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The duo Robert Grisdale, 24 and Jack Payne, 23 got inspired by different cycle schemes they had seen in UK to launch their own potential "self-service bike scheme" which matches the lifestyle of students. Reynolds et al.'s (2003) and Samuelson (2004) find that 'imitative start-ups outnumber by far innovative ones' (see in Carter, S., and Evans, Dylan-Jones., 2006:129). Being graduate students with degrees in Civil Engineering at Newcastle University they were well-versed with the student life and couldn't put down an opportunity that was too good to ignore. They will be a source of inspiration for many other students to follow in this University as they managed to steer their idea into an accomplished business. The idea of self-service bike hire for students took birth in one of the university modules i.e. 'Enterprise with construction'. It reflects the role of current educational policies in UK which are formulated with explicit enterprise objectives and agendas (D. Simon., 2010: 189). However, there is concern over the effectiveness of such policies (Gibb, 2002). With their cognitive, creative and entrepreneurial behavioural approach they were guided to provide a fresh look to this concept for making it work. The spark to set up their own venture ignited when they won various prestigious awards for their innovative and creative idea like University Enterprise Challenge 2009, Newcastle University Enterprise Challenge 2010, Shell Livewire Grand Ideas Award and Santander Business Incubation Award. The company name "Whipbikes" was chosen from an internet advert "check out my whip". But the name reflects the true identity of the service in the sense that it is exclusive for university students and staff and provides them the freedom of cycling 150 bikes around the campus anytime without any maintenance cost.
Who is an Entrepreneur?
There have been complex and ever changing views for Bill Gartner's (1988) suggestion "who is an entrepreneur?" (D. Simon., 2010: 58). The personality traits of Jack and Rob and their enterprising nature can be put forth using views by Gartner (1989) 'a person who creates organisations'; Gibb (1987) 'the enterprising person'; and Shane and Venkataraman (2000) and Stevenson and Jarillo (1990) 'the person who recognizes and acts to exploit an opportunity' (see in Rae, D., 2007:25). However, there risk taking and innovative ability to keep their business upfront can't be ignored. They have invested a huge amount of money (about £35,000), time and efforts to start their own venture. Robert and Jack said, "They feel excited about Whipbikes as you don't know what your next challenge is?" They complement today's definition of entrepreneurship as "it is the process of creating something new with value by devoting the necessary time and effort, assuming the accompanying financial, psychic, and social risks, and receiving the resulting rewards of monetary and personal satisfaction and independence" (see in Robert D. Hisrich., et al. 2007: 8).
Some scholars suggest that entrepreneurs are born, not made (Bridge, O'Neil and Cromie, 2003), even though this is not definite, it could be said that Robert, to some extent, was born with the ability and the tendency to become an entrepreneur since his father owns a real-estate company. Robert grew under the influence of his father's entrepreneurial career, thus he later fostered entrepreneurial personality and traits such as persuasion for achievement; tendency to take risks; desire for control and autonomy; over-optimism (Sara Carter and Dylan Jones-Evans, 2000; Hornaday, 1982). All his personalities explain his actions (Bridge, O'Neil and Cromie, 2003), and his entrepreneurial potential was activated under a certain social circumstance (global meltdown) which made entrepreneurial career a feasible choice.
It is suggested that as long as the outcome of thinking is innovative and beneficial for the person who originated the idea or the principle of a company, the thinking is creative (Amabile et al., 1996; Oldham and Cummings, 1996; Torrance, 1966; Woodman et al., 1996). Besides, it is also believed that "thinking is creative when there is a high level of motivation and persistence; with thinking taking place either over a considerable span of time" (Andriopoulos and Dawson, 2009). As for Robert and Jack, when problems come out or some decisions should be made, they always sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write all their ideas down, followed by a series of discussions which finally produce some practical and useful solutions. In addition, when they confront with reluctance or hesitation, they prefer to take a short break in order to get refreshed and energetic again instead of simply quitting the job.
Nicholas Ind and Cameron Watt (2004) believe that creativity includes how to provide a valuable and satisfying experience for the customer. For instance, Whipbikes send the codes of the locks to the customer, which not only offers the convenience of renting a bike for customers, but also makes it easy for customers to pay the rental fee. Besides, this also saves their time. Moreover, this is also a creative solution to the lack of staff and is generated after thinking creatively.
