By Adrian Duyzer
Published July 06, 2009
It's shocking how quickly some businesses vanish from Locke Street. The pop up like the vigorous crocuses in springtime that wither away at the first sign of real heat or dryness.
Most startups fail, of course, so this isn't all that surprising. What is surprising, however, is how some of these entrepreneurs expected success in the first place. Some ideas just aren't right for the street.
I'm not going to point out examples, since Locke is where I work. I don't want to predict the failure of anyone who's there right now, and I don't want to rub salt into the wounds of those who have left.
Instead, I've come up with a new idea that I think could save people a lot of cash, and I want to hear what you think about it. I suspect the idea could apply to streets all over.
The reality television shows American Inventor and its CBC counterpart Dragons' Den have a simple premise: inventors pitch their ideas to a group of successful businesspeople, who select a winning invention based on its merits and potential for profit and then invest in it.
I propose a new website for Locke Street that would work similarly. The site would have a roster of individuals knowledgeable about the business climate on Locke Street and business in general, such as owners of existing businesses on the street, professionals, representatives from neighbourhood groups, property owners, commentators, and so on. These people would be the judges.
Each judge would maintain a profile that would outline their expertise and fully describe their existing business interests. Prospective business owners (prospects) would submit a sketch of the business they are considering opening on Locke Street to the site in a private and secure manner (including, perhaps, legal restrictions on the ability of judges to disclose information about the proposal).
Prospects would choose a limited number of judges from the judging roster to judge their proposal (in this way they could avoid choosing judges who own competitive businesses or who might be biased for some other reason). Each judge would vote on the proposal according to criteria such as longevity, profitability and suitability. Each judge could also provide additional comments and guidance.
A subsequent enhancement to the site would be the enrollment of consumers who would serve as an impromptu focus group for prospects. If the prospect received positive feedback from the judges (or negative feedback they wished to disprove), they could design a short questionnaire that would be submitted to these consumers for quick and easy additional market research.
I think local websites that tap into the business expertise of community leaders could help guide the decisions of entrepreneurs to open up shop on city streets. Free access to valuable advice could save budding businesspeople loads of money and help create a street with the shops and businesses that are profitable as well as suitable.
What do you think? Would it work on Locke or elsewhere?