Just another neat idea?

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.

Follow me on Twitter: @kissmymuffintop

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.

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4 comments

  1. christicowan · February 20, 2012

    Sarah,

    Good job on linking inside and outside sources in this blog post. I’m glad you were able to apply this week’s readings to your project. It sounds like you’re well on your way to having a fully-developed and operable innovation.

  2. Kristy Shaulis · February 20, 2012

    Sarah,
    Good post. I think this is something that a lot of us in journalism grad programs struggle with. When professionals who have been doing this for 30 years can’t figure out how to make money at this craft, how are we? And like you said, a lot of people might love a resource, but when it means more work for them, they just can’t commit. Welcome to journalism. “Oh you’re calling about an email you got from me in October? Yea, my deadline has passed.”

    I think your project has a great business aspect to it though because it does have such a direct link to the arts community. Good luck with your project! I think it could be really great!

  3. Michelle Darrisaw · February 26, 2012

    Sarah,
    Well, it’s great that you keep pushing forward with the project because I think it’s a great concept. I think we all have strong community issues and solutions for addressing it with these prototype websites, and yours hits at the heart of an even smaller community here in Tuscaloosa. I definitely think you can turn it into a business because you have an idea that I’m not sure a lot of people are exploring so you’re creating a market and carving a niche. I think you can continue to build and talk to more artists, and this can definitely take off once you don’t have the added pressure of classes and papers. Briggs also offers up advice on failing and making mistakes. Of course, we don’t want you to fail, but when your project hits a wall, that’s an opportunity to go a different direction. One that may be even better than what you started with. Seeing these different interviews and video sessions might spark more interest and get people to invest and help out. The possibilities are endless, and as you’ve already done, just keep evolving and it will work out!

  4. ehilkert · February 27, 2012

    Sarah,

    I feel your pain. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by this project. I think it’s important to keep in mind that our projects are highly compressed. We had a semester to really craft and plan our projects and now one semester to implement the projects. That’s actually not a lot of time. True businesses take a lot of time. Businesses take years of planning, executing and then getting off the ground.

    Briggs stresses the element of passion because businesses require so much time and effort. Many times people you are interviewing don’t care about you. They’ll talk about interest, but not pull through. This is something we’re going to see on a weekly basis as professional journalists. Likely, it will be even more common with a potential business venture because there isn’t even the incentive of getting their name and picture in the newspaper. But as long as you are passionate about your business, none of that will matter. You’ll find other people. You’ll go back and bug people until they hate you. They may hate you, but they’ll give you what you need and hopefully they’ll like you once they see the finished product. This is definitely something that has been churning in my mind: doing something I’m passionate about. I’ve been turning over so many ideas this year. Some of these ideas definitely fall into the “just another neat idea” category. The ones that stay with me are the ones I’m really passionate about. I think the key is finding a solid idea that you’re passionate about AND that there will be a definite audience for.

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