Entrepreneurship 101: Do not base your entire business model on a trend

Is it wise to base your start-up on a fad? Manar Al Hinai offers tips for aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of jumping on the bandwagon.

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I once read a quote that said: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

Frankly speaking, I think it is altered every six weeks. Business is not so different. Every now and then, we witness a new trend that takes over.

A few years ago, it was the cupcakes craze and social media accounts sprung up managed by home businesses offering variations of cupcake designs. Following that it was cookies – consumers. More than a few businesses launched in the UAE to cater to this trend. Nowadays, it is all about burgers and food trucks. Gourmet food trucks could be seen outside parks, at concerts, and at markets and pop-up events.

At the end of last year, an article in The Chicago Tribune discussed the food trends that would take over in 2017. One of them is the "freakshakes" trend. The trend that emerged in Australia is where milkshakes are topped with cookies, brownies, fruits or sprinkles. It has been creating huge waves in the US market. Through my Instagram feed, I see how this craze is taking root in the UAE food scene. When I was grabbing a drink at The Coffee Club last week, the barista shared a flyer with me highlighting their freakshakes. The Black Lion in Dubai is another place that serves freakshakes topped with brownies, whipped cream and nuts.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, witnessing the number of people rushing over to try those trends may tempt you to start a business and get your share of the profit cake. But is it really wise to base an entire business on a trend? Or should you stick to the classics? Then again if you just stick to the classics, you could be missing out on so many opportunities that would generate a decent income. What should you do?

I strongly advise, that if a “trend” does not require you to invest so much in infrastructure and start-up costs, and if you could easily set up the business, then by all means jump the wagon. Especially if what you are about to offer is something different and you know that there is a strong market trend for it. But if setting your business up will take you longer than the trend’s lifespan then I would advise you against that.

If, however, you already have a business set up, then you should be following some trends, especially if your target audience is hungry for it. For instance, if you are a jewellery designer, have a workshop set up and a clientele list, then you may want to consider the “chokers” trend, and perhaps designing some pieces that you know your target audience would appreciate and would want to purchase.

Or if you happen to operate a coffee shop, then introducing a couple of freakshakes to the menu with your signature flavours would be a smart move.

Nike is a good example of a company that has benefited greatly from introducing trends in its sportswear collection. Ten years ago, when iPods were hugely in trend, the company collaborated with Apple to introduce a sports kit comprising a sensor that is attached to a running shoe, and a wireless receiver connected to an iPod. When a person runs, the sensor in the shoe tracks their speed, the number of calories burnt and transmits this information to the iPod so that runners can monitor their efforts. Nike sold 2.5 million kits at US$110 each.

As a business owner, it is wise to keep an eye out for trends in different fields as many could generate good sales, introduce you to new clients and possibly create a huge PR buzz and raise your brand profile. Do not base your entire business model on a trend, except if your feasibility study predicts that it would be profitable. In doing so, make sure that your costs are also kept at bay.

The freakshakes and choker trends will soon be out of the way. Let’s watch out for what’s next. You do not know which trend could generate you millions in profit.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages a branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.


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