Welcome to Team 9's page with Meagan & Megan!==
Group Nine also known as Candles by M&M is made up of Meagan Chesley and Megan Baber. We are both senior Management Majors with a Concentration in TIE. We started this semester long journey with very little experience in entreneurship. However, with help from Dr. Wales, we took on the challenge to take little bets in the hopes of discovering a lucrative venture.
We struggled coming up with initial ideas. The two of us sat down one afternoon and started rattling off anything that came to mind, and began writing down a description of anything that we thought was a good idea. Nothing was off limits! Ideas ranging from adopt-a- grandparent, customizable COB t-shirts, personalized graduation tassels, and even crafting jewerly. After developing some prototypes for some of our "favorite" ideas, jewelry making became our main venture. Although we received positive feedback on our prototypes, we weren't sold on crafting jewelry. This uncertainty, sparked our interest in making a road trip to Richmond's Hobby Lobby in the hopes to find some inspiration. It was in Richmond that we decided to experiment with producing unique candles.
Early Adopters & Customer DiscoveryEdit
Our earliest adopters were:
- JMU Greek organizations
- Local Harrisonburg businesses
- Waynesboro High School graduates
- JMU students
With the help from our consumers we began experimenting with different designs for our product line. The feedback allowed us to focus on three candle designs that generated the most interests from our potential buyers. It was through this customer discovery that we chose to focus our attention on the 3 piece wood set, graduation candles, and flutes. We also learned that most of our consumers valued convenience. We used our networks in order to push our products to our customer base. Megan B was able to use product placement in one of the Harrisonburg doctor's offices, which generated more interest from new consumers. Meagan C was able to generate sales through JMU's Greek organizations, who were looking for small customizable gifts to give their newest members. We were able to personally deliver our products, which allowed our customers to escape the hassles of shipping & handling.
Through our experiments we discovered which inputs we should use to make our products. Initially, we used a wax called paraffin, that was relatively inexpensive when we bought it in bulk. However, this type of wax created bubbling in our models and we decided to purchase soy wax instead. This was one of our most expensive inputs, however, it resolved our problems when it came to provided a safe and high quality product. The main resources we needed to create our products were from trees in Megan's backyard. With the help of Mr. Baber's tools and skills we were able to have our pieces of wood cut and prepared at no charge to us. Some of the smaller inputs we used to make our final product were as follows:
- Plastic Wrap, Ribbons, Labels
- Wooden Wicks (crackle)
- Glitter & DecorFix Glue
- Time (15-20 mins)
We were able to keep our costs relatively low for this particular venture, which gave us a nice profit margin for each item on our line.
Over the course of the semester we ran into problems for many of our little bets. Our first little bet was creating jewelry, which initially seemed like a relatively easy task to learn. However, we both learned early on that it would take a great amount of practice in order to perfect each model and remain consistent. Although we did not mind the challenge, we still were open to new ideas.
When we came across the idea of making candles, we both knew this would be a new experience for us. Thankfully, Hobby Lobby provides a variety of books which sparked some of our initial ideas for designs. Our first candle was made from a carton, and it did not come out too bad. However, we couldn't sell that product to consumers. Through trial and error we learned what process worked best and with what inputs produce the best results. Our first candle had several bubble marks and caved in where the wick was "supposed" to stay centered. We later learned that with a higher quality wax (soy) and higher quality wick, our issues would easily disappear.
Our MVP EvolutionEdit
Our final MVP has changed dramatically since we brought in our first one back in the beginning of the semester. We scratched our first MVP, and focused primarily on our most lucrative little bet, unique candles. Our first candle was very bland, and we were very unsure about what candle making process would be most effective to produce our products. The only way to find out was through experimentation. With the help of our experiments, we were able to discover a set system of how we would design each item on our product line. It was through those experiments that we discovered the optimal temperature for the wax before pouring it into our holders, how to keep our wood from catching on fire by stabilizing higher quality wicks in the center, and products would catch the eye of consumers. We learned several things from this experience, and it would not have happened if we didnt get our hands a little dirty. With the help of social media, we were able to receive quick feedback from potential consumers on what designs drew the most interests. Ultimately this is how we decided to continue producing our graduation candles, 3 piece wood set, and customizable flutes.
Weekly Progress: 2/8EditThanks to some ideas found on Pinterest, we decided to start making jewelry. We found several different styles of bracelets and necklaces and starting gathering some information from our market. Meagan showed some pictures to other students around campus and Megan posted the pictures on Facebook for people to say which ones they liked and how much they would pay for them. After receiving positive feedback from nearly 20 people, we thought this idea might work. Megan bought some materials at Michael's and began working on the first bracelet to bring to class. We didn't get much feedback from the class that day but we continued pursuing this idea.
Weekly Progress: 2/15EditMeagan made the next MVP out of completely different materials and we felt good about the feedback we received from the class. We found out that other groups within our class and in the other class were also pursuing making jewelry so we decided that we would like to look into some other opportunities, just in case.
Weekly Progress: 2/22EditSince there was no class on February 20, we decided to take a little trip. We used this opportunity to have a little fun, get to know each other better, and brainstorm for new ideas. We drove to Richmond to Hobby Lobby and literally went through the entire store using associative thinking and looking for inspiration. It worked! After scouring through the store, we grabbed some lunch at Olive Garden and discussed potential little bets. We then returned to the store and purchased our necessities.
As we looked at the various candle designs that Hobby Lobby had for sale, we decided that might be something we could do. Since it would be rather difficult to experiment with new aromas and there are few different types of waxes we could play with, we thought about altering the form or shape of the candle in some way. JMU-shaped candles might spark some interest and there are endless possibilities on what else we could come up with.
