Posts Tagged ‘blog#8217;

3
Aug

Entrepreneurship vol 3: Experience you have never experienced

Written on August 3, 2013 by mhasegawa in News

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Ichizo Yamamoto, co-founder of Sow Experience Inc(http://corporate.sowxp.co.jp), started his business in 2005, when he was still early 20’s. What Sow Experience provides us is “experience” that would give you unforgettable moment in your life. Masaaki Hasegawa, alumni of Master in Visual Media, class of 2013, had a chance to explore his unique experience and life style that would infer us the advent of new way of life.

 

MH: Why did you make your mind to be an entrepreneur and how did you come up with the idea of merchandising unique experience? 

IY: In my opinion, there are 2 kinds of people who start business. One is who have a specific business plan or things that they aspire to do. And the other is who do not have specific ideas but get motivated to be a self-independent businessperson who owns their own business. I was in this category that I did not have any particular business plans. 

 In my university days, I belonged to Investment Club that I could have generated value from scratch. This experience was so addictive that I could not imagine anything but founding a company by myself, and I started to build up a business plan with friends from junior high school, who finally become co-founders.  When we started business, the overheating in the information technology boom had made aspiring young people tend to develop business in that field but I was believing that I would develop some service/product in which customer would use their five-sensens unlike online experience. Then, we happened to know Virgin Experience Days that is gift service of unique experience and could see the market growth potential in Japan where the size of the gift market is quite huge compared to other countries. I have believed that the history of gift is that of human that it has connected people and strengthen the bond between them, and it should grow further. 

 

MH: What was the first step to realize your business?

IY: It was necessary to customize the idea that we had gotten from Virgin to be fit with Japanese domestic market, but, at that moment, I had no experience or knowledge about market research, and thus it was an ongoing process with trial and error. Also, we did not use time efficiently that we spent a month to build up the 30-pages business plan to raise capital. If I had had experience or knowledge that I have now, I would have quickly developed a prototype to sell.

 

MH: Who was the first target? 

IY: Normally, gift should be well within someone’s budget parameters. And our first product was designed to be a gift, for our own friends, within 10000-yen (approximately 100 US dollar) budget. In the 21st century, where the same product can be consumed by broad range of generation, we have not thought it is an appropriate way to segment the market demographically, and thus we simply focused on developing a product that would be valuable for people surrounding me. 

 

MH: What were the difficulties you faced then?

IY: Getting awareness has been our challenge. At the beginning, we thought that consumer would find us once we have developed a quality product. Unlike in B-to-B business, in B to C business, especially consumer products, it is necessary to sell a product to a number of people because of low profitability per unit and to survive in the fierce competition. Therefore, media exposure has strong influence on our business, but, at the beginning stage, we did not have any media exposure to obtain awareness in the market and it was the hardest issue to be solved at that time. 

 

MH: Unlike the present, there was no means like SNS. How did you get the awareness?

IY: fortunately, Nihon Keizai Shinbun, which is one of the biggest-circulation newspapers in Japan, took up our service. And that article brought about a good deal of exposure and additional interviews. In my opinion, the influence of social media is too tiny to get an enough exposure to sell product whereas the mass media have direct strong impact on sales, and it would be effective to maintain the relationship with existing customer or to execute branding strategy. Still it is not as impactful as TV and newspaper to get new customers. 

 

MH: Many people tend to insist that experience has become much more important than product. Is it true for your business?

IY: I disagree with the opinion that product is less important than experience because I think product is also a part of experience. For example, the delight of experience when buying a bag sophisticatedly designed by an artisan has not changed. Another example is that many people purchase Mac for experience that is incorporated in it. When I start Sow Experience, I just felt that why there is no experiential gift Japan. 

 

MH; what is the most important point on designing experience?

IY: To provide great experience for customers, the most important thing is people in my company having fun, who can have the same viewpoint as our users. Exploring the interesting, exciting experience would enable you to provide experience in which the users would see values. Also, we pay a great attention to small details that can determine the whole impression of experience, and thus we always improve every single detail of each gift. Beside, through the experience we provide, we try delivering the message that there are thousands of different kinds of unique experience you are not familiar with in the world. Our gifts are somewhat provocative and suggestive to make people experience something that they usually do not experience. It is certainly true that our most consumed gift tend to be “massage” or “spa” what heals body and allows you to relief stress in daily life, but we intentionally place the gift which gives you outdoor experience on the top on our webpage. 

