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Unleash your entrepreneurial spirit

by Alison Stieven-Taylor

The word entrepreneur conjures various descriptions depending on whom you talk to.  Some think an entrepreneur is a genius, a person who comes up with ideas that no one else could and turns them into multi-million dollar successes – like the guy who thought of the Post-It Note and made 3M a household name.

Others liken the term to a state near madness, a true risk taker with a devil may care attitude, a croc wrestler, but with finances not dangerous animals.

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 Alison Stieven-Taylor is an author, journalist, and magazine editor based in Melbourne.  She is also the creative director of Reality & Illusion Productions, a leading media communications company specialising in B2B communication.

The Oxford dictionary gives three definitions of the word entrepreneur – a person who organises and manages a commercial undertaking, especially one involving commercial risk; a contractor acting as intermediary and; a person who organises entertainments, especially musical shows.

To have an entrepreneurial spirit you need to be prepared to take risks, usually calculated risks based on standard business principals with the starting points at the most basic level - what is it going to cost me to develop my idea, who is my target market, how am I going to take that idea to market and how much am I going to make out of it and over what period?

It is at this point the entrepreneur will start thinking at another level considering financing options, partnerships and other ventures that will help them realise their vision.  A business plan will start to develop, research will be conducted and networks formed.

Whenever the word entrepreneur is spoken a few people instantly jump to mind – Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs – are obvious choices and represent the upper echelon of the entrepreneurial world.

Not all entrepreneurs have media profiles like those above, but they do all have the capacity to balance their entrepreneurial spirit with the commitment, enthusiasm and general business nous needed to take an idea and turn it into reality.

The evolution of technology has created new entrepreneurs.

With the advent of the computer chip we have seen the rise of multiple entrepreneurs – not just the creators of Microsoft and Apple, but others who have taken the technology and created new markets.  Google is a great example.  Another is India’s IT industry which has been built by entrepreneurs.

Comparisons can also be drawn with the evolution of digital print technology and the creation of new markets by entrepreneurial operators who have taken the technology and made it work for them on a number of levels.

Before digital print there weren’t photobooks.  Producing short runs of large format posters wasn’t cost effective.  Artists and photographers were unable to produce limited editions of their work.  And outdoor signage was costly and prohibitive for smaller enterprises.

These products and niche markets didn’t create themselves.  They were realised by creative, innovative thinkers who were willing to take a chance.  Today the digital printing industry across all formats turns over billions of dollars world-wide.  Where can the industry go from here?  We are only limited by our imagination.

In all market segments there are innovative operators.  In Australia
Janine Allis of Boost Juice and the Perdis brothers of Napoleon Perdis cosmetics are two fantastic examples of people with passion who took a great idea, into highly competitive market places – fast food and women’s cosmetics - and created extremely successful business models.

Napoleon Perdis

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 Emanual Perdis

Napoleon Perdis is run by two brothers, Napoleon and Emanual who is the company’s General Manager. The first Napoleon Perdis store opened in Sydney in 1995 in trendy Oxford Street.  Today there are more than 550 outlets including over 50 concept stores, counters in David Jones and independent retail stores.

Napoleon Perdis has positioned itself differently to other brands aligning with hairdressing salons and beauty parlours and placing point of sale counters in these outlets.  This has enabled the company to gain high exposure in the right locations at less expense than solely operating through their own stores.  The crowning glory in this impressive story is the stocking of Napoleon Perdis products by Saks of 5th Avenue in New York – the Mecca for all Fashionistas.

In a speech given by Emanual Perdis which I attended earlier this year he shared the vision behind the brand, what he called the 3 D’s - Dare to try. Design your future.  Deal with whatever comes your way.

Boost Juice

Boost Juice is another remarkable success story.  Janine Allis started Boost Juice in 2000.  The idea was born from personal frustration – a frequent traveler Allis was always looking for healthy food options to grab on the go.  After a trip to the US with her husband Jeff she came home with the idea for Boost Juice.

Raising $250,000 through friends and family thanks to an extremely convincing business plan, Allis embarked on her quest consulting with dietary specialists and health professionals to create a range of healthy juices and smoothies.

The first store opened in Adelaide – the testing ground for fast foods in Australia – nine years ago.  Today there are more than 190 Boost Juice stores around the world.

Allis’ background – leaving school at 17, working at a variety of jobs and traveling extensively – left her with a philosophy that has enabled her to create Boost Juice and make it a success.  On the company’s website Allis is quoted as saying, “Everything I’ve done has led me to believing that there is no problem that can’t be solved...I haven’t got any degrees but I am extremely tenacious.”

“So many times through our journey, particularly through building our stores, there have been many no’s that were converted to a yes. If you go in with a positive attitude you can do anything.”
 
An Academic Point of View

On the Harvard Business School Working Papers website (one of my favourite sites) a recent article caught my attention.  “Don’t Just Survive – Thrive: Leading Innovation in Good Times and Bad” written by Lynda M. Applegate, Martin Marshall Professor of Business Adminstration at Harvard Business School and J. Bruce Harreld a senior lecturer in Entrepreneurial Management and Strategy, also at Harvard.

In their research paper the pair surmises that you don’t have to be a multi-national corporation to adopt innovative and entrepreneurial ideas.  “Entrepreneurs can be found and a culture of entrepreneurship can be developed in companies of any size and age.  Entrepreneurial leaders must…pursue opportunity…look beyond the resources currently controlled to harness the power, resources, and reach of their organisations and networks.”

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