Potato Salad

OOPSortunity: When Accidents Create Success

Zack Brown’s Potato Salad Kickstarter campaign got a lot more buzz than he originally intended. His goal of $10 seemed like pocket change after only a short time online when investors began pouring in dollars and support. Within a few days, he had already raised $5,000 from 850 backers, and he eventually saw a total pledge amount of around $55,000. People seemed to be excited and become united by the All-American potato salad.

This is OOPSortunity: accidental success that presents exciting opportunities. The same thing happened with many great inventions and discoveries of the past. Eureka! The discovery of gravity or water displacement was probably just as sudden or obscure as the success of the potato salad campaign. But how do you take advantage of these great opportunities?

Though Brown’s original goal was only to make a small batch of potato salad for friends, with his net pledge in the tens of thousands, he could feed a small army—and perhaps grow a much larger venture. Whether or not Brown decides to start a business based on this initial success is still to be seen, however, his story is an excellent example of how inspiration can lead to great results, even without an initial plan.

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” which holds for business ventures as well as research discoveries. Accordingly, taking advantage of an OOPSortunity takes a lot of work and planning. Once you stumble on a good idea that shows potential, it takes the mind of an entrepreneur to turn that “oops” into a viable business.

So before funding the next big food fight, chew on this:

  1. See the Vision: Once you stumble on a great idea, it’s time to plan for the future. How can your idea find a place in the current market? Entrepreneurs often face disbelievers. However, a defining trait of entrepreneurship is the ability to see an opportunity and imagine possibilities that do not already exist. Then, they must communicate that vision effectively to customers, staff, and investors. Who knows if Brown is planning to actually expand his campaign into a real company. After all, according to his campaign, he “just wants to make potato salad.” However, there are endless visions that could emerge from that initial, extremely simple goal.
  2. Break the rules: 13% of Americans are engaged in entrepreneurship (Babson College Report), which means that the remaining 87% are following the rules. Maybe many people are making potato salad, but not very many are making money from it. Stumbling upon something great, patting yourself on the back, and moving on does not count as OOPSortunity. The defining factor of the successful entrepreneur is the ability to take that “oops,” as defined by the norm, and figure out how to launch sales or services that many people want.
  3. Be Flexible: So what if the potato salad business doesn’t work out? A key trait of entrepreneurship is being flexible and adapting to the circumstances. Sales could go down and people may no longer want the nationally famous potato salad that launched so much hype in 2014. It’s time to rethink the brand and the marketing to get people excited again. Maybe the product doesn’t change, but entrepreneurs know how to adapt and roll with the punches to get the most out of their OOPSortunity.
  4. Be Sincere: The Huffington Post interviewed 18 people who donated to Brown’s Potato Salad campaign to ask them why. Why donate money to a man who calls himself Zack Danger Brown and describes himself as “Making Potato Salad”? The overwhelming majority of answers touched on the fact that Mr. Brown seemed real and sincere. His campaign was not some complicated gadget that people don’t understand, and he wasn’t asking for an unreasonable amount of money. People could connect with a simple man making a simple salad. The sincerity of this project seems to be a resounding reason for its success. Often, it is hard to come up with an idea people truly want. Successful entrepreneurs connect with their audience. They know what people need and how they can make something easier or better for their clientele. What makes a good idea? It comes from knowing the audience.

You might not be planning to start a potato salad company or another quirky campaign, but there are still endless opportunities to develop a successful business. Maybe you haven’t experienced an OOPSortunity yet, but there is always the future with the right thinking. The first step is learning to think like an entrepreneur, and then transform everyday experiences into opportunities. OpenSesame offers many helpful courses related to entrepreneurship including Better, Smarter, Richer: 7 Business Principles for Solo and Creative Entrepreneurs, Crowdfunding: How to win backers and raise fundsCreating a vision of the future, and Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Dive into these courses and learn about entrepreneurship so you can turn that “oops” into an OOPSortunity.

Image Credit: Tiffany Nibbledish via flickr