The Venture TeamEdit
Conner Brown; A senior Business Management major on the JMU baseball team fom Richmond, Virginia. Previously flipped a house last summer.
Thomas Doggett; A senior Business Management major rom Fredericksburg, Virginia. Previously employed at P3 Partners, LLC and Carter Bank & Trust.
Brendon Pocialik; A senior Business Management major from Sterling, Virginia. Previously employed at home decore retailer Pier 1 Imports in three different Virginia locations.
Stephen Stepka; A senior Business Management major from Fairfax, VA. Previously worked four summers with Atlantic Pools Services Inc. as an assistant manager and manager.
Initial ConceptualizationEditThe first several weeks following our formation into a four-man group, the ideas for our MGT 372 venture generally ranged from bizzare to technologically infeasible. Our group brainstorming sessions resulted in a fair number of ideas that we then proceeded to research to determine financial and technological viability, these ideas included/but were not limited to;
- Life-size posters of the Zane Showker portrait
- James Madison University parking smart phone application
- See-through coolers
Very quickly, however, each idea was scrapped for various, business-related reasons. The life-sized poster of the Zane Showker portrait found in the lobby of Showker Hallfound a quick dead end when surveying public opinion due to it's potentially-massive size and lack of much nostalgia from students regarding the portrait or the College of Business as a whole.
The idea for the parking application was cultivated due to the lack of any electronic means of determining whether the ever-crowded Grace Street or Showker Hall parking decks had available spaces, despite the fact there is already electronic signage on the outside of each structure showing the number of spaces available. JMU Parking Services, however, had no intentions of aiding us to construct this venture, and we quickly determined that it would be impossible to accurately count available spaces without the school's cooperation.
Finally, our group was very intrigued by the thought of see-through coolers, however the thought was quickly discarded due to the long winter that the Shenandoah Valley experienced, something that would certainly destroy consumer demand of the product. A complete lack of manufacturing capabilities harmed our attempts to create see-through coolers in the spring when the idea was re-hatched.
MVP and Product InnovationEdit
Finally, after weeks of belaboring about the topic, the idea of of creating customizable coasters was conceived. Thinking critically about their viability to be sold, it soon dawned upon us that JMU students don't own the apartments that they are renting, nor do they own the furniture, which is often included as a part of the leasing package in order to make things conveient for the leaser and the leasee. The pitfall for the leasing students, however, often comes in the form of keeping these furnishings in usable shape in order to avoid excessive charges from landlords at the end of the contract. A standard lease for Copper Beech Townhomes reads as such: "Each resident’s room is equipped with a full-sized bed, dresser, desk, and chair. Windows in each room are equipped with window shades. Residents will be charged the replacement cost for any missing or damaged furniture or shades." As intimated in the preceding statement, students have a massive incentive to keep tables and other wooden funishings stain-free in order to avoid any form of controversy when check-out time comes in August.
With this consumer need in mind, we then proceeded to research the manufacturing processes that come with creating coasters and gage whether public interest would be substantial enough to be worth tackling this prospective venture. Much to our surprise, we got direct answers to these two questions surprisingly quicly. The manufacturing process for these customizable coasters was extremely simple, albeit a tad time-consuming. All that was needed for manufacturing was Mod Podge, Envirotex, tiles, and various other miscellaneous materials and a guide with clear, step-by-step directions for creation was located online. In terms of demand, we made use of our personal contacts quickly; Conner garnered pre-orders from teammates with the idea of creating JMU baseball coasters while Stephen got a request for coasters displaying the map of Baltimore. Given the conglomeration of each of these factors, it soon became clear that coasters would encompass most of our venture creation over the course of the semester.
Due to the fact that coasters are inherently just slabs of material designed to avoid liquid residue accumulating at the bottom, our minimum viable product has seen minimal changes over the course of the semester. The only noticeable apect that has changed has been the quality of the coasters, something that has improved due to simple trial-and-error. Our group, however, has attempted to innovate in order to add as much additional value to the coaster as we could possibly manage. While the front of the coaster remains some sort of customizable image, we have tinkered with the back of the coaster, coming up with several different options that add some alternate uses for the product. These options include;
- Written-out recipes (Beer, Food, etc.)
- Chalkboard-like material
The early adopters of our coasters ranged drastically in gender, race, and age with no real correlatable explanation as to which demographics would prefer to buy our coasters over other demographics. This diversity amongst customers was predictable, as the only actual prerequisite for a need of coasters is that one has furniture in the home that they live in.
Resources for the venture were purchased from The Home Depot (http://www.homedepot.com/l/Harrisonburg/VA/Harrisonburg/22801/4645) and Michael's (http://locations.michaels.com/VA/HARRISONBURG/3707/), both located on Burgess Road here in Harrisonburg.
Mod Podge, Envirotex, and tiles were purchased from The Home Depot while felt, ribbons, and various other supplies were purchased from Michael's.
Final Business ModelEdit
- Start the project early; The semester is only three short months long, so any time at all spent loafing when there is already a sound business plan in motion will only be against your group's detriment in the long run.
- Diversity ventures; Most of the entreprenuerial ventures undertaken by groups can be carried out by only one or two members, so things can get quite monotonous if your group sticks to only one venture. The best advice to be offered would be to ensure that the group has one venture in constant motion, but ensure that there is a healthy fluctuation of other ideas and products that your group offers over the course of the semester.
- Personal selling is key; The ventures started in MGT 372 are start-ups, therefore nobody is going to know who you are unless you approach them personally and inform them of the product you are selling.
- Read the assigned books; While reading could be considered somewhat of a chore at this point in one's collegiate tenure, the two texts assigned by Dr. Wales, especially Nail It Then Scale It by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom, offer invaluable information regarding the first steps to be taken as a start-up, and can be drawn upon for guidance over the entirety of the semester.
- Enjoy the process; The opportunity to make money here at JMU is something that is ever-present due to the demographics of our community, so don't panic if things don't initially work out and enjoy the entire process, the lessons learned are invaluable.