2.16 Note to Future Self

Sanif’s Reflective Essay

Word Count – 2083

Well, what a year has it been! Even though we are concluding our academic year, I believe this is the first step towards a journey of a thousand miles. Words are not enough to describe how this experience has played a major role in shaping me. This was the first time ever that I heard of the concept “Design Thinking”. Initially, I had a very narrow vision about this module, all that I thought this would be was graphic or product design. The fact is, I only thought of the ‘design’ aspect and ignored the ‘thinking’ part’. When I attended my first lecture, that is when I realized how ignorant I was, that is when I made the first change in me – I learnt to think with a “Broad Mind” and keep my “Intellect Open” to knowledge.

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I was fortunate enough to have done the Young Enterprise program before, where I was the Marketing Director for Staunchh, a startup which won all the competitions it went to. I felt pretty confident and optimistic to be doing the program again. However, things do not always go the way we want, this is where I learnt the second most important lesson which not only changed my mindset but brought in me a completely new change – It is okay “Not to WIN.”

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Team One Minute has always been a very hard working and dedicated team, the team rigorously put all their efforts in an idea called the My PA app, a service which enabled users to connect to personal assistants on demand. We worked several weeks to develop this idea only until the mock dragon’s den in December. The feedback totally demolished us, I was broken mentally and emotionally. It was so clear on my face that my lecturers came straight up to me to explain me it is okay to fail, it is okay to NOT WIN. This is when I realized the success I had with Staunchh had gotten to my mind and I had become too ambitious or say over confident. Only after so much supportive talks was I able to get my conscious back, I decided I will not give up because giving up is not an option, on the very same day even before everybody left, we gathered our team and decided that we quickly need to kill this baby! This idea would not take us anywhere considering the resources, expertise and time required to build it.

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The third lesson of my story is “Trust your instincts”.

 

I still don’t understand how it all happened, but the instincts in me quickly took over and made me take some quick decisions, the first thing I did was approach Alice to help us extend the deadline for bright ideas submission. We had no new idea in place, but I knew how important it was to enter bright ideas. Alice helped us with that and Martha gave us 2 more days to come up with a new idea. This is what opened up my vision to find problems in everyday life. The very next day, I was in the gym, trying to generate new ideas and it quickly hit me. My everyday problem in the gym – no place to store a phone. I thought there could be no better idea than the one that solves my own problem. When I observed my surroundings, I found a lot of other people facing the same problem, people leaving their phones on the floor. This is where I found the opportunity and quickly gathered my team to discuss this. This is how the “Tyton Case” came into existence. The emergence of this idea not only brought in a new spark of energy within me but also my team mates. We submitted our new idea to Bright Ideas the next day. Within a few days, we received an email stating that our idea has been shortlisted and is considered to be a strong one in the competition. This was my fourth lesson. “Recover Quickly”.

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When we initially came up with this idea of a protective phone case, we thought Titan would be the most appropriate name for it. However, after a lecture on intellectual property, we realized it was not so easy to get a name and put it everywhere. We researched all the databases and found Titan was a common name in every trademark class and it was in no possible way for a startup like ours to financially afford buying an existing one from someone. We were still very much convinced with the whole idea of Titan and the meaning behind it, that is when I learnt my fifth lesson ‘Adapt’. After working around different ways to tackle this issue, we came up with the name of Tyton which still sounded the same but spelt differently and most importantly was available everywhere. Tyton has a story of its own, not only was it our product but it became the brand name of One Minute. Each and every aspect of our company; business cards, banners, social media handles or website – everything has Tyton on it.

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A new journey began, and we started sketching our ideas onto a paper. Since none of us had technical drawing skills, we asked for help with one of the students from Knights Park campus. This was our first lean approach in the business, not only the student helped us for free, but her work was so impressive that we never needed to hire a professional designer for our early prototypes. We also got one of our team mate’s brother to do a 3D model for us, once this was ready it went straight to the university’s art campus and within 20 days of coming up with this idea, our first 3D printed prototype was ready. We were on time for the first trade fair in the Business School atrium and it was a surprise for many to see how quickly our team recovered and not only came up with an idea but a whole brand on display. This was my sixth lesson. “Take a Lean Approach and Ask for Help”.

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The next big step for our company was to prepare for Bright Ideas, the one that I worried about the most when we failed with our first idea in December. After being shortlisted, we were invited to attend KU trigger. Enterprise department insisted that every participant participated in this as this was vital to prepare for the finale. As students from business background, we already knew most of the concepts like business model, finance and marketing that we were expected to go through on the Trigger’s day, this brought in us a thought of skipping it. I am glad we attended it because later we found out that the team who made it on the shortlist but did not attend Trigger were eliminated from the competition. This was my seventh learning – not only because of this event, but generally in life “Presence Always Matters”.

