It’s funny how sometimes things just go together. Recently, I’ve been reading about entrepreneurial characteristics. What makes an entrepreneur different from everyone else (in a positive way, of course)? What skills do they possess? What personality traits are common amongst entrepreneurs? What attributes distinguish successful entrepreneurs from those that give up?
According to the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, one the major research foundations focused on entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurs generally have a defined set of characteristics that enables success:
- Low Support Needs
- Thrives on Ambiguity
- Problem Solving
- Belief in the Value of Money
- Ego Development
- Market Awareness
I was surprised how well Matt fit the “template” proposed by the Kauffman Foundation. First, just look at Matt’s premise; everyone wants an “edge piece” of brownie…and not everyone can have one. That is indeed a problem. Matt doesn’t have any formal education in brownies (he has degrees in economics and urban planning)…but he did display the initiative and creativity to solve the brownie edge problem. His solution, “a simple redesign of the standard baking pan to introduce more edge baking surface area”. While most of us would agree that that is an innovative idea, he saw a problem, created a solution, and exerted a lot of energy to create a business based on his solution. Most of us see a problem and think the solution is too complicated or the problem is too small to actually make a solution worth the time and effort.
With no expertise in manufacturing, Matt had a “long and bumpy” road progressing from concept to actual production. Like many entrepreneurs, the initial thinking was to sell the idea. But even before making pitches to sell the idea, Matt correctly protected his idea. He went through the patent process to protect his intellectual property. When he approached the bakeware industry with offering to sell his idea he got what is probably the most common response an entrepreneur receives…nobody will buy it. In Matt’s case he was told the idea had no merit. This is where one of the most critical entrepreneurship characteristics comes into play; perseverance. Most ideas are dropped at this point in the process. However, as Matt said, “you can’t buy back opportunity…later.”
With no interest in the idea from the bakeware industry, Matt formed the Baker’s Edge and proceeded with a traditional business line of credit through a local bank for initial production. Marketing was done using a “bootstrapping” strategy instead of traditional advertisements. Sales were done through Matt’s bakersedge.com site and other small, special interest sites. Word of mouth was spread through blogs and local paper reviews.
Two years after the company launch, Baker’s Edge reached $1M in sales and is the #1 selling bakeware on Amazon for 18 straight months.
The lessons learned from Matt Griffin’s process of starting the Baker’s Edge are common among successful entrepreneurs. Why? While the Kauffman Foundation lists 14 attributes of entrepreneurs I think the fact is simply that entrepreneurs have the guts and determination to go beyond an idea or concept. Entrepreneurs take concepts and turn them into reality.