Our team is made up of Leena Hamad, Ashley Pfost and Bastien Russo.
Leena Hamad: A senior Business Management major from Northern Virginia. Substitute teacher for Harrisonburg City Schools.
Ashley Pfost: A junior Business Management major, member of Sigma Sigma Sigma and Manager for the Women's Basketball team.
Bastien Russo: A senior Business Management major from France. He came to JMU because he got recruited by the JMU Men's Tennis Team where he is now the co-captain. Also speaks 3 languages.
In The Beginning...EditOur team had done a lot of researching and brainstorming for a creative new venture. We made mock-ups of our two ideas, the "I love JMU girls" boxer shorts and a "JMU, the promiseland" t-shirt. We posted a survey on all of our Facebook pages to find out if our target market, JMU boys, would be willing to pay for the boxer shorts. 21 people said they would not buy them while 14 people said that they would. This customer discovery was not what we had hoped for so we began to search Pinterest and brainstormed for a more creative venture. While we were searching for a new idea after the failure of our two first ideas, we found a picture of symbols bracelets on Pinterest that caught our attention. We really liked the idea, and thought we could make our own bracelets. We then started to look for the cheapest raw material prices on the internet. We found interesting prices but the delay was a little too long to enable us to make a first little bet that we could introduce to the class and receive feedback from. We went to Michaels to buy the minimum material to make a first prototype. The first prototype was made, then introduced to classmates and friends. The feedback we received was very positive, which was really encouraging. These bracelets have different symbols on them and suede is used for the rope. All of the symbols that we used have been very popular with women's jewelry recently so we thought these could be a great new venture. The symbols we have chosen include an anchor, arrow, cross, and an infinity symbol. Something that we would like to do is include an inspirational quote or meaning toward what the bracelets symbols mean. For example, the infinity symbol could have a meaning of infinite opportunities and the arrow could be a symbol of taking the right path/direction. With Spring approaching quickly, these bracelets are perfect to wear in warm weather because of the colors that we chose.
Early Adopters and Customer DiscoveryEdit
We were targeting college aged students, so we knew our early adopters wo
uld be found on the James Madison University campus. Here are more details of what we assumed would be our early adopters:
- JMU Students
- Women interested in jewelry
- Family members and friends
- JMU sport teams
Our early adopoters were close friends and family members for the most part. As our friends and family started to wear the "Lovely Twists" bracelets, other JMU students found interest in our product. We received an extremely high demand via our Facebook page quite rapidly after we made the first set of bracelets. Because of the feedback we received from our early adopters, we narrowed the variety of bracelets we were making to the ones that were most popular: The infinity symobl, sideways cross, and anchor symbol. The dove symbol as well as the wire heart bracelet were not very successful so we focused our efforts on the other symbols that were preffered by our early adopters.
The cost of materials for the Lovely Twists bracelets were extremely low. We ordered supplies from Etsy, all the charms we ordered came from China, they were all at very low cost in batch of 20 to 50 units. We bought enclosures for the bracelets at Michaels. It took a while to receive the supplies we ordered from China because of the Chinese New Year, which delayed our orders longer than we had anticipated.
ProblemsEditThe first issue we encountered was the amount of time it took to receive our supplies. Since almost everything was coming from China, the shipping took way longer than we all expected. While we waited for the supplies, we had been marketing on facebook and through word of mouth. These created an issue because we had orders coming in but we could not fill them because of the delay of the supplies. That had a bad impact on our reliability as a new start-up. The second difficulty we had after we had made the first few bracelets was to reach our target market. Students often were interested but not always willing to pay the $10 for a set because many students don't have jobs at JMU. We had to amplify our marketing efforts. In order to do so we built a partnership with two stores downtown, "Duo" and "Blessings" that accepted to sell our bracelets for $12 while giving us $7 dollars per bracelet set sold.
Our MVP EvolutionEdit
As the sales were growing, we received more and more feedback which led us to focus on 3 symbols instead of the 4 originals. We also slightlychanged the colors of the bracelets we were offering by adding black and grey options, a suggestion given to us by a customer. The evolution of Lovely Twists led us to make a partnership with two local stores downtown to increase our
capacity to reach a bigger market, and develop the popularity of our brand. We set up a little area on the counter with a sign that tells customers "our story" and about why we are selling Lovely Twists. The store "Duo" had a sorority event the day they started selling them so the manager was excited to get the bracelets in store before the event. We also had the chance to have connections with the Women's tennis team of James Madison University who all bought a set of bracelet, and gave us a great marketing help. We have also received our labels for the bags the bracelets will come in are very happy with the way they look. Our last innovation was to create a mantra for our bracelets which took us a quiet long thinking process. Our mantra is "Fun, Trendy, Affordable!" which we believe should be used as a marketing tool.
Words of WisdomEdit
Bastien: I have always wanted to create my own Business, I feel like we all have learned a lot through the process of creating Lovely Twists. It was probably harder than I thought it would be to get the business started and then to reach the market we wanted to focus on. I think the key is to keep trying to make the MVP better to finally make it something that people are willing to pay for. Especially students, they are often short on money and would definitely not give it away for a product they only partially like. What was also key for us was having partners. The store "duo" downtown sold a lot of our bracelets, probably way more that we could do by ourselves. We learned the importance of wisely choosing partners; While duo was selling a lot of bracelets, the store "Blessings" did not sell any. The target market that this store reaches is completely different than ours which is the reason of such a success at "duo", and such a failure at "blessings".
Leena: In the beginning of this class I was very nervous we wouldn't be able to think of a product people would be willing to buy. Although, bracelets aren't a necessity, I think we did a good job at convincing people to buy them through our marketing efforts. Like Bastien said, I think the key to success in this class is creating partnerships. It is very hard to convince college students to spend money, and with partnerships outside of JMU, our product was able to reach a different market of people. I like the idea of "failing forward" which is something I think our team did very well. When we realized the partnership at Blessings was failing due to the lack of sales, we didn't get upset about it but instead learned from the experience. It allowed us to learn exactly who and who isn't our target market. I think another huge part of this class isn't just going through the experience of creating a business with your group, but also supporting and helping others classmates through out the progress of their businesses. A lot of our classmates ideas were ones we followed through with and they were able to help us a lot in the design of our bracelets.
Ashley: This semester long project really helped me learn a lot about bringing an actual product to the market and the various obstacles that people encounter on a day to day basis. My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs in this class would be to start early!! Start getting your ideas out early and fail fast, so you know what works and what doesn't. This class is a really great one to take, and a great experience for everyone involved. I've learned so much from Professor Wales, my team, and even other teams. I really enjoyed watching and following everyone's progress throughout the semester!