Embracing Failure: My Business Ventures That Didn't Quite Make It

Whatever the case may be, it's important to remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. In fact, most successful entrepreneurs and innovators have experienced their fair share of setbacks along the way.

Embracing Failure: My Business Ventures That Didn't Quite Make It
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Have you ever tried something new, only to find that it didn't work out the way you hoped it would? Maybe you started a business that ultimately failed, or you invested time and money into a project that didn't yield the results you expected.

Whatever the case may be, it's important to remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. In fact, most successful entrepreneurs and innovators have experienced their fair share of setbacks along the way.

The purpose of this post is to share with you all the business ideas that I have tried and failed, as a reminder that failure is a necessary stepping stone on the path to success. By documenting my experiences, I hope to illustrate that it's important to continue trying, to learn from each failure, and to keep moving forward with renewed determination and focus.

Fundrbee - Crowdfunding Platform

Probably the first idea I ever pursued. A crowdfunding platform with a "social media" approach.

Lessons Learnt

  • Ideas that require an extensive network of people to work require a lot of marketing capital
  • Don't get investors until you have proven that the idea can work
  • Be frugal. Do not spend tons of money outsourcing. Teach yourself the necessary skills to build a minimum viable product.
  • Once we ran out of money, I had to learn to build websites on my own, a skill that I have used in almost every single business venture afterwards.

Dropshipping Online Stores (Springer Gear Pet Store + Protect My Tech)

I tried building 2 online stores that use a dropshipping fulfilment method.

  1. Springer Gear - Pet Shop
  2. Protect My Tech - Online store that sells backpacks, laptop covers, phone covers etc
Dropshipping is a retail fulfilment method in which a store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third-party supplier and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the seller doesn't have to handle the product directly, and doesn't need to invest in inventory or a warehouse to store it.

Lessons Learnt

  • Clients don't like waiting more than 3-4 days for an online order
  • Quality > Quantity
  • Don't sell something you are not proud of
  • If a client had to wait 3-4 weeks for an item they bought from you, they will never buy from you again - in other words, you won't have to return customers and you have to spend money on marketing to find new customers each time.
  • I learnt a lot about Paid Advertising, which has been extremely valueable in future businesses

The Garage Lifter - Online Gym Programs

In my early 20s I was a competitive powerlifter and I competed for the South African team at the World Powerlifting Championships in Belarus.

So my thinking was maybe I could write training programs and sell them online to other lifters worldwide. The great thing about this model would be:

  1. It's digital i.e. no shipping
  2. Almost no overheads

Lessons Learnt

  • I spent 4+ years training and most of my programs I got for free online, so why would anyone want to pay for a program?
  • This could have worked if I won the World Championships and if I had a massive social media following

ebay Flipping

The idea was to bid on iPhones, Macbooks and other expensive tech products on ebay and then import them into South Africa, have them refurbished, cleaned and then sell them again to local customers.

Lessons Learnt

  • The auction format of ebay can work, if you manage to pick the items at a low price point
  • Import Tax into South Africa is very "random" and the rate you pay depends on the person working at the Import Department and what they "value" your goods at.

BUNDULIGHT - Custom lights for agricultural equipment

The idea was to online website where farmers could configure a kit for their planter or tractor and place an order easily.

Lessons Learnt

  • The online platform required to build a site like this proved to be very difficult to build
  • Farmers are not used to ordering things online
  • The inventory required would be very expensive to carry and import from overseas

Biltong Bag - Monthly Subscription for Biltong Delivery

The idea was to have a monthly subscription where clients would pay a monthly fee and get a delivery of biltong each month and a free gift (biltong cutter or something similar) with the first order.

Lessons Learnt

  • It's not easy to ship biltong across South Africa, a country known for high temperatures and some of your biltong might spoil.
  • Spoilage could be avoided if you spend more on packaging, but then your profits go out the window
  • The idea was to hook customers with the free gift, but this meant that each new customer requires a lot of capital, and unless they continue their subscription, it's lost.

DEMPER - High end hunting rifle silencers

Using my mechanical engineering background I designed and started manufacturing hunting rifle silencers. I sold them on a online store and marketed them on social media.

Lessons Learnt

  • The equipment needed to manufacture high-performance metal parts are expensive
  • In other words you need to out-source, which drives development costs through the roof
  • Manufacturing products used with firearms is extremely dangerous and you have a very big responsibility to ensure they are safe which is stressful
  • Marketing these items are extremely difficult, because the hunting/shooting community is very tight-knit and they are very brand loyal - in order to make a success of it, you need to be part of the community and be at the shooting range each Saturday etc.

Is this the whole list?

As you can see, on this list there are 8 business ventures that actually matured to more than an idea, to a product offered to customers.

On this list I haven't even included the 12 other ideas scrapped in the research phase because I realised that they wouldn't work, in part because of lessons learnt from the failures above.

And this list will probably still grow in the future.

Why share this?

At first, it's not easy to share these failures. No one likes sharing with the world that they have had multiples ideas fail. But I think it is important for anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur to understand the following points:

Get some failures on your CV

Success will come

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