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Bright Ideas was the first win for our company, not only was it our first but boy it was big! This gave us so much validation and motivation to carry on the work on Tyton case. The team got more serious over it and started narrowing on finding the perfect manufacturer. This in itself is a big challenge when you are trying to get it done overseas especially in a country like China. It is not only the time zone that creates a communication gap but also the language barrier. Also, the culture impacts the operations severely. From my experience with the manufacturers in China, I got an understanding of how they work, and it made me think of the big companies like Apple who constantly work with Chinese companies. How simple it sounds and how hard it is, I only got to know this when I did it myself. No matter what, we still managed to find the perfect manufacturer for us and built good relations with him. As of now, the company is preparing to place a massive order of 5000 units with this manufacturer and the relations between One Minute and the Chinese company could not be any better, this is all because of mutual understanding and respectful negotiations. This was my eight learning – “Accept Differences”.

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As we approached the end of this amazing year, we started working for our university’s final dragon’s den. We had the opportunity of going through a mock once again in order to make a few final changes before we faced the real dragons. On the day, we were highly appreciated by the judges, however, we got some strong criticism which was not constructive at all by a lecturer who was not supposed to be there at all. This is my personal belief and I could be wrong, but the entire cohort of my course felt a sense of partialness in the atmosphere. This is when I decided I need to do something as the course representative of the class. I approached Alice and my course director, explained to them the whole scenario and the outcome was simply amazing. I am very thankful to Alice to fulfil our demands of not having anyone else in the room except who belonged there on the final dragon’s den day. I think this enabled us to avoid unnecessary criticism which could have also influenced judge’s minds. In the end, we are one of the two teams who the dragon’s den and are now going forward to the UK nationals. We are working hard to get the title back to Kingston!!! This was my ninth lesson “Fight Back”.

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I cannot thank my team enough, I am very fortunate and blessed to have each and every one of them with me in this journey. I would particularly want to thank Divesh who has always been with me in my tough times and took a stand for me as my brother. He is a really honest and a kind guy who has always motivated me when I felt like giving up or when I started losing hope. Claire has been the backbone of our team all the time, my father always told me “every team needs a woman” and now I understand what my father meant. Claire is one of the reasons our team has been so efficient, there needs to be someone who counters you. If everyone sailed in the same boat, they would all sink. Claire has always been the one with distinctive thinking and the one who would not accept a decision without critically reflecting on it, I believe this attribute of hers has brought us where we are today. Last but not the least, Hector! The guy who could beat a calculator. The guy who kept a track of each and every financial statement and forecast we ever needed for our business. He kept us on a strict financial path and assured we always implemented a lean startup approach. Not only in my business life, these people have become an integral part of my life, people who I would die for! I conclude my learnings with the tenth and the final one “Unity is Strength”.

 

The overall experience and the journey has reshaped me and changed my approach towards life completely. I gave up the thought of having a job ever, I know I am born to be an entrepreneur. The several pitches that I have done throughout the year have eradicated the fear of public speaking and I have now emerged as a confident individual. No more I fear facing the people or taking the mic in hand. The success with One Minute was not only appreciated by my course lecturers and Young Enterprise but also the university. The recognition I received for my entrepreneurial journey by studying “Design Thinking” allowed me to win the elections for becoming the President of the Kingston Business Society. I was also approached to become a judge and had the opportunity of sharing the panel with high profile personalities. I was nominated to become the Student Enterprise Champion. All this has boosted the confidence and motivation in me. I intend to use my entrepreneurial skills to develop the Business Society, continue my personal venture and network with more individuals in the search of more business opportunities and potential co-founders.

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Here is one for fun! Identify who the person is!!!

 

 

 

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2.15 UK Nationals, we coming!

Estimated reading time – 5 mins

After the end of an intense year at KU, the team is finally going to UK Nationals. KU has been winning the Young Enterprise UK nationals for 5 years in a row except for the last year. We commit ourselves totally in order to get back the title to KU. In order to help us prepare better, we are seeking the help of two amazing and brilliant mentors and I feel very confident about performing well at the finals.

