Community Entrepreneurs forge new business ideas – day 2

Day Two report of the Community Resource Entrepreneurs programme – created by LSx, Tree Shepherd, and LCRN, and supported by the Small Business Research Initiative, a part of the Technology Strategy Board.

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Day 2 of the Community Resource Entrepreneurs course kicked off from where the first had finished. The delegates had clearly not stopped thinking about metal and how they were going to collect it. Their outline plans from last week had been developed and were really starting to take shape.

Colin reminded them that they had made tremendous progress; “most people don’t have one business idea in their lives and you have not only developed an idea but you have started to imagine yourselves doing it, and that is a long way along the road to making it happen”. And talking of roads, the group had each designed the vehicles that their business was going to look like and knew where they wanted them to go and who was driving them! CRE participant demonstrates his vehicle

So having done the hard part – having the idea – day 2 was going to be about how to put it into action. Day 2 was about the business plan and about busting the myths that surround the “business plan”. No, it doesn’t have to be thousands of words using fancy, technical language. In fact it’s quite straightforward. The business plan is a way of ordering your thoughts around: What do you want to do? How will it make money? and who are you selling the service to? Oh yes, and remembering the analogy made by Simon May (from DesignIT) of the one zebra in a herd with his backside facing out: “What makes you stand out from the crowd?”

In other words, today they were going to make their vehicles roadworthy.

“What do you want to do?” is often a bit more complicated in a social enterprise sense than when you ask that question of a budding small businessman. Of course, you need to generate an income, but what is that income for? To create employment? To protect the environment? To raise funds for the community? It’s essential to have a very clear understanding of why you are setting up, as that will determine so much about how you manage and oversee the organisation, who you recruit to work with you, and how you market the business. One of the major issues for social enterprises is that they often want to achieve a multitude of objectives. Colin was clear – “You have to decide which objective is the most important and then focus your planning (and the income generated) on achieving that objective.”Vehicle design

Armed with the clarity of what you want your organisation to achieve, you can very rapidly start to envisage who you will need to recruit to help you and what sort of equipment you will need. Ben from LSx helped the group think through people issues and how they would manage them, and Mike from LCRN took them through the practical questions that they would need to address about transport, storage, health & safety and, of course, licences and red tape.

And throughout the day the group was reminded to think about their target market and how they were going to persuade that market to use their service rather than anyone else’s.

The afternoon session started with a salutary tale from one of Colin’s early recycling businesses as the group was asked to consider the risks involved in setting up and developing their enterprise. A worrying way to kick off the afternoon you may think but as Colin said “thinking about risks now can bring forward a lot of creative ideas of how to do things differently, and of course will reduce the chance of things going wrong” and being frank about risks also enables you to focus on getting things right from the start.

The group was now ready to start to think about the money. They all knew what they wanted to achieve, how they wanted to do it and who they were going to do it with. In the final session they started to put costs to their model and to gauge their income.

The room buzzed with intense discussion as everyone thought through their business model and how it would work. Their plans were really coming together and the questions were all focussed on the realities of getting a business off the ground.

The programme moves now to a more intense “one 2 one” phase where each group starts to make their vehicle ready to drive away. The LSx-led team will help them to make sure they have the right driver and navigator, the right fuel and that the suspension is sturdy enough for the road ahead. CRE vehicle design

In the final group session, they will road test their vehicle past some senior blue chip company executives to make sure that it’s attractive to their chosen market and that it catches the eye.

Watch this space to find out how they all get on.

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To see Day One’s report, click here.

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