If we stop and think for a minute, I bet we’d be surprised just how many of the decisions we make are almost entirely based on things that we have experienced. On the face of it this seems like the most sensible and natural thing. I know that if I were to board a plane I’d like a pilot who was experienced…
So when Baba Emma approached us with a business idea to begin to manufacture some watering cans, we were delighted he had experience of making them. His main problem was that he just couldn’t access the modest amount of capital required to get this venture off the ground. We worked with him on a business plan and together we were able to make things happen.
It was so exciting when we dropped him off in town with the first batch of finished watering cans and we couldn’t wait to find out how he got on. I think it’s fair to say we were gutted when he returned having sold the cans at little over cost price, and certainly didn’t have enough profit to enable him to buy the necessary materials to make another batch.
However, whilst struggling to sell the watering cans in town, Baba Emma did identify an
alternative. Making small charcoal burning stoves. He realised that he could use his metal working skills and produce these stoves, and he could make them from old oil drums (a much cheaper and greener alternative to the galvanised sheet he need to make the watering cans).
His potential market radically increased – as while not everyone cultivates plants – everyone eats. The cheaper raw materials also meant that he could sell the stoves at a much more accessible price.
His next trip to town to sell the stoves was a resounding success, all sold at his target price and enough profit generated to re-invest to make more. So we are celebrating a triumph of adaptability over direct experience.
On reflection I’m not sure just how well we’d have received an idea from Baba Emma if he’d initially approached us wanting to start a stove business – trying to sell an item he’d never made before, but it’s fantastic that both we and he have the learning from this to use in future.