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113. Jacqui Boland’s Entrepreneurial Journey on a Red Tricycle

This week on the Economics For Business Podcast we were gifted the opportunity of reviewing and assessing a completed entrepreneurial journey, courtesy of Jacqui Boland, founder, CEO and now alumna of Red Tricycle, following the acquisition of the company by the corporate owner of tinybeans, a family photo sharing and journaling app.

Red Tricycle is a brand — “a lifestyle brand that fuels the parenting universe with daily inspiration for family fun.” In the “Economics For Business Value Proposition Template,” the Red Tricycle proposition would be:

FOR: Fun Moms

WHO: Search for and utilize ideas for family activities for parents and children to enjoy together.

VALUE PROMISE: A unique daily source of ideas and inspiration for family fun

VALUE RATIONALE: Every day, Red Tricycle finds and presents all the best local and in-home family fun opportunities and makes them easy for Moms to research, evaluate and act.

BENEFIT > COST: In one daily web visit, Moms have easy access to a unique curation of new ideas and inspirations, simply formatted, and requiring a minimum of their precious time.

Jacqui was generous in helping us map her entrepreneurial journey to the stages of the Economics For Business GPS.

Key Takeaways And Actionable Insights.

Imagination

The pre-design phase in which entrepreneurs develop the imaginary construct of their business idea.

Jacqui was a new mom in a new and unfamiliar city. She wanted to identify all the opportunities for fun with her family. She became an avid online searcher. A few conversations with some other moms revealed that many moms are searchers — with intensity and determination and a commitment to find and evaluate all the relevant information in their field of search. The idea of an online one-stop location for information about local family-friendly fun activities was born.

A useful tool for the Imagination phase of entrepreneurship is “Entrepreneurial Empathy”: Download Here.

Design

The phase where a validated imagination is transformed into a more formal business model.

Jacqui capitalized on her existing knowledge field. She knew magazine publishing and the power of content, and how to source it. She knew the advertising revenue model for magazines. She was able to design a crisp business model of content creation, content presentation, consumer engagement, and attractiveness for local and eventually national advertisers.

One of the tools in the Design tool set is the “Means-Ends Chain,” helping entrepreneurs to align their business design with customer values: Download Here.

Assembly

The phase in which design is operationalized by selecting and combining assets: people, technology, content, operating processes.

Assembly for Red Tricycle began with people: content producers, editors, salespeople. Jacqui found investors, initially angel investors, then angel groups, and, later in the business’s evolution, institutional venture capital. In turn investors and investor groups like 500 Startups were very useful in providing connections and recommendations for technology and software resources. Comparisons between different operating models that the investor groups were able to provide were useful guidance in making resource selections.

Consult our “Austrian Capital Theory” tool for capital assembly of resources: Download Here.

Marketing

The phase in which the designed and assembled entrepreneurial offering is presented to the market for consumer consideration.

Red Tricycle adopted a city market-by-market rollout strategy, starting in Seattle, proceeding to San Francisco, then systematically adding more cities. The killer app for market introduction was “Mom Word Of Mouth”. Moms have friends in other cities, and travel between cities, and are excited to share family fun ideas with others. The best sharers were subscribers to the Red Tricycle newsletter, so the brand worked hard to build up a subscriber list.

Red Tricycle KPIs were traffic, subscribers, and revenue. As a result of a system of creating and testing content, Red Tricycle could seed new markets with say 20 or 30 stories that drove good SEO traffic. And then the job was to convert that traffic to subscribers to the newsletter.

Building brand uniqueness is fundamental for the Marketing Phase. Use our “Brand Uniqueness Blueprint”: Download Here.

Customer Experience

The phase of the value learning process in which customers try the offering, experience its benefits, and assess the subjective value.

Red Tricycle designed a very specific customer experience, which Jacqui described as: “Quick, get an idea and inspiration to spend time with your kids, and then go offline and do it, and then come back two days later and do it over and over again.” The model was distinctive in not asking for too much time (“the infinite scroll”). Red Tricycle helped Moms focus on the lighter side of parenting and having fun with their kids.

Social media came into play as an aggregator of subjective value anecdotes. Moms would share a picture of themselves at the zoo and use Red Tricycle’s recommended hashtag, “Best weekend ever.” And not just everyday moms, but even celebrity moms, like Randi Zuckerberg, Pink, Ivanka Trump, sharing that they found a great idea for a campsite or a restaurant. These were subjective value data points.

