If not in business for profit, what’s the point? Few entrepreneurs can afford expensive hobbies.
No one could accuse Mpho Mashita of taking her vocations lightly – or not for profit. She founded #AfricaCareerChat, presents on Capricorn FM radio, writes, moderates entrepreneurship, business and innovation events, curates art content and facilitates work readiness programs. She has made herself an expert on turning ideas into profit.
Those in business have many ideas to consider, which makes it important to choose which ones to act on.
“It all comes down to intention,” Mashita said. “What are you trying to achieve through the idea? How aligned that idea is to your personal goals or business goals as well as how pressing those goals are?
“Once you have determined that, it will drive which idea you choose to pursue,” she said. “Then you can start to focus on the idea itself. Other factors will determine if there is a need or market for your idea.”
Above all, do not force fits.
“Don’t give your all to an idea that does not resonate with you,” Mashita said. “It really comes down to intent and goals.”
Seemingly good ideas need to pass the test of whether they are worth acting on or executing.
“We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Fail fast, fail often,’” Mashita said. “It’s from a methodology that disrupts how new ideas are executed – the Lean Startup Methodology. It’s based on the pillars of build, measure and learn.
“A lot of my viewpoints are formed from that methodology,” she said. “When I have an idea, I ask myself, Does it create value? Is there a need for this idea? Can I put a minimal viable product out there?”
Mashita explained that the Lean Start Up Methodology advocates for experimentation. This replaces coming up with full-proof business plans and taking a long time to build a product or design a service.
“When you have an idea, test the market, get input, put it out there, learn and fix as you go,” Mashita said. “It’s kind of messy, but the value is in creating something shaped by your market.”
Then take it to the market to see how people react.
“This is always scary because it can go either way,” Mashita said. “Sometimes an idea you think is the best thing ever could be trampled upon by your market.”
The process of making money from ideas often leads to mistakes. One of them is waiting for the perfect moment.
“At times, we’re too over-protective of our ideas and never put them out there,” Mashita said. “That can happen if you’ve had an idea stolen from you before.”
No matter the struggle, always improve and diversify.
“It’s important to always align your ideas with your personal goals or business goals,” Mashita said. “Then there’s room for growing and creating a positive impact — and not only profit.”
Ideas can overwhelm. Entrepreneurs need to know when to stop considerations and move on.
“Back to the Lean Start Up Methodology, just start,” Mashita said. “Take your idea through the test of The Lean Start Up: Fail fast and fail often. Get data, continue or pivot.
“Is there a way to finance a prototype of sorts that you can put out there to market?” she said. “Then do that. The sooner you find out the markets, the sooner you will know whether you have repeated sales and a viable product.”
The guidance holds true for product tests.
“Is there a way to finance a prototype of sorts that you can put out there to the market?” Mashita said. “Then do that. The sooner you find out the markets’ reaction, the sooner you will know whether you will get repeated sales and a viable product.
“Once you have worked through your pile of ideas and settled for the idea you want to go for, you know what you have to do,” she said. “Jump! Fail fast, fail often.”
If the issue ever arises, be sure to protect your ideas as intellectual property.
“It’s so important to educate yourself about how to protect your idea in your industry,” Mashita said. “It gets tricky for other industries, but it’s always important to find out and do the right thing.
“I’m not an expert on intellectual property and protecting ideas,” she said. “Yet, it makes sense for you to consider the complexity of your idea and if it will require any patent rights or protection. Do your own research first. Consult a relevant expert to assist you.”
To make sure an idea is what the market needs, Mashita recommends the Lean Startup stage called Pivot or Persevere.
“Pivoting is when an idea doesn’t work and you move to the next step,” she said. “Persevere is when you keep trying. You might use the input you get to try to improve your idea. To pivot or persevere is your call to make.”
Mashita said business owners should ask these questions:
- Does this idea resonate with my goals?
- Can I finance and put the idea out there for testing purposes even if it’s not 100 percent?
- Am I open to learn from the findings and be flexible?
- Am I willing to shape a business model as this product or service takes form?
- Am I providing value?
- Am I getting repeat sales?
- Can there be continuity and sustainability in pushing this product or service?
Through it all, remember that research matters more than anything else.
“It’s important for you to not only understand your market but to know it like the back of your hand,” Mashita said.
“As you plan on taking your idea to the world, first determine your personality type,” she said, giving these considerations:
- Are you entrepreneurial or not?
- Are you open to practically learn more about entrepreneurship or not?
- Are you fussy about ownership, or do you just want to be rewarded?
- Do you want to actively implement your idea, or are you are fine with being in the background?
“This will help you determine your role in bringing your idea to pass,” Mashita said. “Other people innovate internally in organizations. Figure out what kind of support you will need.
“Google the Lean Start Up and start reading up on that methodology,” she said. “There are plenty of resources out there apart from the book itself.”