Monday, May 16, 2016

Test Kitchen Theory: How You Can Learn From Kylie Jenner's Qualitative Research Experience

 You have to be living under a rock if you have not heard of Kylie Jenner. Being related to the Kardashian clan will light a fire inside of any entrepreneurial spirit. It’s an intelligent move for anyone participating in the reality TV phenomenon to use the platform to launch a product or service. Anyone that does not capitalize on this market is purely foolish. Kylie is no longer just a TV personality. She is an entrepreneur as well.
Lo and behold the topic of conversation: Kylie’s lips have turned into a lucrative cash cow. The cosmetics industry generates more than $62.46 billion dollars (Source: considering the US is the largest market of consumers. Kylie made a smart business decision using this industry with the platform she has. She took an insecurity of hers and turned it into a stream of income. Well-played Kylie. Well played. 
Here’s where it gets interesting. Most people covet the celebrities of social media. These Internet celebrities sell anything from t-shirts with their favorite slogan; detox tea, protein, teeth whiteners, and even books. Then there are the elite that venture over into retail and cosmetics. Gucci Mane’s girlfriend, Keyshia Kai’or; Love & Hip Hop Atlanta’s Rasheeda Frost; and now Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s Kylie Jenner’s lip kits. She’s joined many seeking to expand her brand. She secured a manufacturer, created a buzz, and began distribution of her lip kits to customers who preordered. Go Kylie! Selling out in 15 minutes is very admirable!
Customers were quick to rebut, “No, Kylie!” There were plenty of hiccups from shipping issues, empty boxes arriving to angry customers, used wands in secure packages, and a faulty wand to each customer. Sounds like a disaster right? Angry customers complained and completely dissed Kylie’s lip kit on all social medias platforms. Kylie ever so graciously addressed the matter and informed her fans and customers the wand would be new and the next batch! And this is where we discuss the test kitchen theory. Kylie tweeted 
If you’ve ever purchased a brand new iPhone, the latest version of Turbo Tax, or Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kit, you indeed paid to be a “lab rat” for the company. I’ll let you in on a little secret: everyone’s doing it! Small batches allow room for improvement without breaking the bank of the entrepreneur. Even though Kylie is a mega celebrity, she’s following the protocol of the greats: sticking to the budget. Small batches allow quick feedback; helps improve the product/service, and helps to avoid blowing the budget. Kylie was able to fix the wand issue by making it shorter and modified the formula for her lippies: next batch improved. 
Quality control is the process you’ve just experienced. If you’ve purchased Kylie’s lip kit, a new computer, or just about any product for that matter. The processes have been reconfigured, (hopefully the shipping issues are resolved); she’s gained knowledge for the next batch of lip kits. (No more long wands, eh Kylie?) Product inspection will occur with each lip gloss, matt3e lipstick and whatever new product her customer gives feedback on. All feedback is helpful whether positive or negative to the business. This negative feedback is actually more helpful than you think.
I understand that as a guinea pig, in many areas, it is not always a pleasant experience. Many customers including myself, spend their hard earned money on a product they expect to be perfect from the beginning. And in this phase of entrepreneurship everyone's doing qualitative research on the consumer directly. There's no way to get around it! Think of it as a test kitchen: You get to see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes the food is great. Sometimes the recipe needs tweaking. During this research and development process new products and services are developed. 
How can you apply this to your business?
1. Think like Kylie
 Think like Kylie: small batches are just right for an entrepreneur: especially when you are a bootstrapping business. It’s better to have a budget for three batches than to use all of your funding for one large and unsuccessful batch.
2. Make Mistakes
You will make mistakes: when it happens (and it will) apologize graciously and offer a new lip wand as the solution. You want to take care of your customer so they come back.
3. Listen to Your Customers
Listen to your customers: Buying power is a hell of an influencer. It doesn’t matter how fast you sell out if they never purchase your product again. And on the flip side of that coin: you can have a great product that your customers do not want. Moral of the story: open up your listening ear by analyzing your customer feedback. In fact, encourage it! 
4. Excellence Isn’t Always Expensive
Excellence doesn’t have to be expensive! I tell my kids all the time: “A half done job is a twice done job!” If you don’t get it right on the first try (you won’t,) be prepared to do it another time, better than the time before. You will go through this process over and over and over again with each product rollout. Master your process now.
5. All Change Isn’t Bad
Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. Even though we pay to give feedback from our experience with the latest version of QuickBooks, or any technology, they never offer a discount. So why should you offer discounts when others are doing the same thing and following a different protocol. Kylie charged her customers $29.00 USD, plus shipping, handling, and tax for a faulty lip kit. Her prices are comparative to her competitors: MAC and other luxury cosmetic brands. Take notes fellow entrepreneurs! How will you implement the test kitchen theory in your business? 
 The CEO and published author, Ask TPJ, is a millennial M.B.A. graduate in love with helping others fulfill purpose by working in the areas of personal development, business leadership, and project management. Tricia J. specializes in non-profit organizations, project management, business administration, organizational strategy, and small business start-ups. She’s also a mom to a starting lineup of 5 little A’s.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lessons From Prince: Own Your Art

I don’t know about you, but Uncle Prince was an integral part of my childhood. My aunt was convinced they’d be married some time in the 80’s. Time and time again we sang many of his infamous, yet inappropriate lyrics. Upon hearing the news of his untimely death I began to reflect on what I knew about him. He was a music mogul, producer, actor, an advocate, visionary, film director, trailblazer, and philanthropist as well as creative mastermind. I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with business and entrepreneurship: stick with the kid and you’ll see where I’m going with this in just a bit.

