With D-sider creator: helping hands for designers in the future

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Are you designing a product of your own? Have you been racking your brains for an original idea? Are you longing for a professional community that can offer you suggestions and guidance? The business plan we are about to discuss might be an idea that meets these requirements.

Today we have Kai Duan with us. He graduated from International Media Business of University of Westminster and is a co-author of this business plan. Now let Perfect Pitch ask questions on your behalf. All you wanna know is right here.

P=Perfect Pitch     K=Kai Duan

P: Would you tell me something about your business plan?

K: Our project is called “D-sider”. It’s an online community for burgeoning designers who want to share their ideas and exchange views with others. Traditional social sites are obviously not an ideal place for such a purpose. According to our survey among designers, 93% of respondents deemed it necessary to get inspiration from works and ideas of others while 90% of them hoped for comments and advice on their works from experienced professionals. Many unknown designers may be very capable. But there hasn’t been a good platform where they can display their talent. What we are doing is to provide such a platform.

P: How did you come up with this idea?

K: We did a lot of brainstorm together. Every member of the team agreed that we should design a product to really help students. Actually, there were many design majors in our school. We often saw them busy with their works in the forum or lab. It’s very difficult for young designers to establish a name for themselves in a big city like London. So, we decided to create a platform to help them. And then we developed the simple notion into a full business plan.

P: Was there any trouble during the preparation? How did you solve it?

K: Yes. Market analysis was the hardest part of our business plan. I guess other teams might face the same problem at that time. Building a website isn’t as easy as it may sound. It requires a lot of fund for daily maintenance and operation. Moreover, we had to convince investors of our project before we could get any investment. We figured that the business plan must be as thorough as possible. We had to consider related services, subsequent upgrading and improvement of the website. We brainstormed on the details of the product over and over again to make it impeccable. We often asked ourselves this question: what did we care most if we were investors. Then, we improved our project accordingly.

P: How did you feel when giving your presentation?

K: We completed the design of the project and submitted all materials a month prior to the presentation. We spent much time together going over every little detail of our project. We were fully prepared when that day came. We were excited and a little bit nervous because in front of us were real investors. It’s really an exciting and also rewarding experience. Given that time was limited, some team members didn’t have a chance to present their part of the project so fully. Although we were well prepared, some factors did affect our performance more or less.

P: What benefits did you get for participating in this project and activity?

K: The best thing I learned is how to think thoroughly and methodically about the details. It makes me more rigorous. By creating a business plan of my own, I have formed a basic understanding of the market. I feel that I become more mature and experienced after this project. It’s something I could never learn from any book.

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An exclusive interview:Countdown to JustBuyIt launch

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Maybe you have noticed the special interview we are doing with graduates. Yeah, that’s right. Maybe they are not entrepreneurs in a real sense, but they have built up their own teams and come up with creative business plans that are spoken highly of by venture investors.

This time we have a happy chat with Zimu Jia. She is a Media Management graduate from University of Westminster. Now let’s listen to her business story at Perfect Pitch.

P=Perfect Pitch     Z=Zimu Jia

P: What’s the name of the project you started?

Z: It is called JustBuyIt. It’s a mobile application designed for women who love shopping. During shopping, everyone wants some suggestions from others. “Which color suits me better?” “Does this look good on me?” They are typical questions we hear in a clothing store. To get some advice from others, some girls shopping alone may try on a new dress in the fitting room, send mirror selfies to their friends and wait eagerly for their replies. Our product will be a perfect solution to this problem. But I’ll leave some room for imagination because our team members are working on turning the concept into a reality. Hopefully we’ll soon present you a real product and share the joy of success.

P: How did you come up with this idea in the first place?

Z: We found this idea in ourselves. There were four girls in our team who loved shopping very much. Sometimes we hung out a lot together or talked about our experience on shopping. Gradually, we came to realize that everyone needed a product or a service to solve this problem in shopping. Based on this requirement, we created our business plan.

P: Were there any difficulties during the preparation? How did you solve them?

Z: The biggest problem we met was calculating the cash flow for the whole business plan. We are students of media majors. None of us knows much about corporate finance. Anyway, we had to figure out the cash flow. We referred to all kinds of documents and consulted a lot of accounting majors. We also learned a lot from other business projects, which was very helpful for solving our own problem.

P: How would you rate your performance at the presentation?

