Anatomy of a Start Up

This week I had a series of meetings that signalled a new phase for the Story Mint or, more precisely, the parent company of The Story Mint, Universal

As I drove home from my last meeting, I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of excitement. Behind that feeling, lay a sense that, at last, all the hard work, the blind alleys and the sleepless nights had a reason. They were laying the groundwork for what will undoubtedly be a significant business venture in t the future.

So what made me so excited? Throughout the week, I attended a series of meetings that promised to lead to developments that added value to my initial business idea. The core concept remained, but the new direction opened new opportunities, took advantage of new technologies, and made our potential market much more extensive.

As I look back, I can see I have gone through several phases which, I expect, most entrepreneurs go through. With each phase came new insights and new challenges. Each of these points was a delicate moment for the business. Those turning points delivered a mix of self-doubt and fear of an ill-defined future. Each time I pushed through it, the reward was huge because it called on reserves of creativity and determination I did not know I had. It also called for substantial amounts of presence-of-mind.

 So let’s take a look at these phases as I lived them. I do this because the phases may not apply to everyone else.

Phase 1 The entrepreneur has an idea and the idea is really exciting. In my mind, achieving the reality of that dream is simply a matter of doing a few things…set up a web site, go to a couple of seminars, and prepare a business plan. Next, sit back and wait for the dream to come true and magically the money follows. This last sentence makes me wince.

The real reality is to start setting up the idea and prepare for many iterations, many knock backs and many naysayers who will say, quite unhelpfully, ‘it will never work.’

If the idea is not solid, it will wither at this first knock. I have realised that my idea drew on years of experience in the field of writing, a passion for writing and determination to succeed. My idea was to provide a one-stop shop for fiction writers – a path to publication.

So, full of enthusiasm and belief that I had a unique idea, I entered the ecenter business incubator at Massey University.

In retrospect, it is now clear to me that that enthusiasm was going to have to sustain me through some of the toughest years of my life. Phase 1 is all about survival while I researched, found my markets (not just the one I originally had in mind), discovered new tools and by thinking.

Luckily some people believed in my vision and gathered around me as we explored a number of possibilities, all still based on my core skill and love, writing.

People were and are critically important, especially those who understand my vision and become involved. Without those early supporters, an entrepreneur and the idea will never grow. Those that stay the course are incredibly precious.

Nevertheless, even people who criticise and say the idea will never work are important. This is for two reasons. They make me examine the premise on which I am basing my assumptions AND, more importantly, they make me really determined to succeed.

Phase 2 The entrepreneur tests the market. The entrepreneur discovers whether potential customers see merit in the idea and will support it. This period can be deceptive and people will say, ‘yes’ to the idea until asked to pay for it. This is a period of enormous vulnerability for the entrepreneur because without customers the business will fail. The Story Mint almost did. This was devastating.

Phase 3: Clarifying my real business. Ray Crock did it when he said McDonalds was in the real estate business, not hamburgers. I had to re-think my business model and what my business really was.

The answer is: My business is about giving people tools to master using words regardless of their skill level and intention.

My business is still about helping people to master the craft of writing well, but it is also about reaching everyone who wants to or has to write.

The focus is on writing, not providing a path to being a published author. I’m sure you can see the subtle, yet powerful, difference?


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