Monday, December 12, 2011

Becoming an entrepreneur for anxious times.

       Research out of Princeton now shows a direct correlation between mortgage foreclosure rates and physical illness. They found that 100 foreclosures correspond to a 7.2% rise in emergency room visits and hospitalization for hypertension. This horrible statistic makes complete sense and I have great empathy for those in foreclosure.

        You'd think that during an economy causing this much stress would be a bad time to go into business. Chins up, entrepreneurs. For some, it's a great time.

        Think of Groupon and Living Social. I'm not even sure they would have taken off the way they did in calmer economic times. Nothing seems to be stopping Facebook, either, although Google+ is certainly trying to.  Google+ now has over 25 million users.

         In more traditional areas, American Eagle is doing exceptionally well, and finally, so is Abercrombie and Fitch. Both have adapted to consumers' changes in behavior. Saks Off Fifth is also adding stores, in the U.S. and overseas. Starbucks sales are way up, too, since c.e.o. Howard Schultz personalized their way of making coffee, took Via into supermarkets, and added boxes of lunch.

        The secret is a determined focus on the consumer,  planning the marketing around her needs, not the company's. Find out what your customer wants and what she's prepared to pay, and then go back and design your product and your distribution to match.

        Heres an example: backpacks. At L.L. Bean, their fastest growing backpack measures 2,400 cubic inches. It has the capacity of a college dorm refrigerator. Not good. The American Occupational Therapy Association says that a loaded backpack shouldn't exceed 10% of a child's body weight. A 100-pound teen should carry only 10 pounds. There's your challenge as an entrepreneur. Find out what kids have to carry around these days, and why, and perhaps you can invent a new kind of backpack that would be more efficient and healthier, at a reasonable price.

        Opportunities for entrepreneurs are everywhere, even in times like these. You know there's an obesity problem with kids; invent something that will help.

         Whether it's hard to find reasonably priced denims for very tall women; the opposite of Red Bull to help college students relax; a cell phone with larger type and keyboard for aging baby boomers --- you can create a way to be successful.

       Just look around. Somebody's always complaining about something!

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