Enjoy.

Commercial world

05/15/2010

At some poin, during classes, we had looked at adveristing and different kinds of storytelling in advertising. We also did ads for our businesses, which was a big fun:)

At this point, I would like to share with my view about certain kind of advetising.

Some of the ads they are teasers they have no informational purpose, they are usually made to remind about the brad, or in case of new ventures and upcoming businesses, to make the customer curious about the product.

Long time ago, in the country,where people like to drink traditional alcoholic drinks like beer or vodka, one of the biggest in country beer breweries decided to launch a new products  apple flavoured beer. To launch the product in the country, where approach to drinking is quite, we can say, traditional, the company decided to target the drink into young people – 20-30 years old, students or professional, preferably educated people. They came up with the campaign, that nobody really understood, but liked a lot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8tUx0fqiC0&feature=related

The campaign worked really well. Initial sales were really high and soon, the company found loyal customers for their drinks.

Why I talk about this? Because in Poland, where this campaign comes form, at that time this campaign was a breakthrough in the style of advertising. Slowly, most of the adverts, especially targeted into young audience, took similar shape.

Staying in the same sector of the market around 5 years since Redds was launched, another drink appeared on the market. It was also a beer – DOG IN THE FOG. The campaign as followed by street advertising, where young people were taking out “dog” for a walk having only leash in their hands. Asked, where is the dog, the supposed to answer “in the fog”. This was another, really successful market introduction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeJ5n7iYvfs&feature=related

I say about this kind of advertising, as it was one of the first plans of PIKA to make a pre-launch campaign for our capes. unfortunately, as we didn’t managed to fit our schedules and building a website as really delayed, we ended up not taking this step.

Final Rapport

05/15/2010

In this work, I will look at my personal development thought the course of MACE, especially the Creative Economy course. I would like to make this rapport to have a special format. The main part of this work will consist of my reflection on what I have learnt during the course accordingly to John Hawkins Keys to Success that he considered in his book The Creative Economy (2007: 162). As a conclusion to this work, I will evaluate on my skills gained during the course applying them to GROW model as pointed out in the brief for this work.

Managing Creativity- The rules for success.

One more time I wanted to go back to the very beginning of MACE. First lessons, new people and me thinking- “What am I doing here? All these people are fantastic, they have lots of experience in their industries and the only thing I have got is my knowledge”. To illustrate my problem more, I will use quotation of Philippe Starck for TED. The way he began his brilliant and very catching speech can be used to paraphrase the way I felt in the beginning of MACE.

“You will understand nothing with my type of English. It’s good for you, because you can have a break after all these fantastic people. After…I must tell you, I am very like that; not very comfortable because, usually in life, I think my job is absolutely useless. I mean, I feel useless. Now, after Carolyn, and all the other guys, I feel like shit. And definitely, I don’t know why I’m here, but that looks like the nightmare you might have, like you are an impostor, you arrive at the opera, and they push you, “You must sing”. ” (Starck 2007)

This is how I felt, like a small frog in a pond full of goldfish. Only now I began to understand, that although I might not have been, experience-wise, prepared to compete with all these brilliant people who joined MACE, I did not turn out to be useless. Just like Starck with his speech. In the beginning he seemed to be insecure of himself, however, he managed to deliver a brilliant and deep speech in a humoresque manner. One can argue on the quality of his speech, but everyone will find himself judging on its content wondering what Starck really meant. This is what makes it so good- leaving listeners mesmerized or frustrated with what he said- but what is important is that he made people reflect on it.

What these have to do with my experience with MACE? Pika was a company with a brilliant idea for the business. We started well but we failed to achieve targets. Nevertheless, lessons taken from running that business are invaluable and all of them based on errors that appeared during the time we have been running the business.

Accordingly to Hawkins (2007) there are 10 key rules to succeed. As it was mentioned in the beginning of this work, I will analyze my learning progress on MACE accordingly to these points.

  1. 1. Invent Yourself.

“Create a unique cluster of personal talents. (…) Break the rules. Be clear about your own assets and talents. They are unique. And they are all you have” (Howkins 2007)

When we had “speed dating” prior to setting up creative companies we had to advertise ourselves just as one can advertise a product. It was much harder to do, than attending a job interview. Difficulty was in the fact, that we were colleagues from school, trying to enjoy ourselves on the course as well as network with each other. The necessity to choose a group that we would be working with for next seven months with was stressful. Unfortunately, when you have to pitch about yourself statements like one below do not help.

“I’ll give it to you straight- I don’t like to advertise myself. I’m better when it comes to doing things than talking about myself and my achievements.”

I have learnt that I need to be more conscious of who I am and what I can offer in terms of work. I need to speak about myself more clearly and value my achievements more. Being modest of oneself does not help in the world where competing plays a part in everyday life.

  1. 2. Put the priority on ideas, not on data.

