Saturday 29 December 2018

Green Dreams - a student startup venture

The Entrepreneurship Club at Al Qamar has come a long way from the time it started in July. The  group of 7-10 students are participating in the School Enterprise Challenge, a global business planning and execution competition which guides students through the various stages of running a sustainable business. Students have to design a business around the 3Ps -  Profit, People and Planet.

Business Idea

The team started off with brainstorming what kinds of business it wanted to run. After narrowing a long list down to the top 3 ideas Candle making, a medicinal plant nursery and scrapbook making, the students conducted an online survey to get a sense of what would work. The overwhelming vote was for a medicinal plant nursery - an idea which intrigued the surveyed group. The students articulated  a business goal of helping people find natural alternative care for common ailments while reviving traditional knowledge. The students called their business "Green Dreams".

During this process, Br. Siraj Samsudeen, a corporate consultant, conducted a Business Planning workshop to help students identify what makes a successful business. "Its about meeting customer needs, and not what you want to sell."

After several group discussions and brainstorms, the students submitted a formal Business Idea document which enshrined all their ideas.

Business Planning

Next, the team had to go through a 8 week training program on how to complete business plans. They learned about conducting market research. The team conducted a second survey with detailed questions about which kind of plants people wanted. They even interviewed potential customers in depth to understand customer needs.

The students  learned about understanding their own business space which involved doing a SWOT, competitor and customer analysis. They realised a key point - their own customers could become competitors. They brainstormed marketing strategy - from defining their product, coming up with pricing, creating a list of promotions and figuring out places they would sell - a throwback to the 4 P's of marketing. They narrowed their product mix to 6-7 plants in two categories. The regular priced plants were to be sold in recycled plastic jars and bottles. The premium products were to be sold in coconut coir pots.

The students had to create a Financial Plan which detailed their costs and potential revenue. The applied for a startup interest free loan from the school - which was approved. The amortization costs were included in their Financial Plan. Next came the Operating Plan with a brainstorm of startup and periodic activities involved in running the business and creation of an organizational chart with roles and responsibilities.

The entire process gave the students an excellent overview of running a real business.

Annual Plan

Green Dreams was formally launched during a parent meeting with great success. With aggressive marketing tactics and personal promotions the team reached 84% of their monthly target in the first sale itself. The balance was made up during the next meeting. In January, they plan to now conduct sales at the beach - a popular go-to spot for the neighbourhood people

Meanwhile, the team received its first feedback from the the SEC group and they were thrilled to bits:

1.    We were impressed with the clear, detailed presentation of your market research analysis. You clearly have a strong understanding of your customer base and have shown that there is a considerable market for your product/service. Congratulations on your high level of analysis!

2.     You have done a great job when analysing and justifying your 4Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion), indicating a high level of awareness of your target market. You have a clear description of your product/service, its use and the place you will be selling at, and a carefully considered pricing strategy, along with innovative promotion techniques. Well done!

3.     Can you think of more creative, innovative and entrepreneurial ways of raising the start-up capital you need? You can find lots of inspiring fundraising ideas, tactics and strategies in our dedicated Start-up Capital Guide [available to download from our website].

4.     Overall, this was an excellent Business Plan that you have created! We really enjoyed reading about the sustainability and return to your cultural roots that inspired your business idea in the first place. As another suggestion, we recommend making sure to find another way to earn the start-up capital. You could explore using the school loan as a back-up plan, since reducing your costs incurred will allow you to generate profits more quickly. Good luck with your business!

The Green Dreams team has to now run the business successfully for 3 months before submitting an Annual Plan.  Make dua for this gutsy group.

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