ProPortion’s mission is to accelerate the social entrepreneurial sector impacting low-income communities, by applying and spreading the power of design-thinking, that ultimately results in impacting the people at the Base-of-Pyramid. Check out our approach to kickstart a social enterprise in 9 steps.
Phase 1 is about dreaming. A dream for us is a first idea for a business, which is still a hypothesis, created by a concrete consumer insight, closely connected to the passion, purpose and strength of the entrepreneur. But from there, we project that hypothesis on the future. We dream big. Why? It gives you direction, it is inspiring for the entrepreneur and for others to step aboard. From the future, we use 'backcasting' techniques, that helps the entrepreneur in designing the proper strategy to reach their dream.
Phase 2 is about Exploring. Based on your hypothesis and future dream, you can actually start exploring which stakeholders are and/or could be involved in your business. These are potential customer segments, potential partners, government bodies, peers. By further exploring their stakes, desires and needs, you get a better sense of the level of playing field, which we often visualise in a colourfull context map.
In phase 3, you are further developing your ideas. You take your hypothesis as starting point and combine this with gathered insights from the Exploration phase. You will now focus primarily on your potential customer segment via focus groups, deep dives, home visits, drawing exercises, interviews, etcetera. You will create lots of ideas, and then select the one(s) that lead to your 'unique value proposition'; which value will you bring, which product(s) and/or service(s) can deliver that value, and how can you distribute those products & services to your customers.
Now you have your idea for your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), you will further develop this idea into a concept. A business concept so to say. For this we often use the Lean Canvas Model or Business Model Canvas, depending on which stage you are in. The concept will contain a 'company purpose' statement (the "Why?" of your business). This will most probably strongly relate to your future dream. But on a strategic level, you will think how you will reach your dream (the "How?" of your business). And thirdly, you will define the design challenges and requirements for your products & services (the "What?" of your business).
In phase 5 you will create a prototype of your product/service. This is the minimal viable product which you need to test it with potential customers to get their feedback. It is very effective to use the Javelin board for this phase. It guides you in defining what the riskiest assumptions behind your product/service are, and how to validate those assumption. This will lead to multiple improvement cycles, till you have reached an improved prototype that shows good results on validating on desirability, technically feasibility and financially viability.
Now the prototype has been developed, and ideas for a business strategy have explored, it is time to connect the dots by drafting a business plan. This will not only guide you before you dive into a pilot, it will also help in telling your stories and attracting funding for your pilot phase. We love to make a business plan that contains a lot of illustrations, graphs and images, instead of lengthy texts. We convert the full business plan into a pitch book that tells (& sells!) the business story in about 10 slides.
Step 7 is the pilot: a commercial operation at small scale. A pilot's objective is to proof the viability of your value proposition and strategy and to further validate assumptions of your draft business plan. It might run for 6-18 months.
During and after the pilot, you will be able to optimise and detail your business plan. You will have actual commercial proof that you are able to sell your product(s) and/or service(s). Your pricing strategy will have crystallise. Your business case will be more solid. Your strategy might become very sharp by now. You have experienced to work with (new) partners, and know if you want to continue or change partnerships before 'getting married'. Your optimised and elaborated business plan contains the strategy for scale and also the need for growth capital. The business plan can be summarised and pitch via an appealing pitch book.
Finally, when you have attracted financiers based on your elaborated business plan, it is time to scale up! This also might lead to register your organisation as a separate entity (in case you haven't done that in an earlier stage). Stay focussed on your strategy, but be responsive to day-to-day changes in the local context. And stay continuously focussed on getting the best team for the job. Only a winning team will make your dream and business plan come true.