“Entrepreneurship is first, and foremost a mindset. It covers an individual’s motivation and capacity, independently or within an organisation to identify opportunity and pursue it in order to produce value or economic success. It takes creativity and innovation to compete in an excising market, to change or even create a new market” (Gurling C., Wilson N. 2008, 2.2)

When we had the activity of “speed- dating”, most of the people from the class was going around introducing themselves and talking about their skills, whereas I was telling people what I want to do. When I enrolled onto the course, I knew what my Young Enterprise company should be doing. I had a clear vision of making something like a jacket for female cyclist and I was very focused on this idea. I needed to do this particular thing, as a part of the course, or on my own.

Now, after the course is finished and we are considering closing the business, when it is still in the cradle, I know that having ideas is one of my advantages as a professional. I do not know if I can call myself an entrepreneur yet, but I realize clearly now, that I have necessary characteristics and drive to be one. I also know how to deal with numbers and spreadsheets are not difficult for me. I believe that the course prepared me well to fulfil my ambitions of being a self-employed businessperson.

  1. 3. Be nomadic.

The opportunity to develop and run a company during the course was priceless. Not only because it give me the knowledge and experience of running the business, but also because it helped me to understand why teamwork is so important.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results” (Andrew Carnegie as cited by (Srinivasan c. 2006)

During the time, that we took to develop Pika, our business, we have been often working in a group only on exploring ideas that we had generated earlier separately. I would consider this a very important to work with people who come up with the ideas not only on the spot, but also work alone on generating them.

“For starters, comparing whether creativity happens best in groups or alone is pretty silly when you look at how creative work is actually done. At creative companies, people switch between both modes so seamlessly that it is hard to notice where individual work ends and group work starts.” (Sutton 2006)

This was true in case of our company, where sometimes were working at home on generating some ideas and then presenting them during brainstorming sessions. Although, most of these ideas were not used it helped with starting the creative process.

  1. Define yourself by your own (thinking) activities,

not by the (job) title somebody else have given you. (…) People who are brave call themselves thinkers.” (Howkins 2007)

As a member of Pika my task for a group was defined as a financial manager. Being honest, there was not a lot of much finances to deal with. Instead, for most of the time I was busy with generating ideas and working on different tasks for the business. Therefore, what I was doing was far more than just what was described under the job title that I was given. In my previous positions, I also used to do far more than what my job description said. I learnt that this kind of freedom in doing my work is far more important for me than job incentives.

“New operating system for our businesses revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy, the urge the direct our own lives. Mastery, the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose, the yearning to do what we do in a service of something larger than ourselves.” (Pink 2009)

When working on the Pika business I have learnt, that it is important to give the autonomy to people and not stick close to what ones job title defines. Preferably I would like not to define titles at all. The best for the work atmosphere is only to define task because especially in small organisations people often cooperate with each other on different projects, not only the ones that their job title defines.

  1. Learn endlessly.

“Borrow. Innovate. Remember the Us Electric Power ad ‘A New Idea is Often Two Old Ideas Meeting for the First Time’ (…) Creative artists scavenge for new ideas. It does not matter where you get the ideas form; what does matter is what you do with them.” (Howkins 2007)

In the beginning of our creative business, we were trying to come with something that has not been done yet. After long brainstorming Pika came up the cape which was based on one already available on the market. We took the old one and we reshaped it.  This way we have learnt that it is not important to strive to come up with idea that will be complete novelty. All the things on this planet evolve. So do ideas. We can take already exciting one and recycle it, give it a new shape. Like an artist searches for an inspiration, we can find ourselves searching for brainwave in ideas that already have been used and give them a new dimension.

  1. Exploit fame and celebrity.

“…’skunk cost’ which cannot be recovered but which can be freely exploited at no further expense. The essence of being a star…is ‘the ability to make yourself as fascinating for others as your are to yourself’.” (Howkins 2007)

As I mentioned in the beginning, when I joined MACE I was unsecure of myself when compared with colleagues form the year. Initial activities, that we had to do (like speed-dating or tweeting about our abilities and ourselves) helped me to understand and learn how to make myself look interesting in the eyes of others.

When one can make himself interesting for others his ability to network with people improves, and as he know more people, he can learn and do more. Alternatively, as on the example of MACE, can almost effortlessly find a good team of people to work with.

Being a star or celebrity does not have to refer to individual. Completed project or generated ideas can become “stars” if successful. Our creative achievements can be known by larger audience that we are know in person and sometimes one have to use this to improve our networking. During the trade fares no one knew us in person, yet some of the participants knew our product and this was often enough to start a conversation and improve networking possibilities.

