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Last updated: August 31, 2019

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s3 {font: 12.0px Arial}How have the Bootstrapping Challenge, other ‘practical’ elements of ENSI207, as well as the lecture material influenced how you understand entrepreneurship – address this question by choosing three (3) of the five (5) different lenses for reflecting on your own experience: Entrepreneurship is a systematic strategy that one adopts in order to start and sustain a new business. It is both a cause and an effect of undertaking a business venture. A certain amount of ingenuity is required to study the market and offer to the market a novel product or a service. Also, the reward that one enjoys as a result of successful enterprise, involves being an entrepreneur. My bootstrapping session was a prototypical entrepreneurial exercise, which taught me the nitty-gritties of undertaking a business venture.

The entire exercise has been described under the following lenses: Lens 1Growth and business models: Drawing on the idea of the Customer Value Proposition, reflect on the challenges you have faced in determining value propositions.According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, the word proposition means “an idea or a plan of action that is suggested.” ()  In modern business terms, the word proposition, with its root word propose, means to offer a product, service, or an idea.  Value proposition in particular entails proposing or determining a certain consumer value of a product or a service such that one can objectively and successfully determine the reason why a product or a service be consumed by the end user and what does that end user stand to gain from its consumption. According to Cindy Barnes, a value proposition is a “clear, compelling and credible expression of the experience that a customer will receive from a supplier measurably value-creating offering”.

()Determining value proposition entails positioning a product/service, developing a business model, identifying the unique selling proposition (USP), and finally reaching out to the target consumer. I begin here with positioning. Positioning is a “deliberate, proactive, iterative process of defining, modifying and monitoring consumer perceptions of a marketable object” (Arnott 1992, p. 114) and involves “‘adjusting’ the mind of the customer” (Ries and Trout 1986, p.

2). While determining which product to offer to the customers, and where to invest our money, my team had to factor in the existing model of consumer-ship. We were targeting the university students, and we had to offer a product that had “newness” and was also “cost-effective.” Initially we considered selling lemonade, but then, since the weather was cold, we decided to bake and sell brownies instead. Once the product was zeroed down upon, we had to develop a “four-part” business model that would be both pragmatic and functional. A business model can be understood as “the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery and capture mechanisms” (Teece 2010, p. 191), and the Consumer Value Proposition (CVP) represents a key component (Chesbrough and Rosenbloom 2002; Ehret et al. 2013; Osterwalder et al.

2005). “It articulates the logic, the data, and other evidence that support a value proposition for the customer, and a viable structure of revenues and costs for the enterprise” (Teece 2010, p. 179).

My team had six team members contributing one pound each to a total investment of six pounds. Further, we not only had to get the raw material, but also process it in order to manufacture the finished product. We were able to buy the required ingredients from a supermarket. But, processing them was rather tricky as I was the only member who could bake.

While my other team members could help me with putting the ingredients, I was the one responsible for baking because I was the only one who had filled out the food and hygiene form. Going by the Churchill and Lewis model our enterprise was in “Stage I” and thus to ensure growth we had to minimize managerial cost and thus do things on our own. Customer value proposition includes among other variables, reduction in cost. In order to minimize our cost we decided to bake brownies at my flat. We also decided to bake them in big batches so as to benefit from economies of sales. But before baking the brownies we had decided to bake a cake.

This we did from the material already available to us. Although we failed at baking a luscious cake we learnt important lessons from it. According to Ian Gordon, a business model is dependent upon the role played by a manager/owner, and also upon the firm’s structure. Cake baking is a highly specialized activity, which not only involves knowing the correct recipe but also involves after-baking finishing like icing and decoration. Brownie baking is far simpler and thus when our existing business model with only one baker did not suit cake baking we went on to baking brownies. Once the decision of baking brownies was make we had to determine the USP of our product. According to Reeves “firms should focus their market communication efforts on one compelling benefit for the customer the USP that is not offered by their competitors”.

Since freshly baked brownies are not always available on our campus we decided to have that as our USP. Finally, we had to adjudge a Core Benefit Statement, which ascertains the benefit the product provides and the “fulfilment of the product promises by physical features” (Urban and Hauser 1980, p. 155).  Hot freshly baked brownies were sure to provide instant satisfaction in the cold windy weather and thus that was what we offered to our customers. By doing this we were adhering to “Porter’s generic strategies” and also we were attempting to fulfil “unmet needs in an existing market” (Karzynski & Gibson, 2008). All business ventures are undertaken to make profit.

