Starting your own business isn’t as easy as having a great idea
It’s 3:30am and my internet is down. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except I need to submit an elevator pitch video for a business competition by 9am. With no other options, I turn on the WiFi hotspot on my phone and begin the (very slow) process of tethering internet from my phone to my laptop. As I stare into the screen, eyes half open, monitoring the upload progress, I ask myself, “why am I doing this?”
I’m talking about my recent experience of entering the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas business competition. The competition supports entrepreneurs in the 16-30 age bracket by providing a cash injection of £1,000 to use on business innovation, as well as marketing to its 200,000 members and beyond. Those who do well in the Grand Ideas competition then have a chance to win £10,000 in the ‘Hot 40’ competition. Hopefuls of the Hot 40 competition include Dana Elemara, who has written for The Platform previously, and her brilliant Arganic business.
But why do people bother with such competitions? Is it for the money? Or the publicity? Or both? Does entering such competitions offer the best option for us to raise the profile for our businesses?
The answer is probably, in part, yes. Most readers will be familiar with programmes such as Dragon’s Den, which televise the polished pitches, products, demonstrations and even catwalks of many businesses. But what the cameras do not show is all the hard work, long hours and obstacles would-be entrepreneurs face. In truth, I don’t know for sure how helpful the Shell competition will be for my business, but I am hopeful it will be helpful. And that’s the point; entrepreneurs try to do whatever it takes, whether big or small, to make their business succeed.
My business, Universal Delivery Service, seeks to offer a delivery service to restaurants and takeaways who struggle to fulfil customer orders. Restaurants and takeaways, often struggling to stay afloat, outsource the job to us, saving them time, money and hassle in the process. In such a difficult economic climate, I take great pride knowing that our service helps to keep some of our clients in business. While I passionately believe the business idea is valuable to the food sector, I must acknowledge that to make a real difference my business needs to reach more eateries. And that’s partly why I applied to the competition. The brilliant thing about this competition is that winners are determined not only by arbitrary judges, but also by a public vote. I was very impressed by my competitors’ videos, which in my view captured that raw ‘can do’ entrepreneur spirit. My video was shot using a mobile phone, the voiceover was recorded using a free mobile app, and was uploaded using the phone’s tethering facility. This process, for me, epitomises entrepreneurship, which all too often requires ploughing on with whatever little resource you may, or may not, have.
So, what drives entrepreneurs? Probably a whole range of things. But for me, it’s being able to try to make a difference in someone’s world, however little or small it may be.
Image from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/pitching-in-the-dragons-den/11260.html
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