Monday, September 27, 2010

Jeff Cornwall: Adaptation skills come in handy for entrepreneurs

When entrepreneurs enter the market, it is often with a very clear vision for their business. They know what they want to sell and to whom they want to sell it.
Alecia Venkataraman, who is completing her master of business administration degree at Belmont University, where I teach, launched her nonprofit, Make It Beautiful, to serve a very specific group of people.

Based on her own experience as a young adult who overcame great personal adversity, Alecia wanted to create an organization that would help others facing similar life circumstances. Make It Beautiful would offer services to help inspire these people to pursue their own dreams.

MIB developed programs for children facing terminal illnesses, as well as their families; for single parents and their children; for families trying to start over after tragedies; and for others facing significant adversities.

MIB had a team that offered services in life coaching, wellness counseling, legal issues, career planning and connecting with community resources. From its very beginning, MIB was overwhelmed with potential clients seeking help. Alecia had appeared to identify a need and a solution among her target population.

However, as successful as its programs were, the business model of MIB had a flaw. It relied on donations and sponsorships to fund the revenues it needed for its operations, and Alecia was not able to secure enough funding to sustain the idea.

Alecia had been supplementing operations from her own savings, but that money was running out. It became painfully clear that she'd have to cease operations at MIB.

Along the way, Alecia had sought advice from many different people about the problems she was having with the company. They all believed that the concept she was offering had value — and that people would be willing to pay for it.

Find a new way

Then it dawned on Alecia.

It was time to try to take the services offered at MIB and offer them to a different market that had the ability to pay. Like most entrepreneurs, she had to adapt her business model.

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