  1. Treat the virtual as real and vice versa.

“At all times, use RIDER process: review, incubation, dreams, excitement and reality checks. Mix dreams and reality to create your own future.” (Howkins 2007)

During the course, I learnt how the creative process works and how to help ourselves with different activities as group brainstorming or prototyping to develop ideas. “There is great prestige attached to the word “creative.” Creative people apparently magic up ideas—wonderful solutions to the most complex problems—with the ease of a skilled magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The gathered crowd goes wild. What skill” (Boulton 2008) .

Taking part in prototyping sessions or brainstorming with my group helped me to understand that creative process is complex in its structure. As I realized about it, it become easier for me to plan and develop my personal projects.

  1. “Admire success, openly. Equally, do not be fixated about success: be curious about failure.”  (Howkins 2007)

The first thing I’ve learned from failure is that the four things which matter most are:

1. The quality of the people doing the development

2. The expected value of the product to its stakeholders

3. The fitness of the proposed solution

4. The quality of project management and expectations communication” (Braithwaite 2005)

Pika won and Pika lost. As a runner-up in Bright Ideas competition, we did well, but were not able to turn that success to our advantage. When we went to the competition to hear the announcement of the winners, the team already was not doing well. At some point, probably when Marzenna left, when it seemed to us, that we were dissatisfied with the course, we lost our faith and enthusiasm for our business. This was a big mistake of ours. It had destroyed everything that we had been working for so hard during the first half of the academic year. Since then we have been falling often, but we did not fully recover after any of these failures.

There is a big lesson to be learnt for all of us from the group: do not allow your failures to kill you and your ambitions. Especially when you know, that a project can be successful and what does not allow you to move forward with is your lack of enthusiasm, depression in other words.

  1. Be very ambitious.

“Boldly go.”

Lack of enthusiasm mentioned in the point above allowed our ambitions to drop suddenly. We stopped in one point and it was very hard to move from there. Although the product was developed and almost ready to produce, we stopped. Pika could not take a single decision quickly. At some point it happened that every choice (the production, the advertising etc.) that we had to make, seemed really complicated, risky and doomed to failure. Pika lacked a spirit or a leader who could remind everyone that we had a target. Nevertheless, it did not happen. We reminded ourselves about our goals in late March. Yet, it was too late to fix it before the final presentation.

  1. Have fun.

The single most efficient way to increase your productivity is to be happy at work. No system, tool or methodology in the world can beat the productivity boost you get from really, really enjoying your work.” (Kjerulf 2007)

When I wonder what happened with our team, what have we missed out, I can think only of one thing that we have forgotten about to do as a team. Sadly, I consider lack of fun as one of the reasons of our failure.

As I mentioned earlier in this work, three of us were part-time students working and coming to Kingston only once a week each one of us. We took running Pika too seriously, thinking, that kindness and cup of coffee between the classes will help us in creating nice atmosphere within the members of the group. When Marzenna left, it got even worse and the group literally divided itself into two little groups.

We did not know how to have fun, or just did not want to know. We thought that we could treat Pika as another job- come, do what u have to do and leave. I think that this was the main reason why although we had a very good start we failed to communicate after first problems came on board.

All I can say at this point, is that personally I will never allow it to happen in my professional life and that I will try to have fun wherever I will work, as it really helps to be more productive and helps to generate more enthusiasm towards the projects.

Keeping a diary supports personal development. (Sagmeister 2008)

As I mentioned in the earlier stage of this work, I would like to become a successful businessperson and work towards my goal- setting up my own fashion-orientated company after I will leave MACE. I would like my business to be fashion boutique for the start on-line store in which I would like to stock products of young independent designers in order to promote them.  With time, my great ambition is to be able to develop my own clothing range sold both trough the internet and traditional store.

Having a few ideas on the back of my mind, I am trying to have a track on what is happening on the fashion market to discover the format of my future business as well as work on widening my business knowledge and skills. I am gathering data about the market and trends both in fashion as in retail. Running Pika with my colleagues’ form the course helped me to understand what skills and attitudes needed in business so now I consider myself to a lot healthier approach that a year ago.

I consider the time, speed with which market and current shopping attitudes change as my biggest obstacles. I am afraid that I might not be able to meet the needs of the market at the time, when I will be ready to finally set up a company. I will also need a considerate capital and extensive network to be able to organize launch of the business on time to meet market needs.

As a part-timer, I still have one and a half years before I graduate. During that time, I can work towards building a network of people and developing needed skills (as e.g. fashion buying). I can also use this time to search for people who would be willing to work with me on developing my idea. Besides, it gives me opportunity to find a market/community that I would like to target into. I do not cross out going back to Poland to do it. Deciding on where to go to do that together with developing a network will be definitely my way forward.

Studying Creative Economy module on MACE had definitely given me an insight on how the small enterprise works. It was much more insightful than business studies where one learns only about big corporations. It has also helped me to understand how my own creative process works so I can continue with proceeding to the next steps of fulfilling my dreams.