The Creative Entrepreneur makes some bold claims. It’s described as a book that will, take the stress out of the process and lead you to successful commercial creativity on your own terms. That does sound exciting. The author, Isa Maria Seminega is the founder of Noisette, a small brand studio that works with start-ups and emerging companies to position their brands and understand their customers. She is also the founder of Happy Piece , an eco-ethical homewares company, so she has written this book from a rich source of entrepreneurial experience.
This is a well designed, high quality, colourful book which is immediately attractive, and at first glance the outline of the book’s content looks interesting too. It’s not a very large book as it cover just 176 pages in nine chapters and also has a short glossary of business terms. The book is illustrated in a way that makes it easy to read and it has a key feature that I always love to see in business start up books, short stories of people who’ve started their own business used to illustrate some of the lessons in the book. Following is a brief review of what you can expect to learn from each chapter.
Chapter one – Lay the groundwork
Isa starts by defining what a business model is, and she uses the Business Model Canvas (see a previous review here to learn more about the business model canvas) to illustrate the various components of a business model. What Isa has done that I like is simplify the Business Model Canvas into more understandable language. Here are the terms she uses:
1. Products and services: What you sell. The problems you are solving.
2. People: Who are you selling to? Whose problems are you solving?
3. Channels: how are you reaching and communicating with your people to deliver your product or service?
4. Customer relationships: How are you building and maintaining relationships with customers.
5. Revenue streams: What is the revenue model?
6. Resources: What are the most important things you need to make your business work?
7. Activities: These are what you need to to to keep your business running, communicate with customers and deliver value.
8. Partnerships: Who are your key business partners, sponsors, retailers and collaborators.
9. Costs: How much money is needed to run your business, make your products and find new customers?
After discussing business models, Isa moves on to deal with how to decide on a business idea. She gives some advice on what to consider such as:
• Are you passionate about it?
• Which idea do you feel most passionate about?
• Which idea has the most potential to make money?
She also suggests that in relation to any idea you should, study long term trends, look at the purpose of the product or service, study the competition, be ready to test your idea and don’t let fear stand in your way.
This chapter still has more good information because she goes on to write about why passion is not always good enough to start a business. She emphasizes that a good business idea has three ingredients:
1. Things you love to do – your passion
2. Things you are best at – your best skills and capabilities
3. Things people will pay you to do
Chapter two – Purpose and vision
Isa comments that the true purpose of your business should go deeper than just to make money. This is how she puts it, the true purpose of your business is not just to make money. It should go deeper than that – all the way to what inspires you to to what you want to do. That is the reason why your business exists – making money is simply the result of what you do, not why you do it.
That is the focus of this chapter . Isa also identifies the benefits of having a business purpose. Some of them are:
• It helps to differentiate your brand and business
• Makes you more focused
• Can enable you to have a positive impact on the world.
• Helps you attract your idea clients
Other sections in the chapters deal with:
• How to find purpose and meaning in your work
• Writing a purpose statement
• Defining your core values
• Deciding who you will serve
Chapter 3 – Build the foundation
Isa starts this chapter with an interesting statement: planning for your business is best done from the ground up, just as building a house starts with a strong foundation to build on. The focus here is on how to build a business with a strong foundation because a business with a weak foundation will struggle. The foundation of a business is based on the systems and procedures put in place when the business is started. Some of the things Isa believes are necessary for a strong business foundation are:
• Focusing on the long term
• Assessing market conditions
• Considering your skill set
• Being aware of what is happening in your industry
• Proper implementation
• Having a money back up plan
Other things you will learn from this chapter are:
• How to create a business model that works for you
• How to define your business structure
• How to choose the right name for your business
• How to write a one page business plan
Chapter 4 – Creating actionable goals and intentions
Isa wants to teach us about setting goals and why it is important in this chapter. She also discusses action planning. The SMART framework for goal setting is explained and some information on how to set business goals. She defines what action planning is and how to create an action plan for a business. Here is an interesting quote from the chapter: vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
Chapter 5 – Brand your business
This is a large chapter and one that is definitely worth reading. In business the term branding is used a lot in very unclear ways. Here Isa does a good job of helping to explain what branding is in a straightforward way. She starts the chapter with this statement: branding isn’t design, and it’s not your logo. – it’s much more than that. In fact the visual design element ( which is the part most people think of when you say “branding”) comes much later in the process.
She covers how to use branding effectively, learning to be yourself as a way to define your USP, how to position your brand, getting a brand personality, developing your brand experience and customer service. I like the definition of what a brand is Seth Godin which Isa quotes:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over the other.
Chapter 6 – Make it happen
Steps to develop your product and service offering, pricing products and services, writing web copy, getting a website, positioning yourself as an expert and setting your brand apart with photography are things you will learn from this chapter. There is also information on creating a look book. Prior to reading this book I had no idea what a look book was. In fact I had never heard the term before. Look books show off what your brands look like. They use high quality lifestyle photography and models to showcase products. A look book isn’t a catalogue, rather it’s about creating an atmosphere that shows the look of a product in it’s natural surrounding.
Chapter 7 – Promote your work
This is a good primer for marketing. Isa starts out by differentiating between marketing and PR. Following this are some key lessons on various aspects of marketing such as :
• Developing an elevator pitch
• Defining your target market
• Connecting and engaging with people
• Press and media kits
• How to get published
• Employing a PR company
• Launch strategy
• Writing a one page marketing plan
• Using newsletters
• Starting a blog
• Content marketing
• Social media outreach
Chapter 8 – Grow your business
You don’t have to stay small and this chapter is all about where you want to take your business next. It deals with some issues involved in not only growing a business but also managing a larger business. If you want to scale up your business, some of the questions you will have to consider based on Isa’s advice are:
• How do you maintain your business vision as the business changes?
• Do you want to stay local or go global?
• What are your long term goals?
• How can you collaborate with other creative entrepreneurs?
• If you decide to expand, how can you expand with intent by staying in tune with your original purpose of the business?
• When do you need to lease physical space?
• What’s involved in building a team?
• How do you find and hire the right employees?
All these questions Isa tries to answer, in addition to discussing how to create a company culture, delegation and being clear about the type of entrepreneur leader you want to be.
Chapter 9 – life as an entrepreneur
This is the last chapter and it has a befitting title which made me ask myself, what is life as an entrepreneur really like? I was hoping Isa would provide some clues in this chapter and she does. She starts off shattering some of the myths normally associated with entrepreneurs, which are:
1. You will make lots of money – not necessarily
2. You will have lots of spare time – you might set your own schedule, but end up working all the time.
3. You will have creative control – this might not be the case as you will have to take available jobs to earn money.
A couple of crucial points that a business owner must keep in mind are also discussed which are quite important and they are:
• How to Stay balanced, focused and effective
• How to get things done
• Managing perfection
• Facing fears
• Setting boundaries
I did enjoy going through this book and reading the honest stories from contributing entrepreneurs was really refreshing. Putting aside all the hype about entrepreneurship, building a business can be a tough job, but following some of the information Isa provides here can make the process more managable.
Start something lesson
This is a book with lots of great business advice, but two areas stood out for me, the chapters on branding and marketing.
On branding I learnt:
• Branding is everything about a business that communicates a message to potential customers.
• A brand is a reflection of what the business stands for.
• Customer service is important to branding.
• Identifying what makes your business unique will strengthen your brand.
On marketing I learnt:
• The differences between marketing and PR.
• The importance of storytelling.
• How to create a one-page marketing plan.
• Using the content triangle to plan social media marketing.