Strategies – Do what you do best, trust the rest

Devin Hibbard – Strategies – Do what you do best, trust the rest will work.

I think one example of something that was not what we had planned but turned out to be a great business strategy is the fact we’ve created our distribution model because we had no idea how to do retail. We were terrified. We had these beads, how are we going to get them out there? What we thought of was bringing women together and sharing information.

We didn’t really see that could launch a multimillion dollar business as much as it was the only thing we knew. Our gut was connect to women one on one, tell the story and that’s what we did and it has turned out to be an incredible business model that has generated millions dollars a year for our business and hit our educational goal of really allowing us to educate people and engage with them in a meaningful way.

I think that started off as something we kind of backed into because we had no other choice, we had no other options. We didn’t know any buyers or how to create packaging or how to have a pricing sheet for a wholesale buyer. We know those things now. In some cases we’ve been asked to and forced to develop those things, but it’s certainly not like we had big teaching plans in that way.

We’ve also learned so many things in Uganda. One of the things that I think about not coming in with a master plan is you’re really humble. And we’ve been really humble from the start, we know we don’t know much of the answers. And so we’ve done a lot of asking there of people we woredk with, what was the best part of this for you, what are your dreams, what do you want, and try to develop our program based on that, and there have been so many false starts.

I think one of the hardest things is when the women themselves or staff members have corrupted the project, stolen money, or done something to steal our business. And that feels almost like a personal insult, like you’re here to get me, but I also realize this is how they’ve been raised. The reason many of these women are alive is because they’ve learned how to work the system. When you’re trying to live on a dollar a day, you got to be scrappy and street smart. I’ve learned that it’s not personal.

But we had to get smarter and put in place systems in reaction to major failures, we’ve had to have really secure tight systems and tighten things up over time, financial systems, who you can trust to buy beads. A lot of that has been learning as we go and responding to things that really didn’t go right.

The important thing is when you see something, when you have a real problem or see you’ve totally failed to name it immediately and move in the other direction as quickly as you can because covering it up or pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t get you anywhere.

So saying wow that didn’t really work, let’s try something else, and we’ve done that so many times. I’ve actually have done that in the last 9 years, we’ve never had one group of women that’s come in that’s got the same exact number of inputs because we’re constantly tweaking and changing our model and we tried this entrepreneurial training program and it fell flat. The women didn’t like it, or they were bored.

So then we’ll try something else. What about this or how about delivering it in a different way? Every single group has gotten a slightly different experience because we’re constantly trying to make it better and learn from what we have done poorly.