A recap of U.S. Embassy Trinidad and Tobago’s recent entrepreneurship speaker program on making a global name out of an idea.
“How do I scale up?” In Trinidad and Tobago, and much of the rest of the Caribbean, many entrepreneurs dream of entering the international market but struggle to break out of the local scene to reach their own national market. There is no shortage of viable products — Trinidad and Tobago has the capacity to produce fine chocolate and excellent produce — but entrepreneurs have been unable to produce at a large enough scale to build a national or global brand.
2018 YLAI alum and founding member of The Entrepreneurship Hub Shemeon Williams and global business development expert Cheryl Edison conducted a Facebook Live session May 29, with an overview of the steps that anyone starting a business should follow to build a global brand. Edison has worked with companies such as Disney, Time Warner and Volvo, but she reminded her audience that, large or small, most businesses start with an idea and follow the same basic path to success.
1) Start Local — As Edison pointed out, most entrepreneurs must self-fund their initial products. That means that their business often starts at home, and their office desk is their kitchen table. Edison recommended that rather than trying to go outside the home too early, entrepreneurs should test their products at home with family and friends. This is the discovery stage of the model.
2) Know What You’re Selling — The next step in Edison’s model is for the entrepreneur to determine whether they are selling a product or a service, as that will shape the business model. Choosing the right business model is the difference between success or failure for many businesses. Here, Edison stressed the importance of makerspaces, where entrepreneurs can share experiences, support each other and test their products. American Spaces can make excellent makerspaces if entrepreneurs take advantage of them.
3) Link to Commerce — During the third stage of the model, entrepreneurs should measure their clients’ responses to their product. At this point, entrepreneurs must put aside their own feelings about their product and evaluate it from the reaction it receives in the market.
4) Pivot as Needed — In order to survive, every entrepreneur has to decide whether their company will stay small or expand. In determining how to scale up, they determine their purpose. Similarly, companies have to periodically change the way they do business in response to a change in the market or an event with major economic implications, such as a pandemic. For that reason, businesses must be able to change.
5) Persevere or Exit — The fifth and final stage is when entrepreneurs choose whether to stick with the business or to sell it. According to Edison, business owners often forget to think about this ahead of time, but they should plan ahead and design their business model accordingly.
Along the way, Edison reminded viewers of the importance of branding and marketing, stressing the importance of being able to make an elevator pitch about their business to attract customers and investors. She used the example of clothing to point out how just adding the label of a famous company could raise the price of a product exponentially. These topics resonated with the audience, with many commenters agreeing and requesting more information.
What’s in a Name?
This was one of the first events of The Entrepreneurship Hub, which plans to leverage its resources with the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain to bring in experts from the United States to teach entrepreneurs much-needed skills. In order to recognize what skills needed to be developed, Williams and Edison ended the conversation by asking the viewers what they wanted to learn. The answer from the over 13,000 viewers, both live and recorded, was almost unanimously branding. Viewers from around the Caribbean, with the largest audience outside of Trinidad and Tobago coming from Belize, learned from Edison’s discussion that they had most of what they needed in order to begin, except the knowledge of how to make an idea into a name. As Edison pointed out, a brand allows an entrepreneur to make their product known outside of a one-on-one interaction with a potential customer, and that is necessary in order to scale up.