Women Entrepreneurs Ask: Is It A Product or A Business?

Women Entrepreneurs Ask: Is It A Product or A Business?


If you are a regular viewer of Shark Tank you know how important it is that an entrepreneur, male or female, build a company not just develop and sell a product. Women, particularly, are more likely than men to turn a hobby into a business. So the question for women entrepreneurs is: Is what you BELIEVE to be a business just an expansion of your hobby?

The definition of a hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. The definition of a business is the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce. Clearly, the difference between a hobby and business is the exchange of money. However, launching any type of business requires startup costs and an expectation that profits may take a year or more to accumulate. The trouble begins when the required costs always exceed the potential income and as the days, months and years go along profits are never realized.

Of course, this is why business planning and, particularly, writing a business plan is so valuable to an entrepreneur desiring to build a business. Just because one has developed a product and finds people who want to buy it does not mean a business is born. As often as I say this to potential entrepreneurs (better called hobbiests), too many just don’t understand the difference and go out thinking they are building a business when in fact they are only expanding their time working on their hobby.

So, here are some questions to ask yourself to evaluate whether your business idea is really a business or just an expansion of your hobby.

(1) Do I know exactly what the costs are to produce my product? This question is the most important because if you haven’t accounted for the cost of time necessary to produce your product you will never be able to sell it for a profit.

For example, if you make handbags that everyone wants to buy from you and you decide to launch a handbag business you may start off by making the bags by hand. Of course, you will charge for the costs of the materials necessary for production and the costs to get your product to the customer – marketing, advertising, shipping, packaging, invoicing, merchant charges (credit cards etc.), phone, internet, etc. But what will you charge for your time?

As an entrepreneur you must always think ahead to when others will be doing the work that you must do as a startup. Therefore, if when you launch your business you are the owner, marketer, billing department, shipping department, IT department, customer service department, product manager and creator you MUST add in the costs of the time that these services will cost your company when you grow large enough that these positions will be staffed by others.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if your product is a handbag, a cupcake, a floral design, a wedding plan or even a consultancy plan. If you want to grow you MUST plan in advance and price your product accordingly from the beginning.

(2) Do I know for sure that there is a market for my product? Yes, I know that for years people have been eyeing your clothes, handbag, floral designs, or whatever and told you they would pay anything if you would just start selling. You would be surprised at just how many people have started businesses by hearing the same words.

The answer is: every entrepreneur MUST do market research. If your product does not fill a void in the marketplace IT will not be profitable for long or if ever! Believe you will run out of friends before you know it and too soon to stop you from purchasing too much goods to create your product.

The biggest question for any entrepreneur in the startup phase with a product business is how much product should I create?

The answer can only be found by doing market research in your area, online, and anywhere your product may find a customer.

I love nothing better than to work with entrepreneurs, particularly women entrepreneurs, and help them build an idea into a business. Some hobbies have turned into some profitable businesses, but in order for yours to make it you MUST take the time to do the work, create the plan, price your product appropriately for growth and be prepared for the ride of your life!

P.S. The photo above depicts Girl Scout Hobby Patches – Girl Scouts rule!

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Source: http://www.vickidonlan.com/Womens-Business-Blog/bid/102954/Women-Entrepreneurs-Ask-Is-It-A-Product-or-A-Business

What’s Japan’s Guiltiest Secret?: (Hint) It’s Not The Comfort Women

For anyone who follows East Asia, here’s a question: what is Japan’s guiltiest secret?

The “comfort women” scandal? The Nanking massacre? Official homage to war criminals at the Yasukuni shrine?

No, no, and no. If by a guilty secret we mean something that Japan really, really wants to sweep under the rug, none of the above comes even close. Japan actually often goes out of its way to publicize these issues: click here for the official Japanese news agency’s account of today’s carefully timed visit by Keiji Furuya to Yasukuni. With Kyodo’s help and the fact that Easter Sunday is, of course, a particularly slow news day in the West,  this relative nonentity has made headlines everywhere from the South China Morning Post to the BBC World Service.

We will look more closely at Japan’s attitude to such controversies in a moment. For now let’s note that Japan does have secrets and big ones – secrets it strives with unique ingenuity and success to keep out  of the Western media.

Top of the list is something that – at least for those of us who know Japan – is hidden in plain sight: the Japanese auto market. Fifty years after the Tokyo authorities ostensibly began opening to free trade, the Japanese auto market remains one of the world’s most closed. I don’t mean just that Detroit-made cars don’t get a look in. These are, with few exceptions, unsuitable for Japanese roads. But the Detroit Big Three’s subsidiaries in Europe make plenty of cars that – in a fair world – should do well in Japan. After all such cars compete, and in many cases compete strongly, against Japanese competition across Europe. They don’t have a prayer against Japan’s non-tariff barriers.

