I was driving back from the veterinarian’s office with Chico a couple of years ago, when the term “microventure” popped up in my buzzing little head. I did a quick google search as soon as I got home, and of course, the term had already been coined. *sigh*
Now… my definition of a microventure may be a bit different from what an economist’s would be: In my little world, a microventure is just a small 1-2 person startup that requires virtually zero capital and probably won’t, by itself, make anyone rich anytime soon.
I am talking about ventures that start very, very small and are probably based on something that you are already doing for free.
Do you knit really cool sweaters for your family and friends? Are their friends asking you to make some for them too?
Are your pies winning local awards or state fair contests every year?
Do you grow the most amazing tulips anyone in the tri-county area has ever seen?
Are your pesticide-free vegetables turning heads at the local health food store?
See where I am going with this?
My point here is you might be sitting on some pretty amazing potential. Forget affiliate marketing and MLM schemes for a second. Forget other people’s “methods” and “programs.” What we’re talking about here is creating a micro-venture around something that only you can do. Something unique to you.
I remember eating the most fantastic cheesecake in New Orleans a few years ago. I mean… this thing was unlike any other cheesecake I had ever tasted. Culinary heaven. Seriously. I asked the waiter if they were made in-house, and he told me that no, they were baked by this little old lady in Alabama who lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
I should have tried to find out how the little old lady and the restaurant came to form this wonderful relationship, but I didn’t think about it until much later. The question that haunted me on my flight home though was this: How do you get from creating a unique cheesecake recipe for your family or church, to supplying one of the best restaurants in the country?
With no advertising, no startup capital, no infrastructure or representation or technology?
How did this happen? A national cheesecake contest? A chance encounter? A cheesecake scout traveling the country in search of the most unique recipes?
We’ll come back to that.
Microventures can be about anything. Growing the juiciest tomatoes. Writing inspiring children’s books. Breeding gorgeous cockatiels. Making really cool looking art. Designing even cooler furniture. Designing stunning websites. Making gorgeous cabinets. Whatever. Microventures are about doing something unique. Something you can be the best in the world at. Something that will help you change the world, even if it’s just a tiny little bit.
What separates microventures from other small businesses is the fact that they are completely unique. They don’t follow a model. They aren’t a copy of what someone else is already doing. You won’t find them in infomercials. There’s no kit. There’s no program. There’s nothing to buy into. There’s no pyramid. It’s just you and your own highly specialized contribution to the world.
At their core, they are about new ideas. Serious talent. Hard work. Patience.
And most importantly, not relying on them to pay the bills anytime soon. (This is key.) Microventures are not and cannot be “get rich quick” schemes. They rarely scale quickly. They are artisan-driven in nature, through and through.
You should dream big, but you kind of have to start small. Build your business, one brick at a time. Be happy with a positive cash flow, but don’t expect to quit your day job just yet.
Note the “micro” in microventure.
Note the emphasis on “yet”.
So, back to my irrelevant little story: The car ride with Chico. The lightbulb moment. The subsequent blog search to see what (if anything) had already been written about it. Fast forward to Hugh Macleod’s “The Global Microbrand” post on gapingvoid. Pause on the WOW moment when I realize that there must be some kind of weird eureka synergy to this blogging thing.
Hugh’s global microbrand theory is kind of like the third and fourth steps in my microventure concept. (Step 1: Start. Step 2: Make money. Step 3: Work out the kinks and get really, really good at it. Step 4: Reach far beyond your zipcode.)
Here’s some of what he has to say:
Since I first used the term here in December of last year, I have been totally besotted with the idea of “The Global Microbrand”.
A small, tiny brand, that “sells” all over the world.
With the internet, of course, a global microbrand is easier to create than ever before. But they’ve existed for a while. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. A commercial sign maker in New England. Or a sheet metal entrepreneur in the U.K.
And with the advent of blogs this was no longer just limited to people who made products. We saw that any service professional with a bit of talent and something to say could spread their message far and wide beyond their immediate client base and local market, without needing a high-profile name or the goodwill of the mainstream media.
The Global Microbrand is sustainable. With it, you are not beholden to one boss, one company, one customer, one local economy or even one industry. Your brand develops relationships in enough different places to where your permanent address becomes almost irrelevant. (…)
Of course, “The Global Microbrand” is not conceptual rocket science. You don’t need a Nobel Prize in order to understand the idea. What excites me about it is the fact that I now live in a small cottage in the English boonies, and careerwise I’m getting a lot more done than when I lived in a large apartment in New York or London, for a fifth of the overheads. For one fiftieth of the stress levels.
(Read the rest of his post here)
So anyway. Yep. Blogging and connecting with people are crucial elements of creating (or at least nurturing) your own global microbrand.
Global microbrands fit much better in the web 2.0 world of quality discussions, solid referrals and passionate clients than in the scatter-shot approach of traditional advertising’s high traffic/high exposure model.
The microbrand’s highly specialized nature is exactly what makes it so relevant… and successful.
The old lady in baking cheesecakes in Alabama. The blanquette maker in Languedoc. The cabinet maker in Antwerp. The Christmas ornament maker in Sri Lanka. The business consultant in Lima. All potential global microbrands. All potential really cool little stories.
All potential agents of change.
Building a whole new world economy, one little brick at a time.
In closing, I will leave you with Hugh’s parting words from his post:
“There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we’re all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don’t think it’s a bad one to aim for. (…) as long as we keep blogging, avoid high overheads and keep making the best suits in the world, nobody can take it away from us.”
In this economy more than ever, put your passion to work. It may very well be one of the most rewarding adventures you’ll ever go on… and in a few years, you may look back on it as one of the smartest business decisions you ever made.
Have a great Monday, everyone.