So, while deciding on the pricing of our brownies, we initially thought of including serge pricing, which is directly influenced by demand and supply, but then in order to extend the benefit to our customers and insure customer satisfaction we decide to “pay as you like” pricing. Determining the value proposition was full of challenges; we were not if we were offering a novel product and if we would be able to deliver what we promised. According of the Gibbs’ cycle of learning experience plays a vital role in conclusively determining ones’ weakness and shortcomings.  It was only after we had tried baking a cake that we realized that we were ill equipped for the same. But this exercise also taught us the need to work in corporation as a group and also taught us that we needed to have a sound strategy, as it is an integral part of growth.  A considerable amount of challenge was also faced while trying to cut the cost of the brownies. We were hard-pressed on cash and cutting the cost of the brownies was a major challenges. Also, keeping the brownies piping hot while newer batches were being made was also a challenge that we had to systematically tackle.

 Reflecting upon the entire experience I can safely say that the entire exercise was a great learning experience, study the market, design a need-oriented product and finally design a strategy to make that product available to the target consumer. Lens 2: Learning and mindset: Draw on principles of the entrepreneurial mindset (e.g. Haynie et al., 2010) to reflect on your own experiences of being entrepreneurialLearning refers to imbibing lessons derived from tools like observation, experience, and teaching in order to grow as a person both mentally and emotionally. It also refers to internalizing the valuable lessons in order to increase ones’ productivity and minimize future mistakes.

As suggested above experience plays a vital and decisive role in imparting learning. In the bootstrapping lesson my team learned some valuable lessons I delineate here. According to the “Senninger’s Learning Zone Model”, one needs to step one of ones “comfort zone” in order to start the learning cycle. The very first decision to undertake a creative venture required to step out of our comfort zone. As students we still lacked the essential entrepreneurial pragmatic approach to getting things done and our boot strapping session ended up teaching us just that. From comfort zone we entered the “panic zone” where we didn’t know which activity to undertake and even when we had decided to bake, our first failed attempt really anxious. We were as expected from the panic zone, “stressed” and “frustrated”.

 We decided to incorporate entrepreneurial learning. In our case this learning happened though family and my mother gave us the brownie recipe with we further perfected using the Internet in order to gain an in-depth understanding of baking brownies. Our entrepreneurial learning was both “experiential” and “codified”. Once we failed at baking the cake we learnt where baking was concerned we could not alter the recipe proportions.

The books that we referred to on the Internet resulted in out codified learning. According to “Kolb’s learning cycle learning involves experience, observations and reflections, development of ideas and testing ideas in practice. Once we had gained some experience at baking, and had frozen the recipe for brownies, it was time to test the recipe.

Before baking the brownies in a big batch, we decided to bake a really small batch as test baking. The heuristics of this exercise was to arrive upon a “cognitive schema” wherein we realized we had to pre-heat the oven and then maintain an optimum temperature. We had to actually bake three small batches before we could get perfectly fluffy brownies.

We realized that experiential learning is slow and complex. We also realized that experiential learning can be painful and disappointing. Experiential learning comes from “direct sense experience” and “action” is the “primary source of learning”. Because we had only limited codified learning and also because our enterprise required special skills there was no way we could learn except though experience. Further, it is upon the learner to make the most of experiential learning by seizing to be a passive recipient of learning instead becoming an active catalyst in the process of learning. Thus, we decided to continue to bake by tying different oven temperatures until we were satisfied. James March contracts this experiential learning with “academic learning” which is merely “transmitted by authorities”. (2010, p.

g 9) My team also realized that although we had taken the recipe from my mother, we had to appropriate the recipe to suit the English weather. We realized that the English winter is far more humid than the recipe had anticipated and thus we had to increase the use of yeast. In this way our test baking equipped us with sufficient experiential learning before we would really bake. We also learnt that before undertaking any entrepreneurial exercise and before zeroing down on a product to offer to the customer we had to not only have enough understanding of the target market but also of the processing of the product. Our experiential learning came through “trail and error” (Young and Sexton, 1997), “experimentation and copying” (Gibb, 1997), and “making mistakes” (Gibb, 1997)Social learning is also integral to entrepreneurship. In fact, according to Korsgaard and Anderson, all learning is situated in a social context and derived though social interactions. Our bootstrapping session, which was an attempt at entrepreneurship, also came with some social learning. In order to make sense of the “complex and unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship”, we had to factor in many variables, each of which were socially determined.

Once the brownies were baked, we had to face hostile weather as it started incessantly. Our target consumers were sequestered in their rooms and we realized a learned a very valuable lesson that day which was that no matter how prepared we are being an entrepreneur involves unanticipated contingencies and thus entrepreneurship by nature involves risk taking. While, entrepreneurship involves undertaking risks an entrepreneurial mind-set implicates “the ability to sense, act, and mobilize under uncertain conditions” (Haynie et al., 2010; Ireland, 2003). We realised then how much we lacked in terms of entrepreneurial mind-set because we really panicked and became stressed. But the panic not withstanding, we decided to persist in our efforts and some how reach our customers. Having an entrepreneurial mind-set means adapting to circumstances and not giving into fear.

