Lawrence Ross - Sep 23, 2021
An entrepreneur is someone who can identify an opportunity, utilize unique capabilities in a resourceful manner, and deliver this value to a target market in return for profit. I learned this firsthand 16 years before completing my MBA, when I was 10
An entrepreneur is someone who can identify an opportunity, utilize unique capabilities in a resourceful manner, and deliver this value to a target market in return for profit.
I learned this firsthand 16 years before completing my MBA, when I was 10 years old. It happened naturally as I was able to combine two of my passions, bubble gum and making money.
My a-ha moment occurred as a kid growing up in Vancouver in the 70’s when a friend of mine came back from a family vacation in Hawaii with a couple of packages of Bubble Yum gum. I was a self-proclaimed expert on most candy, with a specialized focus on bubble gum and anything chewy.
When I wasn’t in school, sleeping, or playing sports, I was out doing R&D at convenience stores. At that time, the big gum players were Bazooka, Dubble Bubble, Ton ‘o’ Gum, gumballs, and that powdered stick of gum in packs of hockey cards. Sure, there were also sticks of gum like Juicy Fruit, and squares like Chicklets and Thrills. They had so-called ‘bubble-gum’ flavours, but really, the only ones that counted were the ones that you could make bubbles with.
Now back to Bubble Yum - The Opportunity. This gum was a game changer for me. It was softer, had a longer lasting flavour, and with it, you could blow the largest bubbles. The Target Market was, in my humble opinion, every kid that I knew. My dilemma was how to procure the inventory since it wasn’t available at any store in the city.
So, what was my Unique Capability and how was I Resourceful? By nature, I was very persistent and stubborn (ok a pest); so, I went to my favourite candy store and begged them to reach out to the distributors in the U.S. and order the product in. I continued to harass them multiple times a week, often returning daily, until they relented and ordered the product just to shut me up. Now the key to any new business venture is Financing and I did what any resourceful kid would do. I gathered all the loose change from around the house, emptied my piggy bank, and of course, ‘borrowed’ my brother’s hidden savings.
I returned to the store the morning the shipment was due to arrive, and as any intelligent businessperson would do, I cornered the market by purchasing all the packages of Bubble Yum they had. They let me have it all on the promise that I would stop coming to the store for a few weeks.
Next step? Determine my Product Margin. Each pack cost me 25 cents for 5 pieces. I did a quick Market Survey. I found a friend, described how incredible the gum was, and offered him one piece for 25 cents. He paid me without question and agreed that it was the best bubble gum he’d ever tasted. With that, I saw a clear path to distribution. I would sell him a pack, but only charge him for 4 pieces and let him keep the fifth for free. He thought that was very fair. My Marketing Strategy was simple, repeat the same sales process a few times with different groups of friends and acquaintances and ask everyone to tell a friend.
Here’s the good and the bad news. I sold out quickly and was able to repay my brother before he realized that he had funded my business. On the downside, I was unable to bring myself to enjoy any of that incredible gum because, for me, the gum was worth more in profit than my chewing pleasure.
In the end I was flush with operating cash but cut off from my supplier. My convenience store connection stopped selling to me in bulk because so many kids were coming into the store looking for that gum. The jig was up. I was out of business. The bubble burst.