In the past I’ve written more than a few blogs about the opportunities that exist for non-US entrepreneurs in the United States. Today, I’m going to talk about the vast opportunities that exist for the US entrepreneur outside the US (It also applies to non-US entrepreneurs, but I’m taking the US perspective on this post).
Here are 5 tips on how to look at and spot international opportunities.
- Think outside the country. Look at what countries are hot. India and China for sure, but what about places like Bangladesh and Nigeria? I know of one enterprising American entrepreneur that’s selling cell phones in Angola. And I have a friend who moved to Bogota, Columbia several years ago when it wasn’t exactly a tourist destination, so there was some risk. But, heck there’s also some out-sized returns. How many competitors do you think these people encountered? Not many, that’s for sure. So, what’s the moral of the story? Think outside the country.
- Keep your eyes open. One of my favorite examples is the US school teacher that was traveling with her class of elementary school children in Europe. And, what were the little rascals buying? Gummy bears! What did she do? She secured the rights to the US market and made a tidy sum selling something that had never been sold in the US. OK, so it’s not overseas. But, that’s not the point. The point is travel with open eyes and you will see the opportunities. Come back to your home country and secure those international rights to some really needed product.
- Think Less Income. We’re too used to having everything in America – it’s a country built on comfort. When thinking about some foreign markets, think local, think less income. Sure, you can sell to the high end, but larger opportunities are at the middle and lower end. Ask yourself, how would I make do with their income? What would I be willing to buy with the little money I had? I had a French teacher, a wonderful lady, that used to teach in Cameroon and one of the things she sold quite successfully was a plain straw hat that had a mirror on the inside. Who would have thought? She did. And, what did she once do? She gave a free hat to a big chief and in return he gave her a carved elephant tusk. Ok, so that’s not IPO material. But, it’s a start and if you don’t start you don’t get anywhere.
- Think Even Less Income. You say, how can people with limited means possibly afford some of the things we have in America? Well they can’t. You have to come up with completely new products and ideas for those markets. After all, most of the products we have in the US are made somewhere else now so don’t look here for ideas. Peel the orange all the way back and invent something new. One of my favorite stories, is the American entrepreneur that moved to China to sell cosmetics to the Chinese masses. Well, lipstick can be pretty expensive. But her solution was ingenious. She was going to sell miniature lipsticks. Like those mini-bottles you find in hotel room bars. Just a small version of the original.
- Think local. So what do you do if you need a shovel to farm but you can’t afford shoes? Ever try pushing your naked foot against the blade of a shovel to push it into the ground. Tough right? More, like impossible. So what did some enterprising entrepreneur do? They put a step on the shovel so it formed a “T” with the blade and the farmer could then push down with their naked foot onto the top of the “T” and not cut the bottom of their foot. A very simple and elegant solution. OK, so that’s not exactly a large market. No it’s not, but depending on what you’re trying to do (i.e. do good) it could be the perfect solution. The point is that even if you want to make money (while doing good I assume even if profit is your only motive) you have to adapt locally? As they say, when in Sri Lanka, do like the Sri Lankans do.
Yes, Grasshoppper, look, think, jump! JFDI