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Irvine Green is a born entrepreneur. He eats, sleeps and breathes business ideas. In his latest blog, he shares tales of how he looks at every event and relationship as an opportunity. Some of these ventures have produced extra pocket money; others have raked in serious cash. Irvine has some great suggestions on how to get your creative juices flowing.
Whether you are thinking of breaking free from your employer or want to take your own small business into a new direction, Irvine’s blogs are well worth a read. In the last of his series on identifying new ways to make money, he illustrates ways you can tap into big events as well as other small businesses to generate cashflow. -JC
<caption> Irvine Green’s message to budding entrepreneurs is this: ‘Got an idea? Have a hunch it’ll work? You won’t know unless you try.’
By Irvine Green
To conclude my ‘finding an idea’ set of blogs, I want to mention some things I picked up on and did, but which I knew from the start were of limited scale, or one-off projects for extra pocket money and to ‘get known out there’ as a start.
Small business ideas around a big event
When it was announced in May 2004 that the 2010 World Cup event had been awarded to South Africa, I immediately jumped on the money making bandwagon, knowing there was limited time to take advantage of opportunities. I wasn’t prepared to be one of those who registered to use the words ‘2010 FIFA World Cup’ at a horrendous fee as that could price my idea too high to sell. Although it was a while before I had to ‘dive for cover’, I knew I had a window of around 18 months.
I thought of writing a booklet (an e-book) called ‘Over 100 ideas for small business, World Cup 2010 ‘. Within 36 hours of SA getting the event, I started writing this booklet. Inside of a week of the announcement, I had it finished.
Cost to me: Zero (no printing needed). And NO, I didn’t plagiarise any ideas. Many were obvious; some needed a little thought.
Marketing the booklet
I e-mailed a press release to ‘small business’ oriented magazines as well as the general media, radio stations and talk show hosts I knew. Because I was one of the first out of the starting gate – probably in the first six or seven – to market World Cup related services/products there was immediate interest from the media, so I soon had press write-ups and radio interviews on the go.
I also e-mailed large companies, asking them to put up a poster I had created on staff notice boards, in case staff members had family or friends who were unemployed and might want to obtain such a booklet at an affordable price to get their share of the football bonanza by using one (or a few) of my ideas.
My charge for the e-booklet was R60. Buyers simply had to deposit R60 in my account, send me the deposit slip by e-mail, or the auto-generated electronic transfer advice, and I’d e-mail the booklet file to them. This file could be read on any word processor.
I carried on marketing the booklet to the point where a law restricting use of the 2010 World Cup name and so on was passed, and then shut up shop. I had sold about 400 copies. That was fine. My earlier advertising in magazines and elsewhere was still noticed after I stopped officially promoting this booklet, and if people contacted me I filled their orders.
Now that is about as good an example as I can give of ‘grabbing the idea and milking it’ from the get go. JUST DO IT.
In another case, I got to know a new neighbour. When she started her own business I offered to sell her used, good quality, lever arch files, to reduce her stationery costs. BINGO.
There was a charity shop a few blocks away that had dozens of these at a low, low price. I sold the neighbour about 25 files over three weeks, at around R6 profit per file. Some of her friends got to hear of this and also bought some. I nearly cleared the charity shop’s file stock by the time this little one-off idea ended. Everyone benefited – the charity shop’s beneficiary, the new business start-up, and me!
Many of you reading this have no doubt been to a Tiger Wheel and Tyre outlet to get new tyres, have wheels aligned, or whatever in that line. And you have probably seen those automatic tyre pumps with the large red digital readout. The tyre pressure is set via button presses and the tyre inflated to EXACTLY that pressure (none of the old mechanical hand pumps we’re used to from the past and which were often somewhat incorrect).
This auto tyre pump is made in South Africa by a friend. He had spent time in the auto industry locally and saw the need for an electronic device like this. It wasn’t a new idea, such things existed overseas.. But, after exchange rates, import duties and VAT, imported units were unattractive. So my friend started manufacturing a local unit, with some EXTRA bells and whistles the foreign imports didn’t have.
Betting the house on a good business idea
The usual story, money was tight, and banks (or backers) didn’t want to lend to him on an untested idea, so my friend maxed his mortgage via the access bond, and got down to it. Some of what was needed for this SA-made unit he couldn’t do himself (such as the operating software) so he outsourced the work.
As far as the software is concerned, managed to convince the person who wrote it to charge him per unit sold rather than the total authoring price up-front. This helped to fix the cost of software and keep money spare for other developments around this tyre service product.
That was about 15 years ago. Now these SA-made auto tyre pumps are seen everywhere. The software is still charged out per unit sold, making its developer more money than he’d have made selling it as a one-off.
To end the ‘ideas series’: those who say any and everything that can be done or invented has been done are intentionally walking around with ‘eyes wide shut’.
For more tips and anecdotes from Johannesburg-based entrepreneur Irvine Green, see some of his other blogs:
- Bright sparks: using your creative side to hit on a winning business idea
- Turning a hobby into a thriving small business: starting with old photographs
- Turning a business dream into reality – Irvine’s success started with an outrageous idea
- Start your own business within the hour. The case for sole trading.
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