Team 6 is made up of three awesome individuals; Scot Asebell, Sarah McIntosh, and Kyle O’Keefe. Our journey started out with us taking multiple little bets, including JM4U and Monthly Must-Haves. Towards the end of the semester our business turned into JM4U, Just Made for You. Our final products were custom t-shirts and handmade bags. Through this whole semester, we were able to pin the customer needs and provide the value that would make our business successful. It didn’t start out easy but our first big sale gave us the experience we needed to further progress with our business.
The equipment required for printing t-shirts include, the screen with the logo, ink for the shirts, a squeegee to move the ink on the screen, the ink dryer, and the machine that holds the screen. We were able to follow our custom t-shirt idea because of the existing equipment that Scott owned. The remaining material that was needed for printing was the t-shirts, which we bought offline.
To make bags, we needed fabric, thread, and zippers, which were bought from Wal-Mart. We were lucky enough to find a friend with a sewing machine.
Our most important resource was our time. Even though we were able to start making the bag fast, they still took a while to complete.
Evolution of Products
We started out trying to solve the problem of being caught off guard by your period and created Monthly Must-Haves. We wanted to focus on providing a convenient, discrete pouch that contained products that could prevent the problem. We took the prototype and got feedback that the idea was great but the price was too high. With the information, we realized that the pouches needed to be sewn to reduce costs. Through several attempts at making bags, we finally had one we could try and sell. The problem our team faced was limited distribution and difficulties marketing our product. For instance, we looked into advertising on “Potty Mouth” but it was prohibited and we looked into selling at P.O.D. but that was also not allowed.
With these problems in our way, we looked back into our other business idea, JM4U. Early on, we had the idea of selling Area Code Pride t-shirts. We ran into similar problems with these shirts, lack of distribution and advertising difficulties. We had the idea of trying to sell these shirts on the commons, but due to weather and forgetfulness, we didn’t end up selling that day. We realized that we needed a change in our current products.
Reverting back to a house that we had a personal relationship with, we decided to make the house shirts. Because this was our first big order, the ordering process was a little unstructured. The house wanted shirts that were a color that we couldn’t buy. Trying to not lose the sale, we innovated and told the house we could hand dye the shirts to meet their specific color. We were able to add value by not only providing a product for them to remember their time at JMU but also we gave them a shirt that was custom to their preferences.
Through this sale we learned that we were going about this selling process all wrong. We needed to show potential customers the value of our product, show them we were able to provide them with memories they can wear. We were also able to structure the ordering process, which allowed us to tell our customers what exactly we could make for them.
Where Team 6 is Now
After our first critical sale, we were able to take orders for two additional houses and two organizations. The shirt sales are our main source of revenue. After we realized that Monthly Must-Haves were going to be hard to market, we tried selling the handmade bags and were successful, we still had the occasional sale of a Monthly Must-Have though. At the end of the semester, we still have to finish fulfilling one houses order and two organizational orders. We will stop producing bags and selling shirts starting Friday 4/26/2013. Our group has spent a lot of time together and worked very hard to get the most out of this course. We are very proud of our efforts.
Final Business Plan Model
Advice to Future Students
While our team took a lot of little bets, it took us a long time to realize the value of taking those little bets. Everyone has 20/20 vision in hind sight and we will try to bestow our advice for future students now:
- Be persistent. People don’t want to spend money that they don’t feel they should. We went to houses and just left fliers on their doorsteps originally. People didn’t see the need for a t-shirt because they didn’t know what we had to offer. We eventually created designs for houses and went up to the personally and showed off our design. All the houses loved them and that is when we saw sales start to pick up. It is a fine line between persistent and pushy, but you want to find the right balance. No one said it was easy.
- Little Bets. Dr. Wales provided a book and preached about making little bets and failing often. We had so many ideas going on at the beginning that we pursued. Not all of them panned out, but we attempted enough that we had a few catch hold. The failed attempted of monthly must haves allowed us to see handmade bags. Had we discovered this earlier, we may have been able to sell more but we still made a high profit margin off of those bags. And each house we made a design for was a little bet. If they said no, we just moved onto the next house. It is all about throwing the line out there and hoping it catches
- Start Early. It seems like you have all the time in the world at the beginning of the semester, but in reality everything happens so quickly. You want to develop your MVP’s quickly and get customer feedback quickly. If you are able to make changes to your product within the first two weeks of developing your team, you will be in great shape.
- Have fun. This process is fairly time consuming and the ambiguity of this course can be stressful, with how we are use to receiving grade feedback frequently. It is important that you get group cohesion. Have fun creating new ideas, have fun talking to customers. After our initial idea with monthly must haves, Kyle and Scott had to talk to females about their time of the month. It was extremely uncomfortable but it is funny to laugh about now. This is one of the more unique classes you will encounter at JMU and you want to get the most out of it.