How to bring your business idea to life
Like many entrepreneurs, my first business was intended as a side hustle to fill a couple of days a week – a nice little addition to my full time work as an architect – however, it quickly grew into a full-time job itself and thriving venture. Wine Ark is a temperature-controlled storage solution for wine collectors and was the first of its kind allowing people to view and track their cellaring online.
To launch Wine Ark, I needed $600,000 seed capital, of which I only had about $100,000 available. After knocking on many doors, I managed to raise some of the extra funds from a friend who, despite my inexperience, could see my commitment to making it work and bought into the vision I had for the business. I also managed to convince the landlord of the property that I had leased to invest by way of an extended rent-free period.
Perhaps it’s the architect in me but I launched Wine Ark with a well-documented business plan that provided us with a roadmap for the first five years. It actually included two other related business concepts that we went on to establish and also included potential exit strategies, which is something that people overlook. Knowing who might eventually buy your business often helps making crossroad decisions along the way.
So, how do you know when you’re onto a winner? When you have a great idea, what are the steps to bring that idea to life?
Lucky for today’s entrepreneurs, improvements in technology have made it possible to spin up a basic website with e-commerce functionality in a matter of hours. Online advertising is also something you can turn off and on very quickly. I’d recommend that anyone thinking of starting a business do this to test and validate their idea before ploughing huge amounts of time, cash and other resources. You can use Facebook advertising to test your concept very quickly with different markets and to create some demand and hype ahead of a launch.
The first step should always be to make sure there is demand for your product or service.
Every business I’ve launched has had a strong technology focus, as I believe if you aren’t a tech enabled business you’re about to be disrupted by one. My latest venture, WINEDEPOT is no different. We’re using technology to build a smart logistics platform which will eventually use AI and machine learning to completely revolutionise the wine supply chain in Australia.
With WINEDEPOT, I’ve spent years questioning the inefficiencies in the way things are currently being done and set out to create a solution. If you aren’t solving a problem for someone, go back to the drawing board.
Secondly, you’ll need a passion for your business idea, one that won’t fade quickly. When you’re passionate about your idea, you’ll attract the right people to support you in bringing it to life. When the going gets tough – and it will – you’ll need that passion to fall back on.
You’ll also need a problem-solving attitude to navigate any roadblocks that come up – and they will come up. No business journey is all smooth sailing.
Thirdly, for a sizeable business of any kind, you’ll need a strategy to secure the capital or investment required. While this is important - not having access to a huge supply of capital can also be a good thing. It forces you to run lean and find alternative ways to achieve the same goals.
An example of this was at Wine Ark. After building our first site, we didn’t have a great deal of funding for advertising and marketing. To get around this and reach our target audience I offered to hand deliver very collectable wines on behalf of a few highly sought-after wineries. I used this opportunity to introduce our brand and services while getting paid.
And lastly but most importantly, when launching a business you’ll need a clear vision supported by a business plan that projects what the business will look like in 1, 2 and 5 years. Your plan should include a realistic timeline and a breakdown of costs as well as a marketing plan and projections for growth. As the founder your vision will dictate the direction you take and will help you to bring on staff who are aligned with your values and will help you achieve the goals you’ve laid out. Without a clear plan, all you have is an idea – strategy and execution are key!