Where Lean Startup Meets
Feminist Business Practice
You’ve developed your first full version of of your Feminist Business Model Canvas. Now you have a “forest-level view” of what your business could be.
But what happens next?
The FBMC is designed to help you with one critical task– sketching out, on a single page, the core assumptions of your business idea and how it all fits together to create sustainable value, demonstrate your values, and promote social change.
While the FBMC helps you accomplish a critical task for your startup, it’s only the first of several steps you have to take to bring your business idea to fruition.
Depending on your personal approach to building a business, the FBMC can be useful in one of two ways.
One way forward is to use your FBMC as a simple guide to and reminder of your vision of your business. Conventionally, business models are used this way — to capture the cross-sectional picture of the business idea at a given point in time.
You can use whatever process or roadmap you want as you bring your business idea forward, and simply revise the canvas to keep it up-to-date with your latest understanding of your big picture.
A second way forward is to use your FBMC as the foundational step in pursuing a Lean Startup/ Running Lean strategy for incrementally designing, testing, learning, and growing your business. (This is how I’ve designed it to be used.)
Pursuing a Lean Startup strategy, an entrepreneur would begin a focused process where they “build, measure, and learn” as they develop their product idea and revenue streams. However, before moving towards designing and testing a product prototype, lean startup strategy directs the entrepreneur to accomplish a few other critical tasks first. These include confirming customers’ needs, clarifying exactly what a product needs to offer, and understanding how to expand the product’s offer to include not just function but also meaning. Other important work (that is often skipped over) is establishing a timeline and resources budget to keep work on track and help channel your energy.
I’ve outlined the typical process that my lean startup teams have followed. An entrepreneur would follow the first six steps to test (and revise) each element of their initial FBMC, so that they move forward only after they’ve proved or disproved that their initial expectations were on target, and figured out how to adjust them.
Following a lean startup strategy, entrepreneurs use the FBMC to organize their path forward.
They dig into their FBMC to identify the different things they’re assuming must be true in order for their business model to work (e.g., they are assuming that X customer has Y need that will be met by a product with Z features). Then, they rank these assumptions in what I call “reverse Jenga order” (most critical assumptions first) and go about testing them through empathic, qualitative interviews with potential customers and through interviews and observations as customers interact with product prototypes.
Once entrepreneurs establish that the solution they offer fits the problems of the customer (“problem-solution fit”) they move ahead to scoping out the social context, the marketplace, and the channels through which they can connect their customer with their products. (These next steps are outlined in the Product-Purpose-Market Fit Roadmap. )
I assume that most fledgling feminist business are SMEs or start-ups — small enough that there is plenty of opportunity (and need for) experimentation, iteration, and testing as they move forward. I also assume that the entrepreneurs and/or leadership team members have the authority to shape the direction of the company as well as drive and prioritize its next steps and milestones.