 

MH: Why you decided to take MBA in Rady School?

IY: There are 2 reasons. One is to improve myself to be a person who is capable of managing the bigger size of business as my company has grown up. I started business when I was early 20’s and I could have managed it without any serious troubles but I was wondering myself whether I would be able to manage the company when hiring hundreds of employees in the future, and thus, I felt the necessity to learn business science over. Second, I was just interested in living in California where most of interesting cultures that have enriched my personality and life come from and in seeking out the reasons that this location could have generated abundant unique culture and attracted people. In fact, I came to realize that California has a culture to accept new people, product, and culture and adopts those to its original culture. 

MH: People often discuss about the risk.  What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

IY: I think that the definition of risk varies from one to another. For example, I used to work for Hewlett-Packard before taking up my own business, and people said to me it is risky to quit the company. However, for me, not doing what I really want to do is the greatest risk. Particularly, when it is about your life, it is not possible to measure the value of your decision by using some mathematical/financial calculation model like ROI (Return on Investment). It is true that, in business, it is sometimes necessary to calculate the short-term profitability, but I believe that we need to think our life as a marathon that you do not have to live in a hurry. These days, starting up and selling out business is a sort of trend or common sense among young entrepreneurs. As a result, so many intelligent young people are likely to be drown into the field of application development aimed at gaining the short-term profit. I see the competition in the startup culture is now heating up too much that young people are likely to disdain the large corporations but I think that it takes decades of time with a great deal of capital to develop technology something really meaningful, innovative and influential in the society that would make the world better. I do not think it is a good way of business that you puddle hard when no waves coming. Also, I think many people are likely to look for instant role models to be successful and to put themselves into the template to measure their value of life. 

 

MH: Please give a message for future entrepreneurs

IY: Try not to intentionally make a startup idea. You can generate something only based on your own knowledge and experience, and thus, it would be naturally generated from your inner side if you keep thinking about it. In my case, I had been making a list of the restaurant and places that were interesting, and had a passion and motivation to explore new experience by temperament. That is why I could have founded Sow Experience and led it to be successful. No matter how harshly other people criticize on your business model or laugh at your idea, the true courageous mind and the key point to be successful is to be yourself. Have courage to dig deep into what you have experienced. 

26
Jul

 

hernando

Hernando Salazar is a co-founder of  Fábrica Maravillas, which is a brew pub located in the center of Madrid, Spain. Certainly, it has been so successful that they have been currently under the pressure to increase the capacity of production even after a couple of times of capacity increment. Masaaki Hasegawa, from Master in Visual Media, class of 2013, had a chance to explore the key factors that have made them successful. 

 

MH: First of all, let me know more about you. You are IE alumni?

HS: I am an IE alumni of International MBA, class of 2005. I am originally from Colombia, and used to work for the marketing department in Diageo, which is one of the biggest spirits and wine producers in the world, before taking master. Then I came to Spain in 2004 to take MBA in IE. After graduation, I worked for BBVA in Switzerland as a relationship manager in the private banking sector for almost 3 years. After that, I decided to do business on my own and came back to Spain to find an opportunity to achieve it. From then, I have been in several entrepreneurial projects. Since then, I have been working as an entrepreneur last 3 years.

 

MH: And how did you come up with this great idea of having a craft brewery in the center of Madrid?

HS: It was like an accident. At the time I got involved this business, I was doing my other entrepreneurship project, called Housie, which helps International young people, including IE students, find accommodation and information in Madrid. One of master brewers that I knew then had the original idea and business plan but they did not have any specific financial plan and know-how to embody it, and I started working with them to help them develop the financial plan and provided advice from the viewpoint of business, gradually started giving some ideas about vision, and ended up being part of this project.

 

MH: Why did you decide to take a responsibility to manage the company instead of just consulting or investing money into the business?

HS: First of all, this project, craft brewery, was novelty in Madrid, and people in the project had passion with it. Initially, I just provided some advices but the time when they actually needed to raise money to launch business, it was not easy for them to find an investor to raise the amount of capital that they needed. I sort of rose my hand to be an investor as well because I already had tasted the beer they brewed and felt this would be successful. Then, we became a partner and I started being in the project in depth because I love their passion for this business.

 

MH: What was the first step to make your business realized?

