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Innovative Problem Solving with Limited Resources

Innovative Problem Solving with Limited Resources

Bri Losoya-Evora, Learning and Impact Manager for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development, recently participated in a GIST TechConnect webinar along with Natasha Ramanujam, the Head of Growth & Strategy of BEMPU Health. The conversation was lively, with early stage entrepreneurs from over 20 countries submitting questions. See below for some highlights.

What are some strategies for problem solving with limited resources?

1. Leverage peer networks

When most entrepreneurs think of the importance for networking, they think, ‘how am I going to connect with that investor or the head of that corporation who could be a game-changer for my business?’ However, a growing body of research suggests that one of the most effective tools for entrepreneurship support is peer networks. In November, ANDE and the International Growth Centre at the London School of Economics released the report A Research Agenda for the SGB Sector, which found that in multiple countries and regions of the world “peer learning improves firm performance.” A more recent report from the Argidius Foundation, Networking Works: Business Network Organizations help Small and Growing Businesses grow their revenues, took a deeper look at two peer-network models, Enablis Senegal and CEED Moldova, and found that peer networks were not only extremely effective in creating jobs and revenue growth, but that they are significantly less expensive to run than other forms of entrepreneurship support.

For the resource constrained entrepreneur, peer networks can be extremely valuable sources of knowledge, connections, and support. During the webinar, the speakers discussed the importance of being vulnerable, and why networks that proactively work to build trust are particularly effective. If you do not feel connected to a peer network in your region, create one! CEED is piloting a chapter model, where a motivate entrepreneur can leverage CEED’s years of expertise to build a network in their area of the world. You can learn more here.

2. Validate your concept

“If everyone you’ve talked to thinks your idea is brilliant, you have not spoken to enough people.” Even if an entrepreneur does everything correctly, if consumers do not want your product, your company will not succeed. Take advantage of the time you do have to test your idea, reach out to the most critical of your family members, and other entrepreneurs in your network. One Colombia-based entrepreneur asked about intellectual property, which is an important point. To strike a balance between testing your idea broadly and protecting your idea, you may need to create a non-disclosure agreement. Once you’re certain your concept is a winner, investing in your intellectual property is not an expense you want to skirt.

3. Measure and manage your impact

This is usually where entrepreneurs without an explicit social impact focus stop reading, but the reality is that every company has an impact on the environment and its broader community – both its local community as well as employees, customers, suppliers, etc.. That impact can be positive, or it can be negative, but unless you take the time to map it out, the risk of your company creating negative impact will be ever-present.

The rise of the social entrepreneur is not coming from a purely philanthropic place, as consumers around the globe want to support “good” businesses. By showing that you have taken the time to understand and manage the impact your business has on society and the environment, you are signaling to consumers that they should choose your company over a competitor and signaling to a potential investor that you might be prepared for the investment capital you are seeking.