Facilitate great customer experiences with our VUCA tool: Download Here.

Management and Growth

The phase where the business model is scaled and the marketing and customer experience reach is expanded, with continuous innovation accelerating growth.

The major growth pivots for Red Tricycle were the transition from local to national advertisers, and hiring and assembling and empowering the new team members best suited to lead the way in the new business environment that this entailed.

The goal for the management and growth phase was to roll out multiple local markets, and build a strong foundation of local advertising revenue until Red Tricycle had enough scale to interest national advertisers. The transition was a 5 year process. As Jacqui described it: “We put a plan in place and then we adjusted and adjusted and adjusted.”

A core element of the transition management is hiring. Skilled national advertiser salespeople are expensive, and sometimes it might take a year of that salary before a new salesperson can close a big national deal. There’s a lot of foundational work that needs to be done. Scaling the business was a delicate process. A fully staffed company would have a sales team across the U.S. in every market, but if you can’t afford that, you have to stretch and think, “Can this person sell local and national? Could this person cover Chicago, and L.A.?” And then once you start to get a little bit bigger, and you can hire an L.A. staff, what happens to that Chicago rep?” It’s a constant adjustment.

How does growth feel? “You’re always looking for the next milestone. And you have about a minute after you hit a goal or a milestone to celebrate, and then you run into the next quarter and you have another goal that’s even higher. So it’s a constant stretch.”

“Upsizing a Customer Need” is a useful tool for the Management and Growth Phase: Download Here.

Disposition

When the entrepreneur decides to sell the business, merge it into a larger business and relinquish the founder / owner role, or to turn it over to the next generation.

Selling a business is just as much a marketing task as establishing it and growing it. And that means seeing the business through the eyes of an acquirer — empathic diagnosis of their needs, their preferences, their goals and desires, their constraints.

Jacqui had made the economic calculation that the best path forward was not to raise additional venture capital for continued high growth, but to demonstrate solid and sustainable profitability and look for either a strategic partner or an acquisition partner. She didn’t use a banker (whose process she compared to a dating app) but conducted her own search for a firm that would recognize a complementary asset that could be a marketing engine for them. She found a partner in an adjacent field (family photo sharing) that was strong in technology and would benefit from Red Tricycle’s content creation and sales expertise. The deal was made quite quickly.

Additional Resources

Map of Jacqui Boland’s Entrepreneurial Journey (PDF): Download PDF

eGPS Handbook (PDF): Download PDF

100. Jeff Deist: Animating Economics to Serve Real People and Real Businesses

Economics is treated by many as an arid field of mathematical modeling. Human beings are treated as data in the model, almost the way physics regards atoms and molecules. This approach to economics doesn’t help people much; it doesn’t help us understand the world, and isn’t helping us build a better future.

Economics is an animating science. Austrian economics is humanistic; it treats humans as people, pursuing their hopes and dreams, frequently changing, seldom predictable, and never acting like data in a model.

That’s why we see our brand of economics as animating: helping people to understand better how to identify the best means for their chosen ends. For businesspeople, that translates into knowledge, processes and tools to help businesses grow and thrive.

Download The Episode Resource Entrepreneurial GPS – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The role of the entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is the animation of business. It’s action; the exciting process of turning business knowledge and market signals into commercial solutions with the application of imagination, insight, creativity, resource assembly, and agile adjustment.

A big part of what makes Austrian economics different and better for business application is the understanding of the role of the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial function in the economy. Jeff Deist articulated this role as a nexus between capital and markets, and the entrepreneur as the individual taking risk, employing their own property and having skin in the game. It’s an exciting role.

Entrepreneurship and value

Entrepreneurial business is the intentional pursuit of new economic value. The pursuit requires a deep understanding of the concept of value, an understanding that Austrian economics provides. Ever since Carl Menger established the concept of subjective value, Austrian economists have been deepening their understanding still further. Today, we recognize more than ever the role of the customer in value creation; since value is their experience, they are active collaborators. Entrepreneurs harness this collaboration. Think of an iPhone. Apple designs and assembles it, and then a large part of the value experience comes from the user adding apps, composing and sending and receiving messages and e-mails, choosing videos to watch and podcasts to listen to, eagerly contributing to the value experience that they themselves enjoy.

