Applying the ROKC to Boing Boing Maternity

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A close friend and business partner sent me an article that appeared in the Huffington Post asking me how ROKC would apply to this business case. After much consideration the ROKC approach would make the following analysis and recommendations.

Mrs. Paperno, founder and owner of Boing Boing in Brooklyn, has a key component: knowledge. As she writes in her article:

“I got certified as a lactation consultant, bra fitter, baby wearing expert, etc.,…”

When she started her business, these certifications gave her a strong competitive advantage. Enough to allow her to open a business.

Seventeen years ago, she launched “Boing Boing, the first breastfeeding boutique in the nation. I rent breast pumps, sell nursing bras, and know the answer to 99 percent of your pumping/breastfeeding issues. …and for years, was happy to share my knowledge and honored to be a part of that special time when things require the touch and support of another human.” Her business was doing wonderfully… “I was the one picking up bills, and joyfully buying presents for my employees as well as donating money to my favorite charities.” So far so good, she was doing everything right.

There was a key component with a competitive advantage and she had created a product, the store, that customers valued and consumed. As a result of this perceived success, Mrs. Paperno tried to reproduce it by opening another store and launching an e-commerce site.

It is this expansion that was her downfall. Mrs. Paperno’s advantage was knowledge not running a store or a website. Even in her article she states as much:

“I fielded questions, helped moms nurse,…Now parents come in after buying their carriers online and expect me to show them how to use it.” – Knowledge is what clients wanted and still seek today.

“For over 10 years I had been running these [moms] groups for free, …. But I never got on top of running calendars or a store website/online sign-up process….Week after week, women would wheel their $1,000 strollers into my shop, hang out in the back, literally leaving their shit for me to clean up after they rolled out; buying nothing and asking for more weeks… I didn’t want to run an online business…” – Not good at running multiple stores or an e-commerce site.

And, as with all good things, competition develops offering customers an alternatives and reducing the competitive advantage.

“Now this neighborhood is filthy with baby haircutting/toy shops, clubs, babyccino cafes, baby DJ lessons, $600 baby proofing companies and cooking lessons for nannies…corporations had figured out how to capitalize on these wealthy women when I could not, …”

The result: Doing too many things at once means doing some things badly and some things even worse.

There is a silver lining here in the fact that Mrs. Paperno’s know-how is sought by clients who have shopped elsewhere. So the ROKC approach would suggest that not all is lost and recommend the following course of action: use your key component to develop a knowledge based product.

Her initial consideration that “you cannot run even a small brick and mortar shop without an online presence” was correct. In today’s business world, in order for a business to succeed it must operate at the crossroads of the digital and the physical. Likewise, as her experience demonstrates her online presence cannot be e-commerce because it requires more resources than are available. Consequently, her online life needs to limit itself to sharing her knowledge with her clients through content creation. Lucky for Mrs. Paperno she can write. This article and the couple of others I found are well written from my point of view.

Holder herself out there as an expert in her field should allow her not only to generate an income stream from end-users but also to associate herself with her previous competitors by supporting them in their actions. She can curate e-commerce sites, syndicate content, provide editorial works, recommend products, sponsor products and events, and develop new products and services (like the moms groups). All activities that can generate additional revenue streams through licensing fees and services.

By focusing on getting a Return On her Key Component – knowledge – in a very narrow manner, Mrs. Paperno can do more with less. Let those who know how to run multiple retail locations do it. Allow those who know how to run e-commerce sites do that too. Let the corporations run moms groups if they are better at it than you. You do what you are good at.

As a closing thought, Mrs. Paperno should not sell her store without getting a contract to provide her expertise to customers: in-store and online.

All quotes are taken from “Hiding in Plain Sight: Life Under the Wheel of a $1,000 Stroller”, by Karen Paperno, Huffington Post, 12/22/2013.


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