the 5 ps of entrepreneurship i can relate to

Learning never stops – for entrepreneurs. This is even truer as they need to continuously learn from their mistakes to not repeat them in the future and to learn from them. One entrepreneur looks back on a great opportunity to get us some wisdom.

In 2010, as a founding member of Saraii Village, an eco-tourism lodge in rural Sri Lanka, I spent almost a year preparing to officially launch this start-up.  Being one of the four members that initially worked on this idea, I got an opportunity to travel extensively around Sri Lanka to do market research and competitor analysis. I was also solely responsible for the financial projections and future investment structuring of this project.

Looking back, preparing to convert an idea from a business plan to reality was truly entrepreneurial. However, at that time, from a personal level, things didn’t look so bright and positive for the idea. Romanticizing entrepreneurship didn’t seem that affordable. In fact, one day, I decided to part ways from the start-up. My thinking at that time was, why stay with a venture that is bound to fail in a year’s time, if not in a few months. Like myself, two other initial founding members (pre-registration phase) also quit the venture. Only one person (the founding CEO) stayed on with the start-up and remained a 100% committed to make it a success with or without us. Two and half years after we parted ways, the lodge is doing extremely well. It has attracted a good number of international clients and valuable investors. In fact in 2013, Travel Advisor ranked Saraii, one of ten most extraordinary treetop hotels in the world.

Sometime I reflect on finding out what I was missing as an entrepreneur, compared to the founding CEO in this particular case?  What were the factors that made her stick to her guns and defy all odds to make her idea a success and what were the things I didn’t think about or envision?  In my opinion, the five Ps that made Saraii a successful venture, despite the bumpy ride of its initial entrepreneurial journey, are the following:

  • Passion: Compared to the people in the starting team, the founding CEO had more passion for the core business model and its future. She was internally driven and sincerely believed in the idea, right from day one. I remember an instance during one of the early entrepreneurial pitch sessions, when a potential investor asked us –“Do you think this business model will work and why”? Her answer to the question was divided into two parts, the first with a logical explanation and the second part saying -“My gut instinct says so.”
  • Perseverance:  Even though three of her initial team members left, basically because they did not believe in the idea enough, she never gave up, and leaned forward alone. Understanding that there might be some flaws in the initial business model, she tweaked and pivoted the business model until she got it right. She had to face numerous unfavourable business challenges, but getting up every time she failed made her learn many new things about the venture and the industry it operates under.
  • Partners and local knowledge: It’s always important to have strong local partners and market knowledge in the place of your operation. Having a strong local network and knowhow about market trends help you attract clients and suppliers efficiently and contribute to your venture’s cash flow in the long run. The founding CEO being a native Sri Lankan was able to manage her social capital accordingly.
  • Promotion:  In the hospitality and service based industry, niche promotions play a vital role in business growth. Saraii has been successful by playing its marketing card right from day one. The team has mastered the art of leveraging social media for promoting itself for targeted, defined market segments. Additionally, Saraii was also fortunate enough to get word of mouth promotions from its early clients on social media.
  • Positioning:  Learning and positioning your product right can take your venture very far.  Despite being located in Sri Lanka, where the “highlight” is always sun and beach, Saraii offers neither. Being an early player in the sustainable tourism space, Saraii took the risk and differentiated its products from other offerings. It created a product that complements and adds an “extra” topping to the stereotypical beach side vacation.
    Profits: At the end of the day the financial sustainability of your venture matters. To ensure financial viability, the founder carefully planned their future investments for capital expenditure. To confirm that there is no shortage of capital, capital expenditure expenses were done in phases and carefully calibrated.

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