This entrepreneur didn’t need an incubator to hatch a motorised surfboard business

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English: Mavericks Surf Contest 2010. Français...
English: Mavericks Surf Contest 2010. Français : Édition 2010 du concours de surf de Mavericks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chris Preston, an Australian surfer who damaged his shoulder a few years ago, has come up with a motorised surfboard for injured surfers would like to surf again.

Preston and his co-director, his wife Natalie, are launching Power Boards which will sell about 20 boards a month. Board prices, depending on board length, range between $4,200 and $4,700.

This is a great start-up story of an entrepreneur who spotted an opportunity and is motivated enough to make a go of his idea. It interesting that his idea came out of his surfing experience.

A surfing experience also led Anna Jerstrom, a Swede, to an idea for the Calavera range of bikinis designed to stay on no matter how rough the surf while on a surfing camp in Costa Rica.

Personal experience is one of the best ways to come up with new ideas. So too are customer complaints. Yet you can also come up with ideas deliberately using idea-generation tools such as personal brainstorming, the 20 Idea Method, Fusion Cards or random idea generation.

The answer to the problem of low business start up levels we are told is incubators. Yet both these entrepreneurs don’t seem to have spent time in incubators. Incubators are easy for governments, universities and private business to sponsor because of the entry criteria and small numbers which reduce risk. It’s a fallacy anyway because up to 9 out of 10 start-ups fail. Entrepreneurs could knock on these doors for 10 years and still not be let in.

The other big problem is that the incubator training model is not broad-based. It excludes thousands of ordinary entrepreneurs who don’t have the money or qualifications necessary to enter incubators.

Public funds could be better spent on creating a climate for innovation and entrepreneurship and curtailing predatory behaviour that reduces opportunities for small businesses in local communities. Entrepreneurs need to be respected and celebrated not only pumped for job creation potential.

All around the world the jury is still out on whether incubators are effective. How more effective is an incubator oozing with public and private funding compared to mentorship or an entrepreneur who goes it alone and is still around after five years?

For the millions of start-up entrepreneurs who are excluded from incubators what can they do to ensure their start-up stands a strong chance of success?

Mentorship by street-wise hardened business people, real-world entrepreneurs who have succeeded and failed in forming start-ups from an idea are a time-honoured source of support. Find a battle-hardened entrepreneur to mentor you or use your network of contacts to locate a mentor.

Your mentor will help you to know your customer and your market, will show you how to test your idea, concept or prototype, choose a sales strategy and business model, write up your business plan and find money.

You needn’t rely on one mentor to guide you from the conception “valley of death” stage to start-up success. The ideal situation would be to have several mentors in specialised areas such as idea-generation, marketing and selling and business management.

This “mastermind” group will give you more firepower under your start-up than the artificial, warm and fuzzy feeling of an incubator that removes you from the mud and guts real world of business.

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