Going to Nationals is one big opportunity, however, it comes with its own responsibilities. Now the team had to work on a completely new business pitch deck, a 4 mins pitch and work for the trade stand. All this while also completing 4 major assignments for uni. This was really a stressful and busy period but I totally understand this experience we are going through will help us prepare better for the future and develop and polish us so much that we’ll be confident to step into the real world.

As of now, we have officially submitted our pitch deck and presentation. Next week we are holding another session with our mentors to rehearse our pitch and practice more on the question and answers for the final’s day. We also quickly processed our operations with our manufacturer to ensure the final product gets in our hand before we leave for Loughborough. It is expected to arrive by the first week of May which would give us enough time to play around with it if needed. The team now needs to work on the trade stand for the final day as that plays an important role in defining our brand. For that, we are seeking help from our lecturer Alice, who is a master of Design thinking and we are sure her contribution will definitely add to the chances of us winning. If we manage to win the Nationals, we will then proceed to the European Championship which is my dream, as I could not attend it in 2016 due to the shortage of time in acquiring a visa. I hope everything goes well. The next blog will be my final blog where I will conclude everything and write a future note to myself.

 

2.14 Trade Fair, Celebrate Enterprise

Estimated reading time – 5 mins

I don’t understand the connection between the month of March, the weather and the Market trade fair. 2 years back, the trade fair in the ancient market was hit by severe weather conditions, it was so cold that every student was literally in the nearby shops and nobody was actually on their stands. Even the lecturers and judges were facing a hard time tackling the conditions. Now such weather always affects the foot traffic and hence not a lot of people showed up on our stands.

This year, the conditions were even worse, luckily our trade stands were placed under a roof at the Eden Walk market in Kingston. That helped a little initially, however, the cold weather hit again and it felt like it was the month of December. It was actually snowing and I personally was struggling to cope up with this cold. I had carried my filming gear with me in hopes of having a good productive day, only after an hour, I realised I am not even going to be on my stand. I am 100% sure out of those 4 hours, I hardly managed to be on my stand for 30 mins and that was when the judges arrived. Well once the judges left, our lecturer understood the harsh conditions and let everybody pack up and leave.

22nd March was the Celebrate Enterprise day, the day of results. We had to setup trade stands again. However, this was organised by the Enterprise department and not Young Enterprise so the atmosphere was a little relaxed. I was also nominated to be the Student Enterprise Champion and I was looking forward to winning it. End of the day, the results were announced and our team won the Best Overall Company for the Trade fair and came first at the Final Dragon’s Den. All the work paid off, I was very happy to win it and now the team is working very hard to prepare for the UK nationals. I aim to bring it back to Kingston once more time. In my next blog, I will write how the team is working hard to prepare for the UK nationals.

2.13 Final Dragon’s Den

Estimated reading time – 5 mins

So it was the day – 16th March, the week after mock dragon’s den was intense and full of nervousness, I was very worried about the outcomes of the Finals. The reason behind this was my previous success at Staunchh. I would admit I have become too ambitious of my life and I feel I only deserve the best. This is because I respect the amount of hard work I put into my work and the efforts required to manage everything together. So, back to the day – the team was all prepared, dressed up formally and ready to pitch it! This was the first time ever during the whole year where team One Minute was not pitching in the first slot, luckily we got the 4th slot which gave us some extra time to prepare. But to avoid getting stressed and nervous, the team decided to have lunch together and not overthink. We found an empty room above the Uni canteen and decided to practice our pitch a few more times. While doing this, I could see from the window, right next to us were our toughest competitors practising in the building opposite to us, this ignited the spark of winning even more.

The pitch went really well, one of our teammates got stuck while pitching however we recovered. Our pitch was so clear and to the point that the judges did not really have a lot of questions to ask, they all appreciated the idea, the work we put into it and again how we were dressed so consistently. We left with a smile on our face and knew the results would be positive. We relaxed for another hour before everyone gathered back to a room where the top 6 teams had to deliver a quick 2 mins pitch to convince the whole audience. We were the first team that was announced in the top teams’ list and we had already prepared a 2 mins pitch for this one since we were so optimistic. The pitch went well and we had a few questions thrown at us which we tackled pretty nicely.

The results were not announced on the day, we all left while all the judges formed a panel and decided the winners. The winners were supposed to be announced on the Celebrate Enterprise day on the 22nd March. However we were very confident about winning this one and were happier about our efforts and the performance we had, so we decided we are going to celebrate. The team to the local Wetherspoons, we ate and danced before everybody got tired and left. That was the end of the journey as a part of Kingston University and it all ended with a Happy Ending. The next day itself we had the market trade fair, which did not really go well. Read my next blog to follow what happened.