Even more tellingly Volkswagen is a tiny also-ran in Japan, with just 1 percent of the market. Yet Volkswagen is no slouch in other markets and in fact ranks broadly equal to Toyota as the world’s largest auto-maker (the days when that title seemed to be General Motors’s by birthright are gone).

Then there is Renault, which is supposedly (at least if you believe the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) the senior partner in an alliance with Japan’s second largest automaker Nissan. For more than a decade now Renault chief Carlos Ghosn has been trying to get Renault cars into Nissan showrooms. The last I heard he was even living much of his time in the posh Tokyo district of Azabu in one of the world’s more expensive rental apartments. He has remarkably little to show for his efforts: to the extent that the Renault has established any presence in Japan it is as a make of bicycles. Made under license in Taiwan, Renault bicycles have captured, on an optimistic count, perhaps 1 percent of the Japanese bicycle market!

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The Yasukuni Shrine: always in the news but  at least no one is talking about the car market. Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, umpteen times over the years the problem of Japan’s closed market has been declared solved. Nobuhiko Ushiba, who served as Japan’s ambassador to Washington in the early 1970s, once told reporters: “There is no example in recent history of a nation liberalizing trade policy as fast as Japan.” Meanwhile in 1982, Japanese foreign minister Yoshio Sakurauchi assured a meeting of the GATT that Japan “is one of the most open markets in the world.”

A particularly impressive-sounding assurance came from President Bill Clinton in 1995. Speaking in the White House Briefing Room, with Japanese Trade Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto looking on impassively, Clinton announced that Japan had agreed “to truly open its auto and auto parts markets to American companies.”

He added: “This agreement is specific. It is measurable. It will achieve real, concrete results … we finally have an agreement that will move cars and parts both ways between the United States and Japan. This breakthrough is a major step toward free trade throughout the world.”

It was all empty rhetoric, of course, as Clinton surely knew. The interesting thing is that the American press has never revisited the record, not even the reliably anti-Clinton Wall Street Journal. Anyone who knows the Tokyo news business knows why. The Japanese authorities keep the foreign press on a remarkably tight leash and, with virtually no exceptions, foreign correspondents are induced to censor themselves. As a practical matter, Tokyo wields a panoply of carrots and sticks in controlling what Japan-based foreigners say to the outside world and most long-term foreign residents are overt or covert agents for Japan’s public relations agenda. Foreign correspondents are no exception.

Don’t believe me? Do a Google search. The most important single fact about the Japanese auto market is that for decades the share of all foreign brands  combined has been kept to just 4 percent. When did you last read that in the New York Times? It is also worth searching for a statement put out last July by the American Automotive Policy Council itemizing some of the most blatant of Japan’s non-tariff barriers. It received virtually no coverage in the U.S. press.

Yet it is hard to exaggerate the consequences for the global economy. Thanks to assiduous protectionism,  the Japanese domestic auto market remains a high-price sanctuary. The huge profits earned there enable Japanese auto makers to invest at a super-fast rate in ever more efficient production technology, all the while pricing aggressively in foreign markets.  Nor is the global auto market a small prize. The fact is that autos and auto parts are by far the largest single manufacturing category in world trade.

Now let’s consider the comfort women scandal and other widely publicized manifestations of Japan’s “failure to come to terms with its past.” The first thing to note is that no one alive today had any responsibility for the war, thus everyone  has an alibi.  For a nation with some real skeletons in its closet, controversy over the war-time past is actually a safe issue and if things become a little too heated the Prime Minister or Emperor can always step in with another apology, thus putting the issue to bed until further notice. Seen in this light there is no point in Tokyo covering up such issues. Quite the contrary. While the foreign press busies itself with the often completely contrived issues of the war-time past, it has less time and energy to delve into issues on which the Tokyo authorities really want to maintain radio silence.

The most obvious indicator that Tokyo has no interest in suppressing the controversies is the behavior of the Japan Times, a semi-official English language newspaper  that the Dutch Japanologist Karel van Wolferen has characterized as the Tokyo Foreign Ministry’s megaphone. What is clear is that as most American and British correspondents in Tokyo don’t read Japanese, the Japan Times is the unstated source of many of their reports. A closely related matter is the role of Kyodo, the official news agency whose English-language service follows the same editorial policy as the Japan Times.

On issues that the authorities really want to sweep under the rug, the Japan Times and Kyodo cooperate fully. Besides the auto market issue, another key issue that has traditionally been censored in Tokyo is Japan’s stonewalling on compensation to war victims. In sharp contrast to Germany, Japan has paid virtually nothing to victims of its war crimes – a fact that for decades was kept almost completely sub-rosa in the Western press. (Things have been liberalized somewhat in the last few years, now that most of the victims are dead.)

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/eamonnfingleton/2014/04/20/whats-japans-guiltiest-secret-hint-its-not-the-comfort-women/

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