Moving from the theory to the reality
Nearing the end of the Balloon curriculum training I found myself itching with excitement and ready to dive straight into working with our entrepreneurs and my working counterparts. Throughout our training we were given an initial heads-up about the significant differences between the fast-paced corporate bubble that is London and the more relaxed and informal approach to business here in Kericho.
Before meeting our entrepreneurs I had no clue what to expect, would there ideas be inspiring or unrealistic? Would they be punctual to meetings or would we spend the following 10 weeks wondering around Kericho trying to track them down for a meeting? In our working groups we decided that the best approach to take would be relaxed and personable yet professional and spent the first meeting just getting to know our entrepreneurs whilst gathering a sense of what their individual working styles were like.
One week in and we have five completely different businesses and start-up ideas from a hotel start up to an existing poultry farm business. After meeting with all of our entrepreneurs I realised quickly that it is not so much about the expectations that we have about the entrepreneurs but more importantly their expectations of us and how we can best adapt, learn and translate our skills in the most beneficial way for their businesses.
Edwina and the Poultry farm
The thought of a poultry farmer who had initially requested just a dozen more chickens to expand her existing stock seemed just too simple of an idea to get excited about- partially because the solution seemed like a dead give- away but also because the idea seemed to barely require any intervention. The instant challenge we faced surrounded the question; “What can we contribute to an entrepreneur who has already figured out what they want to do and how they are going to do it?” Admittedly, the urge to persuade Edwina to consider adding other products to her business has crept up on us a number of times in a bid to enlarge the business idea to something a bit more snazzy and impressive, our hesitation to do so was grounded by the questioning of whether adding to Edwina’s current business idea would prove beneficial or ultimately detrimental to her progress.
Currently, Edwina has only 10 chickens and her business in poultry farming had been going for only 2 months when we first met. On our way to meet Edwina we passed a local school, the children in the playground were being given rice pudding. Edwina’s face lit up as she mentioned her plans to supply eggs to the school that her little boy attends. It became clear moving forward that Edwina’s business idea as simple as it sounds had amazing potential for customer innovation rather than the previously desired product innovation. The process of expanding Edwina’s customer segment was something completely new to Edwina and therefore has become a great opportunity for us all to share what we had learnt from the curriculum training.
At this stage in the process it is still early days for Edwina’s poultry farm but our next steps are to test the demand for the supply of eggs and chicken to schools and larger businesses in her local area before she decides whether expanding is ultimately the right choice for her business.
What I’ve learnt from my entrepreneurs:
- See potential in the simplest of ideas.
- Practice patience.
- There is more than one right way of working.
- Always be willing to be adapting your perspective and start again.
Kimberly, Balloon ICS, Kericho