Value is what users make it.

Individualism and diversity

Entrepreneurial economics recognizes the role of the individual. It respects and honors the individual choice. Each individual, in the role of both consumer and producer, exhibits different preferences, personality, and psychology; we live in different places and in different contexts; we each have different needs and wants.

There are many favorable outcomes from individualism. One is the vast global diversity of the marketplace, whether exhibited on amazon or Alibaba or Grainger.com for industrial supplies. Another is economics as an engine of humanity and peace, which is the context for entrepreneurs providing goods and services globally to customers.

Specialization, achievement and satisfaction

Economics For Business aims to help all businesses and all entrepreneurs to find their specialization in this global ecosystem. We apply the economic principles of the specialized division of knowledge and division of labor. We all have knowledge that is unique to us, and we can all find an application of that knowledge in business.

Bob Luddy, who has been a guest on our podcast, founded CaptiveAire, a company that specializes in restaurant ventilation systems, providing benefits of safety, comfort, clean air and regulatory compliance to a broad range of foodservice customers. Bob stresses the value of specialization to become the leader in a category – a share leader and a knowledge leader and an innovation leader. And he’ll tell you that the non-material rewards of economic specialization are delightful, including satisfaction, achievement, earned respect.

CaptiveAire is a great example of considered specialization – it’s not in a high tech category (although there is a lot of tech incorporated in CaptiveAire’s product and service bundle), or an internet business or a software business. Find your customers, find a need that is not being filled, and build from there.

Big data versus big empathy and big insights

We live in an era where more and more data is being collected, compiled, processed and analyzed by producers (as well as non-economic actors such as governments, of course). As the sources of data, many of us have concerns about this trend. The economic principle that is more important for businesses, however, is that, no matter how “big” the data sets are, they do not have value (they are not causal data) until they provide or reveal some qualitative understanding of customer feelings, motivations or attitudes. These are the data that are genuinely useful to businesses. The Economics For Business method to develop this understanding is empathy, and we have a full toolset to help entrepreneurs apply it.

MBA-ization versus products, people and active learning

Jeff quoted Elon Musk on the subject of MBA-ization of business: too much focus on financial modeling and spreadsheets, and not enough on deploying engineers on the factory floor to develop, introduce and continuously improve great products that provide the customer with a delightful experience. Jeff concurred that MBA programs and business schools have become bogged down with a lot of dead weight, and have obscured some of their market-facing functions. They don’t provide the value they ought to provide for the tuition charged.

Economics For Business can provide the 20% of business school knowledge that’s actually valuable, and add new content – informed with Austrian insight – that’s even more relevant, plus the methodology and tools to apply the knowledge in business practice.

This approach is based on the educational science of active learning. In this view, learning is not achieved via books and lectures (which are necessarily backward-looking) but via the receipt of tools and methods and techniques, applying them oneself in real-life situations, and learning from the feedback received from people and markets and business results.

Building experience and sharing experience.

Active learning is the accumulation of experience. It is the unique experience of entrepreneurs and their teams gained from the operation of their businesses that constitutes the division of knowledge flywheel that continuously reinforces their advantaged position in the marketplace.

There is a time value to experience; it takes time to accumulate. On the Economics For Business platform, we’ll aim to identify ways to share experience to speed up the experience-gathering timeline. Q&A and discussion within our entrepreneurial community is one way. Another is mentoring, whereby experienced business people can share what they’ve learned over time.

Economics as a route to work and life satisfaction.

In his book Dynamism, Economic Nobel prizewinner Edmund Phelps tells us that, according to individually reported life satisfaction scores (e.g. Pew Research Center surveys and other similar surveys), the greater part of life satisfaction results from production activities rather than consumer activities. The purpose and meaning of taking on challenges, achieving results, making discoveries, self-reliance, and success in meeting goals are found in participation in the production side of the economic system. We hope to play our part in the stimulus of those satisfactions via the Mises Institute’s Economics For Business project.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

Economics For Business utilizes a journey metaphor for the entrepreneurial process. Take a look at our visual summary: Download the PDF

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

Ready to put Austrian Economics knowledge from the podcast to work for your business? Start your own entrepreneurial journey.

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