Eva Longoria might not be the first person you'd look to for entrepreneurship advice. After all, the actress is best known for her role as feisty Gabrielle Solis in ABC's hit show Desperate Housewives. However, since her days on Wisteria Lane, she has more than proven her bonafides as an entrepreneur.
Not only does she own a successful restaurant in Los Angeles called Beso, she founded the Eva Longoria Foundation, which is focused on supporting Latina entrepreneurs. Her foundation provides scholarships to girls and young women in the Latino community to further their education. It also provides loans and resources to budding Hispanic entrepreneurs to support them in growing their businesses.
It was her interest in social entrepreneurship that was on display last week in New York City at a business competition operated by whisky maker Chivas Regal. "If you don't have a social aspect to the DNA of your company, consumers will choose the other product," she said.
Longoria served as a judge and mentor at the event dubbed "The Venture," which was hosted by The Daily Show's Trevor Noah. Whittled down from a pool of more than 2,500 projects, the competition featured five newbie social entrepreneurs whose businesses ranged from selling handmade accessories to electricity-free refrigerators. Each of the five businesses won a share of $750,000 to split toward their ventures. One company, Conceptos Plasticos, a Colombian-based startup that developed a lego-like brick from PET plastic, took home a purse worth a whopping $300,000.
They also got some choice advice from the outspoken actress. Besides highlighting the importance of including a social component in your businesses, here are Longoria's top three recommendations for entrepreneurs.
1. Look at obstacles as opportunities.
While not exactly a novel advice, Longoria emphasized that "innovation comes from need."
She quoted the overwhelming success of Spanx, which was founded in Atlanta by Sara Blakely in 2000. The body smoothing undergarments were inspired by her desire to look better in white slacks, a challenge for many women. The same principle applies to Seth Berkowitz's Insomnia Cookies, which appeased the entrepreneur's late-night sweet tooth.
2. Understand your market.
This tip is something Longoria might feel particularly close to. The star's popular Hollywood restaurant, Beso, did not succeed in Las Vegas. The outpost filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just three short years after opening.
Market understanding is a must to be successful. "That's how you can achieve a sustainable business," said Longoria.
3. Know what you don't know.
While you might have in mind one use-case for your product, your customers might use it differently. Or you might discover that people in certain markets are turned off by your product or service. Either way, it's best to know this in advance, said Longoria. "Research your product inside and out and the impact it is going to have in every way."