With unemployment levels still high, many people are looking to create their own jobs through entrepreneurship.
For many of these accidental entrepreneurs, the most promising opportunities can often be found through experiences and observations from their previous jobs.
Brian Roland, an alumnus of Belmont University, worked with Sprint for five years designing and developing online employee procurement portals for Fortune 100 companies.
These portals gave employees of Sprint corporate customers access to discounts on Sprint products and services. However, many of these employees did not take advantage of the discounts, making the benefit irrelevant.
As Roland worked closely with many of Sprint’s largest corporate accounts, he realised that the issue was insufficient staff and technological resources within human resources departments to handle the large number of employee discounts offered by their vendors.
Roland immediately recognised the need for a third party to administer the details of employee discount programs, allowing the HR departments to stay focused on the day-to-day requirements of their routine business.
His novel idea demonstrates the most important aspect of any new business opportunity: how to find potential customers with clearly identified unmet needs.
Through market research Roland discovered that there were very few options available for companies seeking a third-party employee discount provider.
With a demonstrated market need and limited competition, Roland partnered with a custom software developer to co-found Abenity Inc. to offer employee discount management to companies.
The team at Abenity has listened to customers and adapted its business model along the way since the company launched in 2005.
For example, Abenity found that employees preferred discounts on four things: movie tickets, restaurants, groceries and gasoline. By focusing on securing these types of coupons Abenity provides tangible value to its corporate customers.
Abenity also changed how he secured vendors for employee discounts. The industry standard was to charge the vendors fees to participate, and to make the majority of revenue from ad sales.
However, because the mission of the business is providing employees with benefits, Abenity realised that it should do everything possible to secure as many discounts as possible for the program. The company charges no fees to vendors and has made the participation process much easier for new local vendors.
Even in a weak economy, entrepreneurial opportunities can be found. Don’t overlook those opportunities you have observed “on the job.”
Dr. Jeff Cornwall is the inaugural recipient of the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. He also serves as the Director of the centre for Entrepreneurship. He has published six books and numerous articles on entrepreneurship. This post was originally published on his blog, and it is republished here with permission.
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