Competitive Advantage

The key phrases that entrepreneurs often hear include “competitive advantage” and “unique value proposition” (UVP).

Intuitively, the related concepts boil down to the product’s or service’s special sauce. What is the special sauce that makes X “better” than Y and Z? It is a clear statement that should address what the product is, who is it for, and what is the gain? These answers usually feature on the homepages of any big company you know.

Take social media, for example. I’ve taken screenshoots of some major ones: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I also threw in WordPress, since that’s what this site is hosted on.

Can you spot the UVPs? For Facebook, I’d say it’s “Connect with friends and the world around you on Facebook.” Then it lists three concise activities you can do, with a call to action to sign up, because it is “quick and easy.”

For Twitter, it’s pretty similar: “See what’s happening in the world right now.” And three actions on the left.

LinkedIn: “Welcome to your professional community: Search for a job; Find a person you know; Learn a new skill.”

And finally, WordPress—they likely have used others, but that attention-grabbing statistic is quite effective, followed by, “Unlock the power of the most flexible website builder.”

Keeping in mind that these are already the most well-known corporations in the world, it may not be necessary to have such value propositions on their websites. Instagram and Reddit don’t.

For entrepreneurs developing a new idea, however, survival depends on selling the competitive advantages and believing that they are worth the relentless pursuit to serve a particular market and be sustainable.

From the beginning, however, Kits to Heart has never been about the profit. During my final semester at Georgetown, I selected a social entrepreneurship class without really understanding what exactly it meant. I had a vague notion that there indeed seems to be a shift with companies serving a social mission, assuming that the difference between “traditional” entrepreneurs and social ones was the motivation: profit vs. altruism. Yet, as Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg write in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

The truth is that entrepreneurs are rarely motivated by the prospect of financial gain, because the odds of making lots of money are clearly stacked against them. Instead, both the entrepreneur and the social entrepreneur are strongly motivated by the opportunity they identify, pursuing that vision relentlessly, and deriving considerable psychic reward from the process of realizing their ideas.

Given how much work it takes to start a business, whether with or without a social mission to address “underserved, neglected, or highly disadvantaged population lacking financial means or political clout,” entrepreneurship involves priceless personal investments.

While I’d like to think that entrepreneurs these days aren’t only in it for the profit, it also makes me (unreasonably?) annoyed to see competitors, especially in the cancer space. When their missions aren’t clear or not addressing larger outcomes, it makes me wonder what their motivations are, when patients and their loved ones are the primary customer segments.

So from the start, I’ve always wanted to emphasize the mission of Kits to Heart to bring better care everywhere. To provide both the material and psychosocial support that those affected by cancer need. Bootstrapping isn’t easy, though. Without being able to seek those large investments in the beginning, I’m relying on those “three Fs”: friends, family, and fools.

But when it comes to social enterprises like mine, when the benefits are quite clear, I find it insulting to call anyone who contributes to the cause “fools” or even my efforts as “burning money”—which is something an investor has told me.

Sure, sustainability is essential. And I’m sure I’ll eventually find a way. For now, I just hope to show that the work we do matters. (By the way, can you spot Kits to Heart’s UVP? kitstoheart.org)

Thank you for reading.