“If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come”
Have you heard about Laura Beck of www.stripedshirt.com, the self-proclaimed “failed entrepreneur” whose kickstopper story has gone viral? At The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center part of what we do every day is help people understand that some planning and research up front can be the difference between a successful business and a failed idea. But it’s even better for you to hear it from someone who knows like Laura Beck.
I live in a house with four women, and work in an office with five women, in both cases I am the only male. So not only have I learned to put the toilet seat down, but I have also learned that women find wearing striped shirts unflattering. Somehow Mrs. Beck didn’t get this memo. If she had put together a small focus group of women before starting, I am certain this is something that would have come up. Pre-planning and some simple market research can save a lot of headaches down the road. In the case of Mrs. Beck, I am sure she had many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to unload the 21,000 striped shirts she had pre-ordered, or how to recoup the $210,000 investment she had made to start the business.
This is the same situation many entrepreneurs find themselves in on a daily basis and, when a loan is involved and the collateral is a person’s home, the dream of owning a business can quickly become a nightmare. The mistake admitted by Mrs. Beck was that she thought PR alone could sell the product. However, marketing isn’t only advertising, it’s finding the right product and being able to sell it at a price people are willing to pay for it.
At the SBDC, we help would-be-entrepreneurs gather as much information as possible when considering starting a business and we work with a number of successful small business clients…but sometimes our advice is actually not to start a business if it just isn’t going to work. More often than not when entrepreneurs fail to plan, the stories end up like stripedshirt.com. Sometimes having a dream and passion is not enough – you need a dream, passion, and a solid plan.
If you would like help determining whether your business idea is a good one or if you’re already in too deep and need to figure out how to unload 21,000 striped shirts, feel free to contact us at the SBDC for some free and confidential assistance.
Keith D. Yurgosky
The University of Scranton
Small Business Development Center