Entrepreneurship live and kicking!

I always enjoy the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs out in the field, during speaking engagements, trade-shows and other events. After 30 years in business I still get a buzz out of conversations with young and just starting business owners. Yesterday I had a very special experience in as much that I was kindly asked – thanks to Phyllis Mercer – to be a guest judge at the Year 2 BTEC National Business Course for their business plans. The event was held in the St. Francis Xavier Sixth Form College in London. This unit is being led by Janice Hurley and her very capable and dedicated team.

During the course of the day I listened to 16 business plans, I was supposed to be a bank manager (!) approving bank loans for the presented ventures. I might as well mention now that I approved each and everyone of these loan applications, and I do not believe that my actions would have resulted in anything like the Northern Rock or Bear Stearns debacle. But then my business education does not limit me to just ticking boxes on a form (-forgive me for this little side dig, but it had to be done!).

What have I learned yesterday? Here are some highlights:

  • Bootstrapping is alive and well, a fair amount of business plans needed no external funding, due to good focus on the business essentials;
  • not all businesses wanted necessarily to grow, but focused on an income based business idea with a high job satisfaction element;
  • Home-businesses, was also mentioned more than once;
  • strong family and friends connections and elements in the business ideas.

These guys must be reading my blog, each one of these ideas was achievable. The format of the business plans was very good too. Not too long and drawn out with irrelevant information and to the point:

  • business idea
  • entrepreneur details
  • very basic market study
  • cash-flow and break-even calculations
  • SWOT analysis

Some had added some political, economical and other risk factor analysis, which let’s be honest, is difficult to asses given the greed and stupidity circulating in the upper echelons of our business and political world currently.

So here are my favorite small business start-up ideas:

  • Natalie Douglas is going to continue in a good family tradition and open a child care nursery, keeping it small and personal for parents and children.
  • Cohen Gordon-Swhyer is going to offer us a sleeping experience with good customer care in his high street bed storeIkea take note – customer care is the way forward and a great small business differentiator.
  • Valerie Iwenya is opening a African cinema with a cultural experience – what a great idea.
  • Carlton Nicholson is offering to make your hatchback car into something special, at a price of cause.
  • Farrah Smith is opening a music store with cafe and internet so you can download your music too.
  • Emmanual Opanuga is opening a shoe store chain, focusing on customer care while understanding the price pressures in this business.
  • Raphael Dobbin is not going to help me loose any weight soon with his idea of a West African restaurant, but he was going to offer me free fruit as a dessert option for healthier living.
  • Ibilola Johnson presented her idea for an internet cafe for local youth, as a focusing point to get our kids off the road, great social engagement thru a well established business idea.
  • Monica Osborne is opening a hair saloon, judging by her own hair style she will be doing very well.
  • Jeffrey Owusu will be offering a chauffeur/taxi service with multimedia entertainment for longer journeys.
  • Jose Ruales is going to entertain us with a Karaoke sing-along bar. Very professional presentation, I certainly committed all the banks funds for this idea.
  • Fleurette Irakoze will offer all different genres of young generation attire in one convenient location.
  • Koyinsola Quadry is helping ladies to buy better shoes, especially for bigger shoe sizes. Quality, customer service and a niche market, what could possibly go wrong.
  • Lawrence Madukaife will focus on the college and university student with his telecoms offering.
  • Meron Nour and his Underground Imports will import trendy cloths and shoes from Japan. He explained his company was called “Underground Imports” because it was situated in the basement of a building – no other reason.
  • Juan-Carlos Valverde will continue breeding his puppies and make that into a business, from home and maybe part-time.

Sadly some business ideas will not be acted upon in real life since most of the presenters will go to university in Autumn, but then maybe some on them will end up running their own business in the future. Others, I believe, were outlining their plans for the future to me and I believe they will be successful in their ventures.

It is good to know that their will be enough good and solid small businesses in the future to bail the the big, greedy and egotistical business failures out, while at the same time punishing incompetence in public life at the polls.

For me yesterday was a great and above all reassuring day that I will remember for many years to come – or to say it in their language: Guys – you rock! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. — ST.

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