Venture Project Cutting Edge: Entrepreneurship
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Copyright 2006
Cornell University.
All rights reserved.



Fabric choice can be the innovation in an entrepreneurial venture

Creativity is having a new idea. Innovation is doing something with that idea.

As an entrepreneur, you can follow an innovative process that is

  • a product development process from idea to commercial application, or
  • a venture project that encompasses the product, process, and market development.

If your innovation is a product, you'll focus on that single product or set of products to develop and commercialize. Your new product will be distinctive in its style, material, trim, or end use. The design of the product is the value for your customer. You can produce and sell it, sell only the design for someone else to produce and sell, or design it as an "intrapreneur" employed by a larger business where the new products are produced and sold by that business.

The new product capitalizes on an innovative idea-a new fashion trend, a new material, a revolutionary product, a new technology or process-and thus creates value for you as well as your customer. Examples are the development of Gore-Tex, or the introduction of a revolutionary backpack design, or defining the new skirt style for a season.

McCann photo"They created the first sports bra by using Lycra...the real innovation was Lycra."

Denni McCann, the head of design at Champion JogBra, explains the compression and Lycra fabric as the innovation of the founders of JogBra that launched the company.



Del Rio photo"We realized that the Internet allowed personalization, a one-to-one relationship with the customer, [especially] in apparel."

Peter Del Rio is the founder and CEO of IC3D, a mass customization firm offering individually sized jeans and pants with some customer-selected individual design choices. He describes a personalized product as the core competency of his firm.


In a venture project, you will innovate in your business approach as well as your product.

You might use the innovation as the overall guiding principle for the business, such as quick response time or environmental stewardship. You could combine innovation in product development, market development, process development, and the guiding principle, or some combination of these.

In innovative market development, you identify new target customers or geographic markets for expansion. Your products might be redesigned slightly or dramatically to address the needs of the new customers or markets. For example, if you were in childrenswear, developing clothing products for young children to accompany a maternity clothing line is an example of innovative market development.

With several employees and sewing machines, a small apparel business can be started

Other examples of new target markets include bidding on government contracts or opening up a new distribution channel, such as a retail store, in another part of the country.

In contrast, if you adopt innovative process development to distinguish your business, you might be adopting advanced technology to improve efficiencies, such as to

  • Improve the process of production or distribution to decrease the time from order to delivery, or
  • Develop new methods of forecasting—predicting the number of orders fro each product each month.

These process innovations can reduce inventories by producing the right number of products for consumer demand.

If you want to effect social or environmental change with your business offerings, you might identify a fitting guiding principle for the business and develop production, design, distribution, and/or human resource strategies based on that principle.

For example, the guiding principle behind SweatX is producing clothing with fair labor practices. The Isaac Mizrahi line of clothing fits with Target's guiding principle of quality design at an affordable price point.

Mackin photo"The idea is to use a commercial brand to bring together strands of consumers who care about the fate of workers and the environment and things like that."

Chris Mackin explains the social responsibility vision upon which the brand SweatX was launched. This vision is the core competency as well as the value proposition for SweatX. It depends on identifying customers who are willing to pay for products that fit their social conscience.



Knowing your innovative approach to entrepreneurship will help clarify your business objectives.




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