Approaches to run the business:
Either for huge organization or small business, operation is a unique and crucial part of the whole business process. In order to operate effectively, as Bridge, O'neill and Cromie (1998, p.110) states that "Business do not arise fully fledged from even the most positive of enterprise cultures", a comprehensive and careful preparation is essential. After coming up with the commendable idea, the first stage of preparation was getting the permission from the university. Actually it was quite difficult to convince the university to approve them to do the business since it would be a big change to the campus, either for the management issues or for the whole environment within the campus. However, since Whipbikes highlighted that their products and service are almost harmless to the environment during about 10 meetings with the relevant departments of the university, finally they got the permission from the university. Actually it is not surprised that Whipbikes could get the permission form the university much more easily than others as Longenecker, Moore and Petty (2000) highlight that those businesses whose service and products are friendly to environment are much more generally and easily approved by the government and superior organizations. Next step for preparation was funding. Whipbikes started with self-funding in order to retain control of finance and save interest repayments and loan charges (Business link, 2005). Since they show their own commitment by self-funding first and they won several awards for this idea, some sponsors also were attracted to invest money into their business. After successful funding, they imported high quality bikes from Taiwan and other necessary equipment for the bikes. Meanwhile, they paid Telecom Company to build up the text payment system. On 25th September, Whipbikes had its own launch party which means the business started as a brand new beginning.
Carter and Jones-Evens (2006) note that small business specially needs to develop its own suitable approaches for organization and employment. For Whipbikes, Rob and Jack are in charge of the whole business. Rob is responsible for administration and business development and Jack is focusing on networking and also maintaining and distributing bikes. In the meantime, they hire 5 part-time and voluntary students for helping them with the marketing and advertising campaigns. Rob said this kind of organizational form is working very effectively since it is like rowing a light boat and there are two captains, one is in charge for observing the sea condition and the other is responsible for steering. And also some sailors are working hard on make the light boat move faster and efficiently.
As to the service which Whipbikes offers to the customers i.e. the daily and regular running of the business, Rob and Jack follow the advice which Longenecker, Moore and Petty (2000) provide that especially small business has better to offer the service and products which are easy to be understood and used. In order to achieve this goal, Whipbikes simplify their service with high technology tools from a humanistic perspective. Every students and staff from Newcastle University only need to register the membership online with paying 14.95 pound at first, after that, all they have to do whenever they need a bike is send the serial number to the system by cell phone and then they are going to receive a code to unlock the bike. After that is just whipping a bike and enjoying the journey. Jack said even if it cost a fortune to build up the text payment system and buy the locking system for the bikes, it is still so worthy because that support them to offer a simple and convenient service to the customers. It is the key point of the business. In addition, it could save loads of time and workforce for them.
Although the Whipbikes project started only two months, it has made considerable amount of profits. So far, the recent main income for the company is from advertising on the Whipbikes. There is an obvious place on the website for clients who have the interests on advertising to upload their image to the model product. The process of making a possible effect seems easily operating, visible, and practicable. Clients upload an image from the computer, adapt the position and size, and the possible advertising effects will be shown on the screen. This creative detail is considerate. From this little point, we can also see Rob and Jack's contemplation on clients and their business.
Posting advertisements on bikes can be a type of out-of-home advertising. Out-of-home advertising commonly includes billboards, bus shelters, subway posters, street furniture, stadium display, mall and airport signs, bus cards, taxi stops and shopping carts (Dahl, 2007:7). Creativity can mean "the reworking of something that already exists" (Howkins, 2007:7) .If the advertisements can be posted on bus or cars; it can also be posted on bikes. Rob and Jack thought of the idea and carried it out. Without doubt, they succeeded.
According to Tom Altstiel and Jean Grow (2006), out-of-home advertising offers many advantages as it is exclusive and economical. The Whipbikes is mainly serving the students as the audience is more focused on campus. The cost incurred to advertise on each bike for 2 weeks is only cost £35 and when compared with mass media, the price is quite low and attractive. The most important feature of out-of-home advertising is that it is effective. The message from the clients will always be on display. Even the bikes stop, being locked in the parking, the passing students can still see the advertisements. Only the advertising part has made a profit as approximate £10000 per month. This gives huge support to the business and without worrying about the financial problem; they can focus on the improvement of the product and service.
The promotion is also done through social networking, which contains Facebook and twitter. The company release news and post the information on the Facebook and Twitter in order to interact with customers immediately and have their feedback directly. Facebook is a new world for marketers, especially who are just coming to grips with the new world. The potential in this market is enormous, and the payoff is huge because Facebook ads are the quickest way to grow the attention of audiences (Holzner, 2009). Whipbikes came into limelight when The London scheme 2010 was launched and Newcastle is the second city which introduced the similar cycle-hire Bike-sharing system in UK.
Though the idea of Whipbikes is imitated, their creative approach of presenting the whole service in a 'FRESH' way has given the company a healthy organic growth of which the duo is confident of retaining in the future. Their continuous hard work and dedication is reflected in developing their services to meet the competitive needs of times e.g. developing a new locking mechanism, which will have some really useful features, including an automatically changing code as manual ones require more labour. Their new marketing strategy to introduce free sigh-up policy will increase their customer base and more people will be able to see the advertisement and bikes on the streets. They see Newcastle University as the pilot scheme; they have the future thought to franchise the business in different universities. The collaboration with the city council also provides them to get racks out in Jesmond, Heaton and Sandyford. Hopefully, we wish they would be able to expand their environment friendly service to most of the student and local population.