When successful entrepreneurs look back at how they began, they can gloss over the difficulties of starting up. Often, the stories they tell about how they grew their ventures neglect the early stage of what it really took to validate the initial idea in market.
Dr. Sarasvathy of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business noticed this. It’s what led her to conduct research with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States. And this resulted in her discovery of Effectuation. Effectuation is the process used by successful entrepreneurs to start ventures.
This week, I came across this story of a local entrepreneur in Charlottesville, VA. Kip McCharen has launched a business making alcohol bitters (http://tinyurl.com/zfgohje). And all of the principles of Effectuation are evident in his story.
- Bird in Hand Principle: Start with who you are, what you know, and whom you know.
Making bitters is something Kip enjoys. He was experimenting with some when he ran into a challenge. He could only buy certain ingredients in bulk. Rather than let them go to waste, he made a large batch, kept what he wanted for himself, and gave the rest to friends.
His friends enjoyed the bitters – and asked for more. From this, the idea of crafting bitters for sale was born.
- Affordable Loss Principle: Only risk what you can afford to lose.
While Kip saw an opportunity to make and sell his bitters, he wasn’t ready to give up his existing job yet. So he decided to test the waters by selling at the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. He called and asked them if they would let him have a presence there some weekend and was surprised that there was an immediate opportunity. He took it.
- Crazy Quilt Principle: Grow through partnerships with committed stakeholders.
Wanting to expand awareness for his product and put it in front of more potential customers, Kip brokered arrangements with local restaurants to feature his bitters. The restaurants were willing to do so as it gave them something new to offer their patrons. This has helped Kip to grow beyond customers that he alone can reach.
- Lemonade Principle: Turn challenges into opportunities.
This is most evident in Kip’s initial approach to having to order large quantities of ingredients for his own batch. He didn’t throw away the excess. He made a large batch and gifted the product to friends and family.
- Pilot in the Plane Principle: The future is created, not predicted.
The market for bitters is relatively untapped. Even the regulators aren’t quite sure how to address it yet. Rules around composition and distribution are evolving. This isn’t stopping Kip from pursuing his venture. He is working with things he can control and maintaining the ability to adapt and be flexible to meet the needs of this changing environment.
Kip doesn't know where this venture will end up yet. The regulations around it are still being formed. There aren’t many competitors. Craft bitters are a relatively new concept. But that’s not stopping Kip. Instead, he’s viewing this as an opportunity.
No one can say what this venture might look like in a few years, but for now, Kip is applying Effectuation to grow it. And we wish him sweet success for his bitter business.
--Written by Sara Whiffen, Founder & Managing Partner, Insights Ignited LLC