Awesome Entrepreneurs is a group of three ambitious, driven, Entrepreneurs coming together to implement and perform various products/services with the goals of performing rapid innovation and generating the most profit possible. Our group members, Tony Santos, Robert Rodriguez, and Matt Sydnor spent a semester in an attempt to use combined entrepreneurial traits and knowledge to produce the best results possible in various ventures.
Meet the TeamEdit
Tony Santos: Tony is a Management major at James Madison University and originally from Mexico. Some of his interests include working out, soccer, cars and car auctions. Tony helps the team with his great communication skills, and being able to capture and understand customer needs and wants through conversation. He is a great negotiator, and has a great knowledge in mechanical skills.
Matt Sydnor: Matt is a double major in Computer Information Systems and Management at James Madison University from Northern Virginia. He enjoys traveling within and out of the country, basketball and football, and working out. Matt embodies a great set of technical skills, as well as the ability to persuade consumers. Also, he is a great market researcher.
Robert Rodriguez: Robert is a double major in Computer Information Systems and Management at James Madison University from Northern Virginia. He has a wide variety of entrepreneurial skills including problem skills, searching for solutions outside of the box, and interpersonal skills. Robert also has a good market knowledge.
At the beginning of our journey, we were brainstorming and came up with a few ideas to start with. Our first product, the three-stage desk stabilizer that doubled as a door-stop seemed like a new idea that people had never seen before. After making a few prototypes we settled in a final design, and built a few. However, major interest by our market was not generated enough and we had to give up this venture.
Next, we moved quickly into the food industry. We tested two different Latin American Recipes widely unheard of and unavailable in most locations around our area, tres leches cake and papas fritas. Although the testing phase went very well for our products, we were never granted permission to sell on campus and had to give up on trying to sell food products.
After performing a few services from cutting hair to installing car audio equipment, the one that caught on the most when it came down to customers and innovative ideas was dog walking. We changed the layout of the average dog-walking industry by making our services more flexible for our customers. Because our market is mainly college kids with very different schedules like ourselves, an every day walk at the same time was out of the question. We charged per week, and this came with a set number of walks. We would give customer our schedules and availability, and they would text when they wanted their dogs walked. On top of this, we tested homemade dog treats which provided a healthy incentive for each dog at the end of their walk. One treat per walk would be free, and we also provided a Sunday-delivery service if any customer wanted additional treats.
Big Cash FlowEdit
On top of our other various ventures, we had one opportunity set up by our auto industry expert that blew every other cash flow out of the water. With Tony Santos being very familiar with and having a history of selling cars, we decided to resort to this during our $100 challenge to attempt to generate a huge income. We ended the semester selling two cars throughout the course of the semester, a Buick and a 2000 3 series BMW.
Top Entrepreneurial QuestionsEdit
During our brainstorming sessions and implementation efforts throughout the semester, we focused on a few main questions to get our brains going and to generate ideas. Following are some of the questions we found most helpful
1) What is something our peers and people around this area would be interested in buying?
a. When asking ourselves this question, we focused more on what the student body of JMU and also neighboring citizens would want to spend their money on, instead of what we ourselves would want.
2) In terms of our ideas, how fast would we be able to get product into our customers’ hands?
a. Because we were limited to a semester long experience, rapid iterations of our products was a very important factor.
b. When it came to products such as our tres leches cake, which required permission to sell on campus, the process in getting that permission granted proved too long and complicated.
Big Idea Hypothesis
T Since our main focus throughout the semester was on buying and selling cars, we will base our big idea hypothesis on this venture:
- By selling and providing affordable cars for those of low income, we solved their poblem in trying to find a good condition car for the lowest possible price that we could still make a profit out of
With our most consistent venture being dog walking, it was tricky to find a way to differentiate us from any competition. There are already dog walking services in the area, and they too use penetrating pricing models like us. After thinking of ways to change the process in a way that would give us a competitive advantage, we came up with a few different models that proved successful. First, instead of the typical pay-per-walk model, we used a model similar to a subscription. We charged $20/week per dog, and this included 4 walks. Next, we had no set schedule for when each dog would be walked. Because most of our market was composed of college students who have varying schedules like our own, we gave each customer our class schedules and our times of availability, and gave them the option to text of call us to schedule walks. Lastly, we offered treats for the dogs we walked. When a person hears customer service, they think of treating the customer right, and satisfying the customer. We not only had satisfied customers, but happy dogs as well.
In our first few ventures, including unique recipes and desk stabilizers, there weren’t many early adopters. The adopters were limited to mainly friends who wanted to help out our ventures. This was a big lesson learned, that if an idea can’t get past family and friends, it probably wouldn’t be successful as a venture. Although there weren’t high numbers of early adopters for our first few products, we benefitted past those points by gaining an understand of how we needed to do things differently.
Our dog walking service played out differently. Although still starting with a couple friends dogs, we were able to gain a decent customer base through word of mouth, and also through networking while walking our customers’ dogs. After explaining to dog owners out on walks what we would provide them with, and how it would convenience them, people weren’t very hesitant to give us business.
Advice for Future Entrepreneurs
The most important piece of advice we have for future entrepreneurs is to not give up or get discouraged. When starting, our first two idea sold a total of less than 5 units. The key to getting past this is rapid iterations of new MVPs and new ideas. Getting stuck on a failing idea for too long can sink a team of entrepreneurs.
Next, we realized it is important to realize that no product will sell without good sales people. You can have the best product on the market, but if you can't get out and talk to the target market, and also other markets, the product will sink faster than it will float.
Here is a link to our photo feed showing our progress throughout the semester
Here is a link to our other various business models we used throughout the semester