Are we destined to fail as entrepreneurs?

The growing number of creative professionals that venture into entrepreneurship raises doubts and concern.

Portrait of Marco Rinaldi Marco Rinaldi Ciudad de México

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Main illustration of the article Are we destined to fail as entrepreneurs?

Starting a business is not an easy task, but as creative professionals we suddenly decide to do it nonetheless. Are we prepared to become entrepreneurs? Do we have the necessary abilities or is it because we acquired innovation and creativity as our tools that we may be naive when it comes to undertake a business of our own?

Why do the creative decide to start a business?

The answer is simpler and more obvious than it seems: scarce job opportunities, low salaries and little room for growth within corporations.

According to a study that took place in Mexico in 2013 by a! diseño1 magazine, a junior graphic designer (1-5 years of experience) has a monthly salary in a range between $510 and $680 US dollars. For comparison, a study by Grupo Universo Laboral,2 an engineer in Mexico makes between $680 and $1230 US dollars a month.

Why does this happen? As it is known, most Latin American countries base their economies in primary industry (oil, mining and agriculture) or in manufacture and assembly plants that produce any kinds of goods. These companies do not need a Design Department, or if they have it, it is located in the country of origin (Europe, Asia and the US). Even more, design, especially industrial, is a post-war profession that responds to a time when Europe's economy was completely devastated, when industry had almost disappeared and there was a need for artisans and handymen with the ability to solve problems with industrial tools and processes.

However, nowadays global economy is shifting to the development of services and other intangibles. Around the world, designers are adapting but in Latin America we still prepare professionals for a semi-industrialized world that no longer exists and has no job market. That is why there is an evident growth in the activity of entrepreneurs with a creative background (creative industries entrepreneurs, as referred by Fernando Del Vecchio).

¿Are we really prepared to be entrepreneurs?

Without the fear to be wrong, no, most of us are not. Our training as creative professionals does provide us with a methodology centered in divergent thinking and great observation and opportunity-detection abilities. However, this is not enough; an entrepreneur must be, above all, “tolerant to uncertainty”, able to deal with the unknown, manage the intangible, know how to solve problems in times of crisis and with limited resources.

We must understand that when undertaking a project or creative venture, design by itself is not enough as added value or differentiating element against competitors. If we design shoes, our shoes not only compete with other “designer shoes”, but with all the other shoes in the market. This does not only involve product development, but also price, convenience, location of the points of sale and strength of the brand to convey its added value to consumers.

The success of our products or services is not in how innovative it is or its value proposal, but in the degree that our consumers perceive them. This leads us to a very interesting concept presented by E. M. Rogers in his essay “Theory of Innovation”,3 presented as a Relative Advantage: “It is the degree in which an innovation is perceived above the initial concept that precedes it”. In other words, the capacity of consumers to perceive the innovation in a product, regardless of the objective innovation of the product itself (technical aspects, performance, price).

“The greater the perceived relative advantage of an innovation, the greater the index of adoption.”

E. M. Rogers (2001)

An entrepreneur requires exceptional sales skills, clarity to convey the competitive advantages of his product, to understand his client and even more importantly, to speak his language. The market, universities and corporations cannot be more different. When starting a business there is no teacher, boss or specialist to tell us if our work is good, if we reach the goals or if we made mistakes; there are no grades and our professional background does not guarantee clients. The market is unforgiving, it is black or white: it does not know half-measures, it accepts or rejects you.

¿Are we too naive when starting a business of our own?

In a way, yes. Our biggest strength is also our greatest weakness: “design”. The rest of the world does not see things like we do. There is nothing wrong with this, but whining is useless. If we wish to sell or be hired it is us who have to change. Design clearly adds value to any kind of business that aims to sell a product or service; that is not the problem, it is the needs and purchasing power of Latin Americans.

If we look closely to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs,4 we will find the physiological needs at the base, followed by security, social belonging, self-esteem and self-realization. In what part of the hierarchy do you think we Latin Americans are? The majority are in the lower part of the structure. Where is design? In most cases, up high. This is why unless we understand the role of design in Latin America we will most likely make fools of ourselves by idealizing a reality that only exists in certain small circles or that is a mirage, caused by the thirst for a better reality.

¿What is the solution?

Let's use our abilities, let's learn what we have to learn, let's observe and understand the industry that we wish to enter. Let's know that in the entrepreneur's way there are no maps or defined routes, success is not guaranteed and the only certainty is our will to overcome adversity.

Translated by Luis Daniel Sánchez Denver

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  1. Sueldos Diseñadores México 2013 (Salaries of Designers in Mexico 2013. a! diseño Magazine).
  2. Sueldos Ingenieros México 2013 (Salaries of Engineers in Mexico 2013. Grupo Universo Laboral)
  3. Rogers, E. M. Theory of Innovation.
  4. Pirámide de Necesidades de Maslow (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).
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Marco Rinaldi

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Portrait of Noelia Baquerizo
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Noelia Baquerizo
10 months ago

Hi Marco, Iʼm from Guayaquil and you have no idea how many entrepreneurs there are over here; in fact even I have a project in mind that I would love to launch. However recently I have learned really how much effort there is put into launching your business-which seams obvious-but as designer many times we donʼt consider a lot of aspects of the way a company functions like the financial area. The salary for designers over here is pretty low as well so I think one of the ways we could combat it as a community is set costs for projects, globalize them and stay firm to that price, avoid accepting less just because of the need of a job but staying firm and making your work be respected.

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Portrait of Ashanti Durham
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Ashanti Durham
One year ago

Its very important what you mention about the possibilities that we have as a designer in Latin America, and what surprises me the most is that four years later the monthly salary is basically the same.

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Portrait of Marco Rinaldi
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Marco Rinaldi
One year ago

Thats right Ashanti it´s incredible how undervalued is our market. But I think is also ours to be blamed for it.

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Portrait of J Antonio Martínez
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J Antonio Martínez
One year ago

Hi Marco, I finish your article and in my opinion, the key of entrepreneur success is, besides to always have courage about your decisions and choices, and I mean to take the opportunities you have in front of you always, the key is to always contemplate your possibilities, to have everything under control, to assume that as possible is to win in some things It´s a 50-50 chances of loosing an to know what are you going to do if this is the case so you have other choices.

Thanks for your article.

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Portrait of Jorge Ponce
0
Jorge Ponce
Jan 2016

Amazing words.

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