Starting a company is tough. Arguably, the toughest part is getting people to pay for your products or services. The recommended approach for dealing with this dilemma is to do a bit of research, and get something out into the market quickly. There is no better way to judge whether people want your product or service than to see if they are willing to pay for it. Then, any future changes to the product or service should be based on customer feedback.
Often, these are not minor tweaks to the product or service, but rather significant changes to the firm’s entire way of doing business. The technical term for each time a business makes a series of significant changes concurrently is a “pivot.”
Diana showcases her custom hand-painted shoes at the Center for Entrepreneurship’s 10th Anniversary.
Meet Diana Ho. She’s a talented artist, entrepreneur and soon-to-be graduate of the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics (with a dual concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship).
Ho’s success as an entrepreneur has hinged on her ability to master the pivot. Her desire was to create a firm that offered products allowing people to express their uniqueness through their fashion. She called her firm Diana Ho Designs and initially started off selling customized shoes, which she would hand paint based on the customer’s specifications. When that didn’t go as well as expected, she pivoted to offering a seasonal collection of hand-painted shoes. While these shoes are still available for purchase, Ho realized that her primary audience was interested in more affordable ways to show off their uniqueness.
So she pivoted again and offered jewelry. And in selling her own line of jewelry, Ho has found a hit. Diana Ho Designs is currently available at Boutique Carolina in Berkeley, Taxi CDC in Los Angeles and online at www.dianahodesigns.com.
She acknowledges Professor Atul Teckchandani for helping her realize the power of the pivot. “As professor Atul once told us, “never fall in love with plan A,” which is so true. My business has made many pivots since my launch,” says Ho. “I am constantly asking myself the right questions: ‘Am I solving a problem?’ ‘How scalable is this concept?’ ‘Do I want to own a brick-and-mortar or focus on distribution?’ ‘Is there a demand for my product?’”
In addition to immersing herself with learning what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, Ho has made the most of her time at CSUF by taking advantage of the resources available to help reach her goals. Whenever possible, she made Diana Ho Designs a project that she and her classmates could work on as part of a course.
In the New Venture Creation class, her group created a business plan for Diana Ho Designs. In the New Venture Launch class – where the goal is to start generating revenue – her group helped arrange for professional photos to be taken for her products, created an order management process and built an e-commerce website to start taking orders. In the Marketing Information Technology class, her group ran a Google Analytics campaign to attract new customers to her website.
“I remember pitching my first business concept in professor [David] Obstfeld’s New Venture Creation class. It was called “D. Ho Customized Shoes,” and I was so nervous, because I didn’t know how people would react,” says Ho. “But to see the progression of my business now is so valuable.
“I continued to work on Diana Ho Designs with classmates in classes such as the New Venture Launch, Marketing Information Technology, and Marketing Research Methods. If I never pitched my concept that semester Diana Ho Designs would not be where it is today.”
She also took the time to build relationships with many faculty members and continually seeks their advice on how to create a successful firm. Her network of informal advisors has opened many doors. With the guidance from those in her network Diana began focusing on distribution along with her e-commerce site. Says Ho: “The professors on campus really want to help students succeed and start them off in the right direction.”
It is clear that Ho is destined for success. A destiny she has created by combining her artistic talents with the opportunities available at Mihaylo.
Diana Ho, CSUF Graduate 2010