Part 1: Technology Creates Business Opportunities
I’m Sharon Choksi, a co-founder of Girls Will Be, a line of girls clothes without the “girly.” We design clothes for girls who don’t like to wear pink and sparkles and ruffles and bows (at least not ALL the time). Prior to that, my experience included marketing at Dell (that’s as close as I ever got to high tech), management consulting, and an MBA.
You may be wondering what I am doing writing a series of blog posts for TechGirlz? For the next generation of leaders, I believe it is really important to be tech-savvy, regardless of the particular field and career you choose. For entrepreneurs, in particular, technology is a key enabler and you absolutely must be comfortable with it.
In this post, I want to talk about how the evolution of technology is always creating business opportunities that were not possible 10, 5, or even 1 year before. Think about Snapchat, Flappy Bird, Groupon, and Zappos.
Girls Will Be is another example. We are targeting a niche market, and even though we believe it is sizable and growing, no children’s clothing retailers were interested in our line because it’s an unproven concept and they want to stock what they know will sell. 10 years ago, that would have been the end of the story. But the Internet creates a sales channel for us to sell directly to the customers. And social media creates a way to find our target customers and build a relationship with them. And all sorts of technologies enabled me to start the business out of my house, run it while on the go every afternoon with my elementary school aged kids, and work collaboratively with my sister in St. Louis and my brother in Chicago.
We are now embracing another technology to raise the funding to expand our product line into shorts – Kickstarter. Any type of manufacturing (like our clothes) requires significant upfront investment, to produce the minimum order quantities. Those costs can be prohibitive for small businesses, many of which do not have access to large investors (whether that is wealthy individuals, venture capital, or even bank loans.)
Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding platform, enabling people and small businesses to raise money by collecting small contributions from a large number of people. Another option that would not have been available 5 years ago. To date, over 5.6 million people have pledged over $1 BILLION to back over 56,000 successful Kickstarter projects. Talk about creating business opportunities! And kids are using it too! The very first Kickstarter we ever backed was for a kid’s snow-cone stand. And a high school student just raised over $33,000 to make bras for young girls.
Without technology, my business would not have been possible. So I challenge you to always be thinking about the implications of a new technology. How could you use it to change a particular industry? How could it affect consumer behavior? What new businesses could it create? A lot of great ideas start that way! And you are in a great position to take advantage of your comfort with the latest technologies to create something innovative.
In part 2 of this series, I’ll talk about how I use technology on a day-to-day basis to run my small business. For example, I never thought I’d be teaching myself basic HTML programming, but as an entrepreneur, you need to be willing and able to roll-up your sleeves and figure it out!
In the mean time, if you are always searching for girls shorts that are not-so-short, not-so-tight, and not-so-pink, you should check out our Kickstarter campaign.