I personally consider musicians to be entrepreneurs. Many have turned creative ideas into some of the most popular and memorable songs in each generation. Unfortunately, the creative minds do not have the discipline to do the “hard things” like learn the business to protect their creative intellectual properties. Queue the entrance of 360 deals in the modern music world. These deals are where a music company will front the artist finances to be used for promotions, marketing, touring, studio fees, video recordings, etc. in exchange for these services and any financial advances the artist receives the artist yields a hefty percentage of all artist streams of income including, but not limited to: music sales/downloads, live performances, YouTube views, publishing, merchandising, and more depending on the contract specifics...Uncle Prince would not approve.

I’m reminded of when he changed his name from Prince to The Artist Formally Known As Prince. As a 3rd grader (don’t judge me) I didn’t understand the significance of this name change for him as an artist, entrepreneur, and fellow rebel. Today, I understand he was laying a blueprint for future artists/entrepreneurs to follow. He changed his name so that his record label, Warner Brothers would no longer own his business (stage) name along with his music.

He was such an advocate for owning your art, that he re-recorded his old Warner Brother’s albums to create a catalogue only he would own. Warner Brother’s would not let him obtain ownership of the master recordings and publishing of his previous work. 17 albums were redone just so he could own his art. In doing this, he would cut out the middle man, selling directly to his fan base and ultimately earn more money for what was his intellectual property to begin with.

To further substantiate the fact that Uncle Prince was about that life when it came to owning his are, in 2015, he took his music off of all streaming channels including YouTube, Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify. He did later allow Tidal to stream. I am convinced owner Jay Z said some moving things in that meeting. (Side note: The primary reason Jay Z acquired Tidal was to ensure artists could own their art. That had to resonate with Prince.) Spotify pays an artist between $0.006 and $0.0084 per song stream to the artist. Many artists are not making minimum wage in the amount of plays based on current plays per song based on chart fees below:

Streaming Service
Per Play

Signed Artist
Unsigned Artist
Google Play
Reference: Knowledge Is Beautiful by David McCandless

The moral of the story is: Own your art! Uncle Prince paved the way for other entrepreneurial kings like Master P, Jay Z, and Damon Dash. These men learned the importance of having a boss mentality. These men sign the front of their checks...pretty bossy.

How can you apply this to your art?

1.  Own Your Art
It’s your intellectual property: make sure you own it. Don’t let the things that come from your mind be the thing that someone else makes a profit from. The music industry especially profits from creative artists ignorance concerning the importance of owning your art.

2.    Learn The Business Side of Your Industry
If you’re going to play the game, it’s probably best that you learn the rules. Being a creative mastermind is one thing. Cashing in on that creativity is another. Unfortunately, many artist/celebrities only earn around $30,000 to $40,000 annually with bogus contracts like 360 deals. (Thanks for the information Master P.) What you don’t want to be is a disgruntled artist angry like TLC because they’ve sold millions of albums; the world knows your name, yet they drive off from an awards show in a Toyota. You can’t afford not to learn the game if you want to avoid being tomorrow’s barista at Starbucks.

3.    Know Your Worth & Add Tax
Know exactly what it is you bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to pass up a business deal that is not a good fit for you. Don’t be so desperate for fame/money that you cheat yourself in the end. All entrepreneurs must learn the art of negotiation. Remember, Uncle Prince wrote, “slave” on his face at a major awards show? “If you don’t own your masters (intellectual property), your master owns you!” – Prince Rodger Nelson.

4.    Consult The Experts
I specifically remember Rev Run coaching his son Jo Jo on the best record contract to sign. It was better to sign and independent deal and sell fewer records, but make more money than to sign a major deal with less ownership, but more album sales. The same principle remains true in any business deal. When Master P was up and coming he consulted Michael Jackson’s lawyer for sound business advice. Beyonce even received game changing advice from Uncle Prince. They’ve paid for the knowledge through experience and education; don’t be afraid to ask (and pay for) good advice.

5.    The Independent Route Is Harder, But More Gratifying

Independence causes you to be more involved through the entire process. Freedom isn’t necessarily free. There’s a price we entrepreneurs pay for that coveted freedom. Jay Z is working double time to cultivate an environment for artists to receive the most for their intellectual properties they’ve created! Being independent allows you to be in control of your art. In our generation, we have business savvy artists like Beyonce and Romeo Miller that stand for creative freedom and demand to be compensated fairly for their contribution to the industry they work in. Pure artistry is a labor of love, but don’t get it twisted, it can still be very lucrative if you are willing to do the work the right way. 

Thank you Uncle Prince. If no one else was listening, I was. Your fight was not in vain.