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Entrepreneur Profiles–Jacques Lebel, Laurent Kinet

What is the name of your company
www.smallgroupdinners.com

What industry/sector would you classify it in?
Online promotion platform, restaurants

How long has it been running? How many people are involved?
4 months, 3 people

What is the business idea? How will this have an impact on the world?
To extend the online promotion platform model to the restaurant industry. Hotels, airlines and other fixed cost industries are used to heavy discounting, but not restaurants. This is an anomaly.
By letting restaurants choose exactly when and what to promote, www.smallgroupdinners.com allows them to attract customers at slower times for their business. Its user friendly interface allows users to quickly search for promotions, and book online – saving them time and money.
In an economic downturn, www.smallgroupdinners.com will redistribute value to customers whilst benefiting restaurants.

How did you arrive at this idea/insight?
Several iterations, interactions with market participants, analogies from other industries, economic analysis.

What challenges did you face balancing your HBS course load and starting/running your business? How did you manage this?
It’s tough. Don’t think of it in terms of hours or as an additional course, it’s really a full time commitment. Make sure your personal and academic goals are aligned as there will be tradeoffs.

How did you leverage the resources available to you in HBS for your business?
We met a lot of professors to bounce our ideas off them. They are incredibly accessible and helpful.

What HBS class/ case/protagonist/ professor was most helpful in starting/ running your business? How?
1 class: Managing Service Operations, Prof. Ananth Raman’s section; 1 case: Restaurant Promotions, by Prof. Ben Edelman. The class helped us get ideas rolling; the case gave us concept validation.

What’s the best part of being an entrepreneur? Worst part?
It’s very fulfilling to follow through on and test your own ideas, but the extreme ups and downs can be draining.

What is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given regarding starting a business?
Keep faith in your potential despite occasional setbacks, but be willing to fundamentally challenge and re-think your idea at crucial junctures.

March 2, 2009
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