2.12 Mock Dragon’s Den

Estimated reading time – 5 mins

Finally, it was the time where this all had to end, the year-long journey had reached its final month. All teams were ready to face the dragons and battle it out against each other to proceed to the UK nationals to represent Kingston University. Our final dragon’s den was on the 16th of March, however, in order to better prepare ourselves, Our lecturer and Young Enterprise held a Mock Dragon’s den a week before it. I believe this is very helpful for all the students to get to realise their situation and position amongst other teams.

Our team, as usual, had everything ready, the original pitch we used throughout the year and also a completely new design and 3D render of our product. For the first time ever, I have used online freelancers network to get something done, but now I am very much convinced that this is the actual lean startup approach. We did not dress up in suits and smart clothes this time since it was only a mock and also we had different tactics in order to keep our company strategies secret. As soon as we came to know that the pitching is going to happen in front of the whole class to see, I immediately talked to my team and convinced them to give an average performance. This dirty tactic was used so that the other teams cannot steal punchy lines and sentences from our pitch and also our financials and marketing strategies.

This really upset one of our lecturers who I think did not really like our team from the start since we were a tough competition to her students. Anyway, like always the judges were convinced and really appreciated our idea and our product. One of the judges really liked how we were dressed in our company jumpers and looked consistent. Not only this, but we found some mistakes and points to improve and prepare for the final next week. Overall the day went pretty well. In my next blog, I will write about the Final Dragon’s Den and the outcomes of it.

 

2.11 Bright Ideas Finale

Estimated reading time – 5 mins

After a week of hard work, it was the Finale day. The next big thing after the trade fair. We could not afford to lose this time, or else I know myself very well, I would have been depressed. So the whole team suited up – Men in Black and also the only lady in our team –  in black. We had rehearsed our pitch at least 25 times for this day. There were 7 categories in which all the ideas were sorted.

Our idea was in the Product’s category where we were competing with 9 other teams. Few of them were winners at the trade fair, so you could clearly imagine, the competition was not easy. We were 4th in line to pitch. We went in, performed our pitch, the judges asked us a lot of questions, one of them was really tricky. However, Hector tackled the question really well. The judges were very happy with our overall performance and luckily Alice, our lecturer got the chance to come in the judging room and shoot the entire pitching and Q&A video. Now, this allows us to look at it and find out our mistakes and also to refer to those questions and come up with an even better answer. Well, after this we just waited for the results.

After the networking event, all the finalists gathered in one room. The results started coming out, and the anxiety was building inside me but the way our pitch went, I was very confident on winning. And now the results for the Product Category……..Team Tyton. Yes! Finally, another award for my achievements! Also, we got 250 pounds to spend. This will allow us to get the prototyping sorted, the final prototype from our manufacturer. The team is working hard for the Dragon’s Den in March. Hopefully, we win that too. The team is also actively working for the production of our case. We have also hired a professional designer to make the final 3d design of our case. In my next blog, I will write about the Dragon’s Den.

2.10 Trigger

Estimated reading time – 5 mins

If you have read my previous blogs, you must be aware that our team had entered the Bright Ideas competition – one of the biggest Enterprise Competition at Kingston University which is not only open to Business Students but to all the students across all the campuses. We had entered Bright Ideas with our initial idea – The My PA app, however when we decided we are not going to work on it anymore, we immediately took steps and luckily got the chance to put the Tyton Holder’s application. So here we were, entered successfully again into Bright Ideas.

Due to previous experience, I knew what the most critical aspect of the competition is – the PITCH. Our team understood that very well and did not waste time on the things that did not matter. But before that, we got the chance to attend Trigger KU – a 2-day workshop to prepare for the Bright Ideas Finale. The Enterprise department announced only 150 entries made it to Trigger KU out of 500 entries, this was after the online judging round. Only 50 entries were going to make it to the finale. We were quite sure, we are going to make it.

On the weekend of Trigger, we learned??? Actually just revised all of the things which we already knew because of our business degree background. But on the final day, we got the chance of pitching our product to the judges, this was not a competition, but just a trial and feedback is always great. All the judges clearly understood the problem we are trying to tackle, they believed it is a real problem, and something had to be done about it a long time ago. They liked our pitch and guided us on the right path to ensure we are ready for the final day.

Even though this was not a competition, they still announced the best entries and again we did not make it. But I knew that we were definitely going to win Bright Ideas, only a week left from then, the team gathered together and started working hard for the Final. In my next blog, I will write about the Finale Day and how it went!