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BLAC sheep in the business

By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, August 25 2011

Convenience is the new watchword for entrepreneurs and big businesses alike. The key to success however lies in the ability to determine which products and services consumers would like easier access to.

This was the main message from founder and owner of The Entrepreneur Incubator and Academy in South Africa, Bruce Wade, during a recent BLAC Global Business Mixer.

“People increasingly want convenience in their lives and from the services/products they use, so you as an entrepreneur must use innovation to successfully meet these needs. My advice to you is, find out how people are inconvenienced in your country and whatever solutions you come up with will form the basis for a successful business,” Wade said.

Keen attention was paid Wade by the group of young entrepreneurs who had gathered at Levels Ultrabar and Lounge on Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain for the networking event.

The networking event for TT entrepreneurs was hosted by local start-up company BLAC Sheep Barbering in conjunction with EPiC Measures, a branding consultancy company based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

BLAC Sheep Barbering opened its doors in September 2010 on the upper floor of the Student Activity Centre at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus, by Marc-Anthony Daniel and Keevan Lewis. They have since established the BLAC Planning Committee which organises networking and financial education events. Daniel is its president while Lewis is vice- president.

At their BLAC Global Business Mixer event, some attendees could be seen taking careful notes about the future of business, with at least one young woman noticeably smiling when Wade told them the sky’s the limit because “the global market was ripe for convenience-driven business ideas.”

During the question and answer portion of Wade’s web-chat, he was asked about trying to be a one-man business versus hiring others to help bring your vision to life. Wade argued that recognising your limits is the best way to grow your business.

“Another key to success is focussing on your strengths and hiring or out-sourcing the rest of your business. A lot of times, people feel they have to do everything themselves or are afraid to share their ideas with others and end up running themselves ragged.

“This can end up hurting your ability to run the business properly and has a negative effect on your health. It is far better to hire someone to run the other aspects of your business while you focus on what you are best at,” Wade said.

The Entrepreneur Incubator and Academy founder did warn however that business owners must understand and monitor what their partners or employees are doing.

Questioned by one young man about how soon to launch a business, Bruce Wade advised it is better to get your product or idea on record first, then deal with any competitors afterward.

“Your idea or product may not be unique, so it is important to be first on the market. Establish an online presence, patent your ideas, designs, so if anyone else brings out a rival product, you can show yours was on the market first. Your rival may end up having to pay you a licensing fee. Competition is good because it forces you to improve your product,” Wade said.

Managing director of Tropical Blizzard, Teesha Thompson, was one of those who “soaked up” Wade’s guidance.

“I really connected with Bruce’s advice about new businesses because I started my own business a month and a half ago. We started on a smaller budget than some of the bigger companies but Bruce spoke about competing online on a fairly level playing field. Customers are not looking at a skyscraper as opposed to a home-based business. The reality is you have to get out there, listen to what the customer or client wants and build that relationship because the clients are the ones who are going to determine how far your business goes,” Thompson said.

Tropical Blizzard sells Hawaiian shaved ice treats, which are similar to snow cones but the ice is shaved rather than crushed. Thompson explained that shaving the ice allows the syrup to be absorbed “in the fluffy “snow” and you end up eating the flavoured ice.” Vice-president of BLAC Planning Committee and co-owner of BLAC Sheep Barbering, Keevan Lewis, considered the Global Business Mixer a success because those who attended told him they learned a lot from the web-chats with experts in marketing and entrepreneurship.

“The live web chats with Bruce Wade and experts from the Coca Cola company in the United States really helped our members and is an example of how BLAC Sheep does things differently. Our main goal was to bring entrepreneurs and business professionals together to mix, mingle, increase their network and really see how they could benefit from any partnerships they might develop out of the mixer,” Lewis said.

Coca Cola was sought for the event because BLAC saw the Atlanta, Georgia-based beverage company as an ideal example of how to maintain one’s brand internationally.

“We made contact with Isha Edwards; a brand marketing consultant for and owner of EPiC Measures in the United States, who “sourced” Coca Cola and other companies for us. We then began planning for this event several months ago, arranging web chats across time zones and so on.”

Lewis added that Coca Cola’s representative “was able to give us good insight into the importance of building your brand name. If you do this successfully, you are able to run any other business through that brand name if it is a strong brand.”

The next BLAC business mixer will be held in October. For more information on this and other BLAC events, contact Lewis or Daniel via email b-sheep@hotmail.com

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