This weekend, I did a little catching up on my Briggs’ readings. His book, Entrepreneurial Journalism, has offered some interesting insight into the building of my graduate project, The Arts Gang. He has been a total inspiration so far, but this chapter…well, this chapter was different. “Turn Your Idea into a Business” described the steps one must take to build their product. He also explained the difference between a “business and just a neat idea.” The first few pages moved me. He offered a number of tips on how to establish whether or not your idea should be considered an actual product. I felt as though I was on the right track:
- A unique idea and successful execution
- A strong passion for the idea
- The ability to “socialize” the idea
- Customer development before product development
- Doing first and planning second
It was as though I had done it all. I guess that’s just the entrepreneur in me. But as I continued reading, I couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged. Can I turn my idea into a “business,” or is it just another good idea? I’ve experienced the good and the bad with this project. I’ve made some great contacts, gathered some valuable insight from local artists and organizations, and produced a successful first interview session. On top of all that, the website is coming along smoothly and more people are coming together to help make this project a success. I feel as though I have a different idea, a fresh concept for the art community. Granted, in this overloaded digital world, one rarely comes across a “new” idea. But that’s okay. It all depends on how you execute it anyway. I’m sure someone else out there has the same idea, but at least I have that determination to keep it going.
But then there’s the bad. Briggs mentioned how “socializing your idea” is a major step in establishing the product. In other words, the ability to explain your idea and grasp the reaction from other people will help you determine whether or not your idea can grow into a business. I feel as though I can explain the project with ease. I mean, I’ve had to repeatedly defend it over the past couple of weeks, so that part shouldn’t be a problem. People seem to understand what I’m trying to do. The project is a little complicated, but I think I’ve narrowed it all down to a sweet, simple description, one that’s easy to communicate and understand, but after last Thursday’s artist excursion through downtown Northport and Tuscaloosa and the repeated “so what exactly are you trying to do?,” I can’t help but wonder if I’m pushing just another one of those “neat ideas.”
But that’s not all. Now I’m beginning to wonder if my project is even a solution to a community issue. Last semester, I partook in some of that “customer development” Briggs talks about and most of the artists expressed the need for something like this in Tuscaloosa. But when it comes down to it, most of them truly don’t care. So do they really feel that way, or are they just agreeing with me? Maybe I don’t have a product after all.
But I’m not giving up. I guess Briggs was right on the whole “doing before planning” thing. Things never go as planned. That’s one lesson I’ve learned in life, and one that I’ve learned from this project. So what I’m doing now is evolving. I’m piecing together every idea and every critique and turning my idea into a product. I’ll get there one day.
By the way, if you haven’t checked out Briggs’ book, you should. It’s definitely worth the read. It’s a hand to hold during this scary journey through the digital age.
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And feel free to check out my behind-the-scene blog for The Arts Gang. See what the project is all about, and feel free to offer up some of your insight.