HS: The first step was somewhat related to mentality. It was like facing the fact that “From now on, there is no way back”. It is easy to invest money into the existing business that is already structured that you simply need to observe management and numbers. But, as for the business that is just started, it is like just crossing your fingers that consumer would like your product and service. In fact, it was required to spend almost 2 years to get the business started due to procedure and preparation such as doing paper works, building machines to brew beer, and getting the license. So the first step was making our mind to take the whole risk that you would spend your time and capital asset for this project.

 

MH: Why you chose Madrid, Spain to launch your business?

HS: I particularly like Madrid, Spain and this neighbor Malasaña. People often argue that Spain is now in the crisis and is not currently a proper location to do business. But, I have grown up in the country with crisis all the time, and so for me this is not crisis. Beside, if you start your business in the difficult condition like that of in Spain now, the condition surrounding your business just can be better in the future. In fact our business has never been in red, so the current situation is normal for us and we think we could have cultivated survival skills. Whatever happens next in the economy, it can be positive factor for us.

 

MH: Did you have any specific difficulties when you launched your business? 

HS: At the time when launched this business, no one had experienced this business model before in Madrid. For example, even for brewing machine and tanks, we needed to customize its size to be placed in this location, center of Madrid, meeting the local requirements and regulation, and it was hard to find someone who would be able to deliver it. Also, we had complicated issues in terms of the operating license because beside it is not easy to gain the license, the concept of our business was novel at that moment here that is difficult to be explained well to the authority. 

 

MH: You mentioned that the concept of this business was novel in Madrid, Spain, when you get it started. How did you market it? 

HS: We did not market that is a part of the strategy we have. We spent 2 years to develop and improve our business model that we went over it, including concept and numbers, many times. We presented our business model to many different kinds of people and they often input their experience and ideas. So at the time when we launched the business, our business model was already well thought and sophisticated that is part of initial success. And location, having brewpub in the center of Madrid, itself is already marketing. The whole concept of business that people can see brewer and tanks is our best marketing structure. Mass media are always around the center that is easy to have them come to here, and also our customer themselves promote our place, putting picture on Facebook and all those kinds of SNS, to share their experience here with their friends. 

 

MH: After 8 month of success, what is your current challenge? 

HS: The current challenge is the next step what we are going to do next. For example, our initial plan was not just serving craft beer inside the bar but also producing beer for abroad. However, the consumption of beer here easily exceeded our initial expectation that we are unable to sell beer to other places. We have already increased the capacity and we are planning an additional capacity increment this year, but then it would reach the maximum manufacturing capacity at this location. Thus our next challenge is how we can put Fábrica Maravillas to the next stage of growth. Needless to say, we would be bigger. The question is how. So we have been currently discussing about what options we can take like, franchising, licensing, join venture, and how that strategy would influence on our brand value. We are supposed to set on next step after this summer. Compared to the potential size of the craft beer industry in Spain, our current distribution capacity is quite small. To make it bigger, we need to contemplate the measure to enlarge it. 

 

MH: Do you have some future vision?

HS: We would like to make people know beer as they know about wine. People living here know a lot about wine that is part of culture, but people seldom select and order specific kind of beer and just say “caña” instead. By educating consumer to have more knowledge on beer, we believe that it would be able to generate additional demand of craft beer and we see the potential to expand our business further. Here Fábrica Maravillas provides people with an opportunity to discover craft beer, which is completely different from mass manufactured one, that is designed for customer to learn beer every time they come here. It is a great challenge to change consumer behavior in the market through providing a distinct customer experience. 

 

MH: What you have learned in International MBA helps you manage your business now?

HS: Yes exactly. Especially at the beginning stage of the business, it helped me a lot. For example, when we were developing the business plan, I definitely translated what I learned in IE into our business model development and improved from an idea to the sophisticated business model, including financial model. Initially, whereas the idea and business plan was unique, it lacked a well-developed financial strategy and plan, and what I have learned in IE is absorbed into this business. It was the first as well as direct input from MBA. 

 

MH: Give us a message for future entrepreneurs.

HS:  First of all, do not think you cannot do good business as long as you do not have a completely new idea.  Even if you do not have any idea, just keep looking for it. It does not have to be sophisticated one but can be basic one. It is understandable because media are eager to take up some interesting novel idea to get an attention. But you can even do business with basic concept like selling bread. Once you get an idea, tell it to everybody. Don’t worry about copying. If somebody can copy it quickly, chances are someone has already done it. A lot of first stage entrepreneurs protect their idea and are less likely to share their idea with people for the fear of being stolen by someone. But no one would actually quit his or her job to copy your idea. People love to help you, and so share your idea with others. 

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