Finally, we decided to go ahead and sell the brownies by bring them to the consumers’ by approaching them personally. This entire exercise taught me the importance of having a “growth mind-set” and also having a deep understanding of my won strengths and weakness. I realized that “improvisation” is integral to an entrepreneurial mind-set and finally that it is practice that imparts perfection to an entrepreneur. Lens 3: Learning from failure: Drawing on the concepts of learning and failure, reflect on ways you have learned from failure during activities on the module and/or in your own life. “Failure is a stepping stone to success” goes a popular English proverb.

Failure is an inevitable stage of the learning process. In fact, management gurus and success specialist maintain that failure teaches us more than success ever can. I too have encountered failure in life both personally and professionally, and I can safely say that each time I have emerged from it stronger and wiser. My bootstrapping session too made me take failure and I learnt valuable lessons from the same. There are many causes of failure, out of which, four our recognised as common causes of failure.

They are: market misunderstanding, operational causes, financial causes, and human causes. Our bootstrapping challenge was impacted by each of these causes. To begin with my team failed at adequately understanding the market. Initially, when we decided to bake cake we didn’t realise that there might not be so many takers of it after all. Further, we also faced operational failure when we realised that in a team of six we had only one baker. This prevented us from indulging in specialized like icing and decoration.

Financially to we were tight on cash and eventually we had to give up the cake baking idea and instead opt for baking the brownies. But even in this venture we made a gross human mistake, which resulted in our profits drastically plummeting. We did not anticipate the rain on the day we were baking. In fact, we completely over looked it and we did not even bother to check the weather forecast. This was a great mistake, as rain in Lancaster is not only common but also expected. Because we failed to factor in the rain we succumbed to human failure and were unable to reach out to our target customers the way we would have preferred. Thus, because of “geographic” factors, we ended up hampering success in our venture. At that time, we even faced “physiological aspects” of entrepreneur failure.

We had panic attacks and anxiety. We even faced “financial pressures” and felt that we will end up making no money. However, we also ended up learning important entrepreneurial lessons from this failure. When we improvised and decided to reach out to our target customers, instead of them reaching out to us, we ended up making sufficient profit despite the unanticipated contingencies. But while we were experiencing failure, we went through the entire Kubler-Ross Grief cycle. Initially there was “denial” that we were not going to fail, then there was “anger and depression” that why did it have to rain on that particular day, and then there was this stage of “bargaining and acceptance” where in we decided to come to terms with the situation and adopt an alternative strategy.

 Entrepreneurship is ultimately a “process of learning”. It is “beyond schoolish leaning and is more experiential in nature. Further, learning can be both “surface” and “deep”. Surface learning focuses on “unrelated parts of the task”, that is, looking at individual instances of failure whereas deep learning is more holistic in nature and seeks to integrate “theoretical ideas to everyday experience”. In our case we also sought to look at the bigger picture and imbibe important life lessons from this one entrepreneurial failure. It was always important to have all background before undertaking an activity. We also learnt that we need to be always prepared for contingencies and that we need to have back up plans. Just as in a business enterprise, so in life, we are likely to sale smoothly if we are prepared for the worst.

In fact, this deep learning is something that has come to me on various instances even in my personal life. Where inter-personal relationships are concerned, I learned a valuable life lesson, which qualified as “higher-level learning.” While on my vacation, I decided to go to my father’s office as an intern. I was assigned the task of double-check if the right number of pairs of shoes were getting dispatched for export.

On the first day of my job, I did not realize that this seemingly simple job would be so daunting. Just as I had finished double-checking with the supervisor, a fresh batch arrived that had to be entered in the log. I was by that time, already panicking as the dispatch was getting delayed and in the process, I completely overlooked entering the details of the fresh batch, and because of my “individual characteristic” (I was “new” to the working) of being inexperienced, my firm was at the risk of sending a whole batch of shoes without properly entering the data in a ledger. However, my supervisor not only rechecked but also gently pointed out my mistake, making me aware of it. He ended teaching me a valuable lesson.

I learned from him the importance of being thoroughly prepared even for last-minute glitches. I also learned that as an entrepreneur I need to have an apt mind-set that included patience and preparation. I also learned that I was at the risk of losing respect amongst the office staff because of my entrepreneurial failure. However, instead of a “lower level learning,” which is short term and temporary, I went for a higher level learning, which is the hallmark of entrepreneurial learning, and which also determines our growth mind-set, and I decided to remember and incorporate these entrepreneurial lessons in my life.  Now as I look back, I realise the importance of a reflective process. Reflection entails that we objectively and systematically analyse a situation bygone and take from it lasting lessons that help us avoid similar kinds of mistakes in future. The bootstrapping challenge gave me important hands-on entrepreneurial lessons, which when applied to any situation personal or professional will help me avoid making serious mistakes. The lessons learnt from the bootstrapping challenge were reiterated by the personal experience I had with my best friend and today I understand the importance of planning, preparation and gathering information in order to successfully undertake any activity or arrive at any conclusion.

 

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