Z: I was not quite myself that day because I was running a fever. But our team did a great job. I’m proud of them. The first one to speak that day was Jun. She used to work at 4A. So she had much experience in making proposals. She really knew how to draw attention from the audience. “What will you do after the presentation?” By posing a simple question on the stage, Jun successfully ignited their enthusiasm and introduced the theme of our product. She described the trouble she had herself when shopping and explained why our product could meet the user requirement. Story telling I think is a good way to draw audience attention at a presentation.

P: What have you learned from this project and activity?

Z: It makes me realize starting a business is an exciting but also very frustrating. It’s an idea and a common goal that keep motivating every team member all the way through. Even those knotty problems now appear interesting. Striving for perfection is an attitude essential for doing anything. That’s what I learned from this program. The experience is still very helpful in my work now.

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Breaking the Good from the Bad

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We had the chance to have a quick chat to Professor Saul Estrin a professor of business and management at LSE, he gave us the academic side to business planning and start-ups. Despite his academic background, Saul presented us with solid advice particularly for students wanting to start their own business. He wasted no time on small talk and went straight to the point, letting us know the Do’s and Don’ts according to a highly knowledgeable professor. Here’s what he laid on the table for us;

How can students that want to start their own businesses begin getting noticed?

I will say there is no limit to the networking you have to do. You have to be present in every fair, every talk and gathering it’s crucial to be in the know.

What for you is the most important aspect of the business plan or starting a business?

Well I’m not a venture capitalist so I don’t have to put my money where my mouth is, but I would say that the quality of the business model is important and whether the idea is a real opportunity. See my answer will differ at different stages, so this applies to students or people in the early stages of their business. However my answer would be different for already existing businesses.

When pitching an idea what do you think is crucial for the presenters to do/ or not do?

I can tell you academically I would be looking for different things. The obvious do’s and don’ts are one of them. So for example: if it’s sustainable from competition. It has to have something that prevents the idea from imitation, has to have something that cannot be taken. Another thing is that venture capitalist people give money to the person not the idea itself. They put faith in that person that presents the idea so it’s important to be a brand in yourself. During pitching investors will pick holes in your plan so the obvious mistakes to avoid are making sure the numbers add up, allot of students come up with plans and their numbers don’t add up. You must justify every number, check your facts if they don’t come together, and if they find out that facts are wrong you’re finished.
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What are the most common mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make?

Sometimes referring exclusively to venture capital-funded software startups — especially in online forums such as this — “entrepreneurism” traditionally refers to bootstrapped small business of any variety.

careful

What are the most common mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make?

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Planning apps, group work and pitching from our buddies at Buddy App

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Since there is a traditional project for the students of Media Management in Uni of Westminster, all of us are told to make an elaborate, feasible, and creative business plan,and pitched it at the end of semester in front of some investors just like “Dragons’ Den”. I have to say, it really drives us crazy. So we contacted with Ms. Arianne who did that last year, let’s see what did she say about it.

P=Perfect Pitch     A=Arianne

P:What was your project about?

A:Our business plan was a mobile application. It  was called Buddy App. Originally it based around idea structure as a well known app Tinder. The main concept of it that you can swipe the things you like to the left and things you don’t to the right but instead of people as in Tinder, Buddy Up has various event for the audience to choose from in London.

P:How did your group generated such an idea?

A:It was very hard at the moment.  A lot of people were using Tinder and while brainstorming all the time. We were sure that we want to make an application instead of magazine. As application was much easier to build but still required all the different skills. Our group was trying to understand what London is missing? What app would be very useful in such a vibrant city? There are a couple of websites that a based around the idea of finding events, but we found they are quite boring and not so easy to use.  And we really wanted to concentrate on the small events, try to attract people to discover new places around there area, and not concentrate on musical or such events that other websites are concentrate more. We were all international students and this is one thing that we all were trying to search for – interesting and entertaining events.

P:Could you tell us more about your experience of presenting this idea?

A:I loved it! I really enjoyed but I know other people were quite nervous. It was a big project and everyone was preparing for it for a long time. We had people from outside attending the event to hear our ideas. Yes, we were quite pumped up but more because the pressure of the event was building up over the time. We all dressed up for the event and we all spend so much time on it that we were really nervous but excited to show our product. For me it was exciting!

P:Looking back at you experience, what would you advice to our readers to avoid the stress of giving the presentation?

A:Practice a lot! Practice a  lot because there is a time limit. and we have practiced with the time watch to make sure we will be on time. As it would be very disappointing to be stopped by the lecturer and to have enough time to finish the  representation. We divided the whole presentation into sections. We all wanted to make sure we deliver the idea and every aspect of it. My advice would be practice.

