I am of the belief that anyone who can successfully grow an idea from Seed to Maturity in the Caribbean, will be able to succeed anywhere in the world.
Most Start-ups in the Caribbean do not have access to many of the financial crutches available in developed countries. Funding options, which are prevalent in developed countries, such crowdfunding, venture capital and angel investing are taking root within the region rather slowly.
This by no means makes us victims or gives us an excuse to settle for mediocrity. It is, in fact, a privilege, by which our will to succeed is tested early on. Through these mock examinations, a sense of grit is instilled, which perhaps would have been impossible to come by, had we gotten it any easier.
The question becomes, how does one select which one of their 1000 “BIG IDEAS” will take root and thrive?
A Good Farmer Knows Which Seed to Plant
The Seed or Idea Formulation stage is the start of the business life cycle.
As the name suggests, this is the point where you inspect all of the seeds (ideas) in your repertoire and decide which ones are most adaptable to the Caribbean climate and fields (marketplace). Business is quite similar to agriculture, in that if your initial seed is of bad quality, make no mistake: it will not survive in the field.
This by no means suggests that you have to limit innovation or resort to the conventional cutthroat business culture of competing on price with 10 people selling the same product.
However, one takeaway from my experience in St. Lucia is this: the more novel an idea is, the longer it takes to catch on and the more reserves/capital is required. Taking this into consideration, I would like to share with you a litmus test I’ve used to help in determining which seeds to plant, based on the following 6 key questions:
- What problem are you trying to solve and can you solve it profitably?
- Are you passionate about it?
- Is there anyone else in the marketplace attempting to solve the problem?
- If yes, where are they falling short and what are you going to do differently to solve the problem/fill the gap?
- Do you believe your solution will stand in the marketplace and why?
- What resources do you need to get it into the product into the market place?
Then come the golden questions:
- Do you have access to the resources or the people with the resources to build prototypes to test target consumer interest and demand?
- Can you produce/execute the product or service on a micro scale to start making some money?
This should aid you in sifting through your seeds and determining based on your individual circumstance, which one will take root most quickly in the market place.
The first golden question is especially important in the Caribbean, because questionnaires, for the most part, do not provide any realistic inkling as to whether customers will actually purchase or not. Let’s face it, most of us like freebies and will say yes to anything without giving it due thought, especially if it sounds nice and we do not have to make any financial commitments. Do not fall into this trap of misinformation. You must correctly gauge what resources are required to get a prototype product/service (it doesn’t have to be perfect) to the target consumer and determine first hand whether it solves a need and whether they are willing to pay for.
The second golden question is even more important. 99.99% of the time, Banks, credit unions and private investors in the Caribbean will not pump money into your idea, if it has not shown the ability to generate $1 in revenue.
Here comes the reality check. After you’ve selected the seed you believe to be the most adaptable to the Caribbean climate and fields (business environment and marketplace), the next step is to plant it and water it diligently until it pops up from beneath the soil. At this point you move from a seed to a Startup.
This challenging period is made to sift out the real from the fakes. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. You will have to show whether you are worth your salt.
If the seed never pops up from beneath the soil, refuse the temptation to get depressed or lose hope. Frankly, nobody cares.
Time would be much better spent assessing what went wrong and fixing it in time for the next planting.
If the seed does emerge, do not become complacent. Take the time to understand what you did right and what could’ve been done better.