Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Richard Branson on How Small Businesses Can Innovate

richard branson
Richard Branson
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In case you didn't know, Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, which consists of more than 400 companies around the world including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and Virgin Mobile. He is the author of six books including his latest, Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won't Teach You at Business School (Portfolio Trade, 2012).

Some time around May this year, Sir Richard Branson proved that he was a real man after honouring a crazy bet he made with CEO of Air Asia, Tony Fernandes. Both men are fans of Formula 1 racing and made a bet on the Abu Dhabi grand prix (2010), with the loser to dress up as a female stewardess and serve on the winner’s airline.

In a recent article written by him which can be read in here, some how it caught my attention since he was talking about small business. I tend to agree that when think about innovation, we think about blue chip business like in Silicon Valley and technological advances and companies with big R&D budgets. According to him the truth is that even the smallest businesses, from one-chair barbershops to popcorn vendors on the street, are capable of coming up with ideas that capture customers' imaginations. When that happens, you are on your way to building a great brand.

He was in Johannesburg recently, when he heard pitches from many of aspiring entrepreneurs and was reminded of the many different ways that a small business can innovate. "You don't need a big budget: all you need is some ambition and a good idea."

Find something people want, then do it better
Case study: Miles Khubeka has created a brand with a lot of potential. He based his restaurant business on a popular (yet not trademarked) character from a beer advertisement: "Vuyo," an aspiring everyman with a food cart who makes it big. Miles opened a restaurant based on the Vuyo's food offerings, and he is now launching franchises in the form of Vuyo food carts, which other young entrepreneurs operate, spreading the Vuyo name. It's an excellent idea.

Take the old and make it new again
To build a successful business, you don't have to build a new product from scratch.
If you can repurpose an existing product, or if you spot a gap in the market where brands are not offering the improvements to their products that customers would like, there is no reason why you shouldn't step in.

Tell customers about the purpose behind your product
The roots of great brands usually feature a compelling narrative, and sharing your story right from the start can help you to win the support of your community - and their business.

An example is the story of Mmabatho Portia Morudi, who developed her interest in bees when her 87-year-old grandfather took her along on a beekeeping course. Now she is determined to help protect the bees while also building a successful business.

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