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