FourThings was an idea I had last year for approaching new businesses that I wanted to collaborate with in some way. I wanted to be able to initiate contact with business owners in a way that offered them immediate value while demonstrating competence.
I hoped to stand out by reaching out that way and give the business owner a reason to either get back in touch or think of me in the future when future opportunities to collaborate popped up.
I started FourThings because I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with Inkbike yet. I knew I wanted to work with other business owners in some way for personal and professional development, but I honestly didn’t (still don’t) have a clue what service I could offer – free or otherwise.
I came to the realisation that I should just treat collaborative work like I would my day job: if my manager gave me a type of project that I had no experience of working on before, I would just go away and try to figure something out.
Everyone has to start somewhere and there’s not much you can’t figure out on Google right?
So I decided I would investigate small businesses I wanted to work with, figure out what they were doing, and try to think of realistic ways they could expand their operation in some way.
These would become projects that I would outline, put into a document and send over in my opening email to a business owner. I knew I didn’t want to spend forever doing this for each business, so I decided to limit myself to four projects.
F-four…things – geddit..?
I hoped that by making four projects, I had four chances to come up with something that the business owner might like.
The ideal outcome would that they liked one of the projects, turn around to say;
‘Inkbike-person, you’re a brilliant curly-haired genius and I love your idea.
I think it could be great for my business but I don’t have the time at the moment to bring it to life – would it be something that you’d be interested in doing for me?‘
Imagine. the. scenes.
To achieve the desired effect, I wanted to focus on providing the business owner with value (while actively demonstrating the value I could provide), which meant creating something that went one step further than just pitching basic ideas.
I wanted to give a full break-down of what it would take to roll out the idea, costs and all, so they would have a step-by-step guide if they wanted to go ahead with it.
I thought it was a pretty good idea for being proactive about my development and was super excited.
Plan sorted, I went to work.
The company I decided to focus my efforts on was Cha Lounge. It’s a place I love (in case you didn’t already get that impression from the interview), have spent enough time in to have done some indirect research and I felt Mandeep (the owner) would be open to new ideas.
The four ideas I came up with were (*ahem*); Cha Spice, Cha Pots, Cha Classses and Cha Social. You can check them out in the way I presented them below or download a copy of the document by clicking on this link.
In the end I think I spent about a month chipping away at this. It worked out as a couple of hours here or there when I found the time in my evenings and weekends. I was pretty proud of how it came together!
Each point was made based on research that (I hoped) was detailed enough to be actionable while being low-risk financially.
Thinking it looked ready, I typed up an introductory email and sent it on over to Cha Lounge.
Months passed and I didn’t hear back.
I started to get really paranoid that I might have accidentally over-stepped a boundary by mistake and offended the recipients somehow or that my ideas were so fantastically bad that Mandeep felt too uncomfortable to get back in touch.
In reality, Mandeep enjoyed the document but was busy running a new, growing business and so never found the time to reply.
Ultimately, the projects didn’t end up getting off the ground (although I did end up collaborating with Mandeep on other things), but that wasn’t why I considered my first collaboration attempt a failure.
The reason is because I was put off – I never made another copy of FourThings for other businesses I wanted to collaborate with.I maintain that FourThings was a decent first idea for approaching a new business. It forced me to creatively think in a way that I enjoyed and was a useful exercise considering my interest in creating/managing something myself.
So it was absolutely no good that I allowed myself to be put off from doing it again just because I didn’t get a pat on the back as quickly as I wanted to.
Realistically, small business owners are likely to be stretched thin for time and won’t always have the time to get back in touch. Or honestly, they just might not like the ideas I pitch in the first place, but that doesn’t mean that no-one ever will or that I should’ve stopped trying.
I’ll finish by being objective and talking about this as if someone else had done it. The worst case scenario is that no-one ever replies, creating several of these would’ve still built up a kick-ass portfolio which for use in job interviews to demonstrate proactivity, research skills, creative design and more.
Even better, you might end up researching an idea that could end up being a business in it’s own right!
The moral of the story, don’t do a me. If you have an idea, don’t be put off by the first set back. Learn from it and keep working.
After all, good things happen to those who hustle (at least according to their Instagram feeds).
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