Grad Tassel CharmsEdit
This idea was inspired from a group of friends graduating this upcoming May. Most of the girls remembered decorating their caps for their High School graduation, and wanted to find new creative ways to personalize their caps on their big day. From this interaction, we have decided to look into creating personalized grad tassels for the upcoming seniors of May 2013. Students would be able to customize the color of the tassel, charms, and design of the overall tassel. Although this idea needs to be expanded on more through customer discovery, we believe that it is worth adding onto our list of little bets during this experience.
Weekly Progress: 3/1EditWe received lots of feedback last week from the double class. Several people really liked our bracelets and we got some comments and concerns on the candles and grad tassle charms. We have decided to put jewelry-making on the back burner for the time being. We have run into trouble finding the right materials to make quality grad tassles so we will focus on candlemaking. We have been trying to come up with some ideas for different types of prototypes and will continue to do so over spring break, along with gathering some customer feedback and updating our business models.
Weekly Progress: 3/15EditSince we met with Professor Wales on Monday and realizing that there isn't much time left in the semester, we decided that it was to time to get to work. We have continued to find ways to bring our candle ideas to life. Megan made the glitter candles and the paper-wrapped candle this week. We are continuing to add to the list of candles we'd like to make and coming up with ways to make that happen. Megan bought some things to make a mold for candles that would have the cursive word "love" on the side. She's got a vision for this candle that she's having a hard time bringing to life but is continuing to look for ways to make it happen.
Weekly Progress: 3/22EditThis week we've been continuing our efforts to make the molded candle. With everything Megan thought she needed, she tried to cut and form the mold. The foam board she bought was too thick to cut the word so she tried a thinner foam sheet. The thinner sheet was more flimsy and moved too much while the word was being cut. Putting that idea aside, we continued working on other candle ideas. Since we had no official class in the classroom on Wednesday, our team took a trip to Michael's to price or purchase various supplies and gain other new ideas.
Our current potential products list includes:
- Glitter-covered candles
- Paper-wrapped candles
- Branch candles
- Beach candle
- Molded candles
- Candle in a glass
We hollowed out some short branches & poured wax into them. While hollowing the "candle holders" out worked surprisingly well, pouring the candles themselves didn't turn out as well. As with the first MVP we had, the center of the candle sunk around the wick. Without time to fix it before team presentations, we had to leave the wax to fix later. We currently have two separate ideas on how we might fix this.
Weekly Progress: 3/29EditAt last week's team update presentation, we brought 3 of our newest candle MVPs - the glitter candle, the paper-wrapped candle, & the branch candles. We presented several ideas for improvement on our current candles & other ideas for possible candles, all of which we received good feedback for. Questions were raised on the branch candle as to whether it would catch fire. The MVP in particular won't right now because the wood is still green. But after it dried out, there's a possibility that it could catch fire so we tested a dry candle over the weekend. It was lit on Sunday evening for 3 hours & again on Monday morning for 3 hours. Once the flame was completely inside the hollow log, the opening caught on fire. Looks like we'll have to start looking for something to cover the wood with that's flame retardant.
Weekly Progress: 4/5EditLast Saturday, we had a time work day at Megan's house. We decided to change the type of wax that we were using from regular paraffin to soy wax. The center of the wooden candles kept sinking with the paraffin and after switching to soy, the center doesn't sink because no air bubbles form in the bottom. We also switched from regular wicks to wood wicks. They're stiff so they don't bend over when they burn, preventing the fire from touching the inside of the candle holder so it won't catch on fire. We used our test candle again & had no problems with it. As shown below, we made 2 types of glitter-covered candles.
Wooden Candle Set
Grad Year Candle
School Spirit Candle
Our business model evolved slightly over the course of the semester. Once we started to focus on our candles as a primary venture, we made an adjustment to widen our target sales from just JMU students to the Harrisonburg businesses and local community. This group may appear to be broad but with our product, we did not have to change our marketing tactics to reach potential consumers. We developed a webpage in order to reach a wider variety of people who could potentially show interest in our product. Social networks such as facebook and Twitter were also useful tools in expanded our network with various consumer groups. In fact most of our orders were placed with the help of social media. While we did not make our goal for sales by the end of the semester, we did receive a good amount of sales at the end from JMU’s Greek community, local Harrisonburg businesses, and followers from our website. The best networking came from our consumers and supporters who often shared our pictures with other friends and family.
We found a great opportunity to take inexpensive natural inputs and produce a product that was not only unique, but stylish as well. The value of our product stemmed from these characteristics, and ultimately helped to draw interest of customers.
Words of Wisdom from the Megs
Now that we have taken you on our journey as entrepreneurs in Dr. Wales 372 class, we would like to leave yal with some words of wisdom. If you are reading this now, the chances are that Professor Wales is trying to provide you with some help in generating some ideas for your ventures. It wont be easy at first, but here are three tips to help lessen your stress this semester.
The earlier you brainstorm and experiment with the various ideas you have, the easier it will be for you and your team throughout the semester. Our biggest regret is not having our candle venture in the beginning of the class, which would have helped us generate more sales. Step up to the plate early and start your prototypes early on in order to test your potential ventures.
TAKE ON LITTLE BETS-
M&M would have never created if we did not keep our options open to try new ventures. You will find this tip very helpful in the beginning, because if you limit yourself early by selecting only one. By having multiple little bets you will be able to fail fast and move on to one of the other ventures you are currently testing.
The semester will fly by and if you do not use your time effectively and efficiently, you will run into trouble. Our suggestion was taken from the Nail & Scale It novel. Failure is inevitable in this class for the majority of groups. It is what you do when you fail and how long you take to get the ball rolling again that sets you apart. If you have a product that does not seem to draw interest from your consumer base maybe you need more customer discovery, or a new customer base. Whatever it is, take the failure or mistake and adapt quickly. Time is of thethe essence.