P:Is there is anything important you took from the whole experience?

A:It is very interesting  to work together with a very diverse people. We were very good at seeing each other strength and trusting each other on the parts that each of us was responsible for. Everyone who came to this course had a quite a different background so we were discussing who’s good at what and would like to do for the project. We would have meeting every week to give a feedback on each others work. At the time I don’t thing we did it on purpose but looking at it back I think it was crucial for us to dived work in such a way.

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An interview with a graduate: A special day during her student life

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Xinmiao Zhang graduated from the University of Westminster with a master’s degree in Media Management in 2014. During the one-year campus life, a special day, she believes, is of life-lasting value to her.

Now let Perfect Pitch take an insight look into the unforgettable day for all Media Management and International Media Business students including her.

P: Can you tell us what happened on that day and what makes it special?

X: It was the 2nd of May last year. Then we were having a course named “Responding to a Changing Media Environment”, which required us to present in front of three real investors with our business plans by the end of the term. It’s absolutely a rewarding experience, like a rehearsal for the day of great significance in your life. Unlike what we acquired from book knowledge, such training taught us how to transform our creative ideas into a business project and to present them on a stage. That’s why the day is quite special for me.

P: So what is your business plan then?

X: Our project was called SurfChina, an app which was dedicated to help foreign tourists with a thorough tour in China. Apart from detailed travel guides, it’s also designed with social function. In this way, foreign users can get to know Chinese friends of their destination before arriving in China, making the trip more convenient and joyful. For Chinese users, it offers an opportunity to make new friends and practice English while showing foreigners around.

P: How did you come up with the idea?

X: Our team was composed of six Chinese girls: Anqi He, Cheng Yin, Qiao Xu, Ying Li, Xinyuan Zhang and me. At first we were thinking about setting up a company to bring in children’s programs from abroad. However, predictably, such business would be limited by political factors. So soon the idea was shelved. But later we began to think that as it’s a trend to introduce foreign products and cultures into China, why not do something to enable foreigners to know more about China? Then I consulted some of my foreign friends and was told that they traveled to China out of the enthusiasm for Chinese culture; however, the language barrier was really a big trouble for them, particularly when sitting in a restaurant, they had to order the same dish every day as they couldn’t understand the characters on the menu. And in such moments they’d wish an English-speaking Chinese friend was there to offer help. Starting with the concept, we planned to create a bridge between foreign tourists and Chinese, especially students who are learning English. Meanwhile, we also believe that since most travel guides about China on the market are written by foreigners, they might miss places that really deserve recommendation. If they have a native guide to introduce local specialty, foreign tourists would authentically get access to the culture and customs here, other than superficial experiences.

P: What do you think was the most difficult part when preparing for the project?

X: I think it might be the different habits between Chinese and foreign users. For example, Chinese and western people have different opinions towards app design. Chinese users prefer software with integrated functions. By and large, they are unwilling to pay for apps. On the contrary, foreigners like apps with a simple function and are more inclined to pay for them. But it’s essential for our products to attract Chinese users first before getting foreign users. Thus it became a key problem to work out an app appealing to both Chinese and foreign users. Actually we received comments from the judges later, advising us to simplify the functions. Another difficulty lied in the differences of opinion within our team. Sometimes arguments arose. However, looking back on the whole process, I think arguments and doubts, which facilitated our thinking and discussions, contributed a lot to our success.

P: How did you feel on the day of presentation?

X: I was both nervous and exciting. Actually we were somewhat messed up that day. Something was wrong with the printer then. As the first team to do the presentation,

We worried that printed papers couldn’t be submitted to the judges on time. Then it’s the time planning. Six team members were supposed to have a speech. Thus there should be a reasonable division of time that each member took to speak. That’s why we timed out in the end. But I was very happy to see the accomplishment of a project that we had put so much effort into; moreover, it gave me a sense of achievement to share our ideas with so many people.

P: What’s the greatest benefit that you got from the experience?

X: Before that, for either work or study, I had little chance of collaborating with a group of people to complete a project. From the practice, I gained a lot of new experiences, for instance, when to insist on putting forward my own ideas and when to compromise for the sake of the team’s interest. Those can only be acquired from practices. Meanwhile, it also benefits my work and study, since team work has been an increasingly popular concept nowadays.

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Look  how University of Westminster students pitch their business plans: