Don’t Take Every Opportunity That Comes Your Way

After countless hours perfecting our pitch, making videos, and talking to the gatekeepers, we were not chosen to present our pitch after all. I repeat, not chosen. W’d been counting on getting in front of those investors and needed the cash. We thought we’d blown the biggest opportunity that Pretty Knotty, LLC had ever seen! All was lost!…Or was it…

The result of being invited to pitch to VC’s, and subsequently the failure to pitch, was the best thing that ever happened to us.  

It made us reevaluate our invention and make necessary changes. Without that rethinking we would never have been able to bring the product to market as we did. That knowledge, well that’s worth more than any investor funding could be. (Mark Cuban, are you there?)

The biggest misconception that go-getting entrepreneurs hear over and over again is to always say yes. 50 Cent said in an interview five or ten years ago that if you want to be successful, be the one to volunteer, and this is certainly true, however not everything you volunteer for is going to be a great fit.

Sure, you want to have an open mind to new ideas and opportunities, but not every good opportunity is good for you specifically.

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I’ll give you an example: my hair is fairly short. I’m not the target customer for Pretty Knotty’s hair ties for athletes. Our President, Shelly Nicholas, however, is. When it comes time to tell folks the benefits of our hair ties Shelly, who has long hair, is a better person for the job. I can talk about our hair ties and innovative technology for hours, (much to others’ chagrin,) but I’m not the best fit to present them.

As we have a consumer product, we have been approached several times with the opportunity to make a TV commercial. On the surface that sounds awesome; see Pretty Knotty on TV, reach millions of people and sell boatloads of hair ties. However, it’s not a great fit for our brand. We are selling to women athletes with long hair who would pay more money for a quality hair tie. Launching a commercial will pick up some customers, sure, but much of the outreach will be wasted on folks who don’t need or want our product. Some dude from South Dakota named Bill is bald, has two sons, dislikes exercising and is divorced, why would he care about a hair tie commercial?

In addition, we are a higher-end brand, and expected to advertise as such. Does Lululemon advertise on TV? Does The North Face?  And if they do, is it an infomercial?  Nothing against other brands who advertise on TV and their image, it’s just not us. For the record all this highfalutin talk is coming from a guy who is currently wearing a hand-me-down work shirt and jeans from Goodwill!

Beside an opportunity not being a good fit, another issue with taking all opportunities that come your way is cost. If we were to partner with someone who wanted to launch our product on TV, it ain’t free. As I mentioned in my last column, angel investors have a 1/50 chance of striking it big, consumer products are not all big sellers. They’re taking a big risk with us, and as such, will want a decent share of profits made from our TV ad sales. And furthermore, that’s if we reach an audience who’s willing to “call in the next 10 minutes for another tin, absolutely free!”

As a small company, it’s tough to give product away for free. While we are happy to help, each tie that leaves our shelves and each shirt that leaves our press costs money to make, so we want to make sure it goes to organizations that align with our customers, our Military-Spouse background and our Made in America label. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to help, but within our means.

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My intent with this article is not to temper your excitement for entrepreneurship and the opportunities that come with it, but rather to help you focus on opportunities that will move you towards your goal, whatever that may be. As Frank Clark says, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it doesn’t lead anywhere.”