Many of us have a 'big idea': the idea that fuels our entrepreneurial dreams. But how can we make the transition from dream to business reality?
João Gouveia shares his ten top tips for launching a new product, based on his experience founding the healthy juice brand INIU. He knew at the outset that breaking into a competitive like this would need good planning as well as having a product that consumers actually wanted.
1. Discover the 'why'
You start with a 'what' - in our case, creating a healthy fresh juice product. However, as Simon Sinek famously said, your customers will buy into the emotion - why you do what you do.
Work on defining the 'why', the passion which drives you. This will be the foundation of your brand story.
2. Expand your vision
With 'what' and 'why' in place, test yourself by asking "why keep this idea small? How big can it get?"
I began to think on a global scale, fuelled by a desire to contribute to a healthy life and healthy planet for my children. You'll have your own motivations to stretch your own idea.
Once you have your 'where' (eg local, national or global), you also need your 'when'. How soon do you want to make this a reality? When can you take the first step?
3. Research and define your market
Test your idea or product on as many different people as possible. Find out whether other people will enjoy it and hopefully want to buy it, and if necessary adapt in response to their all-important feedback.
Ideally, then invest in some market research to test your product with larger groups. This is the best way to fine-tune your product and find out about public demand, key locations and so on.
Research your competition in depth. Look at their products, pricing and market share. When starting INIU I looked at trends in food, drinks, health foods, and shopper behaviour. You don't want to start a business in a declining field, or discover too late that your product already exists.
4. Setting up production
Now you need to work out how and where your product will be made. I strongly recommend involving outside experts. We got advice from professional nutritionists to help balance ingredients and make them as tasty and healthy as possible, and to think about the product specification.
Then find a reliable production facility that meets your quality requirements and can scale in production as your demands do. Growing together will create a strong partnership.
5. Creating your unique brand
You are launching a new brand with its own identity. It's important to start thinking about this at an early stage, and to protect your intellectual property so that no copycats can steal the results of your hard work.
Know what makes you unique. This differentiation will be vital to targeting your chosen consumers. Your brand, its story and its potential are all part of the product that they're buying into. The way to introduce this story and your brand's personality to consumers is through marketing.
6. Spreading the word
Initially your resources will not be massive, so you need an effective way to reach your target market. Work with ambassadors and influencers, treat your loyal customers well and nurture the relationship so that they become brand ambassadors, sharing your brand message all over social media.
Also look at all forms of marketing - digital, print and PR. Although your budget may dictate a lot of what you can and can't do, it's best to consider every option and to understand its benefits, challenges and costs.
7. Develop stand-out packaging
As a consumer's first impression of your product, your packaging is vital. It needs your voice, style and individuality, to support your brand message and to stand out from the competition - ideally designed by a professional.
Be practical. Your packaging needs to be robust so that it protects the product inside, and can survive being packed, stacked and knocked around in transit - all the way to the customer's front door.
8. Crunch your numbers
Make sure you know your figures. Work out your pricing and be certain you have factored in all possible costs and understand your margins. You don't want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don't want to cheat yourself out of profits.
Your business won't survive without cash flow, so make sure to calculate your outgoings and ensure they won't undermine your ability to generate revenue. You need to plan your financials as if your survival depends on it - because it does.
9. Choose your channels
Although you're not going to be able to use multiple sales channels right away, keep your options open and make careful strategic decisions on which to tackle first.
Tempting though the retail route is, you have to consider the time it takes to negotiate such contracts and the facilities needed to meet volume demand. There may be other channels you can pursue, including direct to consumer, to make your product available initially.
10. Build your team
Remember - it isn't all about you. One of my favourite quotes is from Pele: "No individual can win a game by himself". Get a great team of skilled and passionate people, and you'll succeed in scaling up the business together.
João Gouveia is the founder of INIU - 100% natural fruit and vegetable juices with no added sugar or preservatives. Launched in Portugal in 2017 (and still based there), INIU was nominated for the Innovation Award at the Food Entrepreneur Show 2018 in London.