The Venture Team - GST Our venture team was originally made up of three Management Seniors at JMU including Bobby Gilbride, Chris Slattery, and Jesse Trent. Later on in the semester, we were happy to have a new member join our group named Ron Sobczak. We began with several ideas that we wanted to pursue including various crafts and JMU sports bras, but found that they would not sell as well as we believed. After Ron joined the group he and Chris came up with the idea to sell stickers to members of the JMU Marching Band that help them show their pride for their instruments. We realized that helping members of organizations to show pride was a great way to drum up business and increase our sales. We have kept track of all of our progress on our company's Facebook page
One of our first MVPs was the customizable organizer (shown below) that would allow customers to carry various objects in a small cloth container with the ability to store larger or smaller items because of its customizable straps.
A second idea we had was to develop a JMU sports bra to sell to girls around campus. However, the licensing costs of using the JMU logo would have driven the price up too high for our potential market to buy. A picture of the idea is shown below.
We could not develop an MVP for this product because the local businesses in Harrisonburg do not make single customized items. They would have had to receive a bulk order that we did not feel was in our best interest to put our money into.
Next, we looked to Pinterest for inspiration. Jesse discovered this great craft idea that looked like crossword puzzles made of balsa wood. Simple, cheap, and easy to sell to various girls around campus as well as other markets such as elementary school teachers. We sold several of these for a profit of $62.12.
Our Final Idea(s)EditThe catalyst our group needed to finally find an idea that would sell was having Ron joining the group. He came from another group that was selling stickers to College of Business students. He and Chris came up with the idea to sell the stickers to other market segments at JMU. As a former member of the JMU Marching Royal Dukes, Chris knew of several competitions between different sections of the band that were held annually at JMU. One of them is a cake eating competition, another an Oreo eating competition, and last an ice cream eating competition. Pictures of the stickers we are currently selling are shown below with the various instruments represented in each competition in the background. Chris has had band members banging down his door looking for a way to show pride for their sections with our stickers.
Another idea that Jesse came up with was to sell JMU colored flowers. He saw the opportunity and jumped on it. He wanted to be able to give students the ability to express their individuality with the flowers. As the idea developed and the seasonality of the flowers began to affect Jesse's ability to sell the yellow and purple ones he moved into various different colors with different types of pots. The thing that differentiates these flowers from ones that students could go and buy on their own is that Jesse has already done all of the work associated with flowers - all the customer has to do is water it to keep it alive. Ron has been able to sell quite a few of the flowers to people around campus. We've been able to make about $50 from doing this. Below is a slideshow of a few photos of the flowers.
We began the semester the way that we were taught by Professor Wales - look for a problem, figure out how to solve that problem effectively, ask customers if we were solving the problem correctly based on their needs, change the solution, and constantly bring it back to the customer based on what their responses were. We did this with several of our original ideas that did not come to fruition (mainly because of high costs).
When Ron joined the group we were trying to figure out how to innovate the idea that he brought with him from his other group. We asked ourselves several key questions.
- Where else can we sell the stickers?
- How will we design them?
- Why would someone want to buy our stickers?
- How much can we charage different segments if we can charge different prices at all?
- Does it make sense to move in to other markets?
Chris has many connections in the marching band and saw the opportunity to make these stickers and sell them to members of the marching band. He has helped enormously in acquiring the sales necessary to keep our venture afloat.
Big Idea HypothesisEdit
For people who want to show pride for their organization in a simple yet creative way without breaking the bank. Unlike our competitors, we actually exist.
Our main innovation was moving into different markets quickly. We were able to get to our markets before our competitors because we saw the opportunity and took advantage of it.
Another key innovation was that we differentiated our product further from our competitors because we customized the stickers for certain events that members of different band sections hold every year. Being able to appeal to specific segments of our market using personalized materials was very important to the development of our business venture.
The majority of our customers for both the stickers and the flowers have been early adopters. Both types of customers hopped on the bandwagon because of how easy the products were to sell. We were able to acquire early sales of the stickers because they offered a sense of proud representation for band members' sections. As we moved forward with both ideas we realized that they were both selling so quickly. The flowers sold fast because of the rapid change of seasons we saw from all of the snow to the few weeks of warm weather we got.
Final Business ModelsEdit
The business models we have for the flowers and the stickers are in the slideshow above.
Important Lessons LearnedEdit
We learned many important things accross the course of this semester. Being an entrepeneur was an incredibly fulfilling experience that we are sure will help us in our future careers. The most important lessons we learned were:
- that failing quickly and forward is good
- that being comfortable with ambiguity is what can separate a good entrepreneur from a bad one
- that persistence is key, but persistence and stubbornness are not the same. being stubborn about your ideas can sink your venture. be sure to accept that the idea must sometimes change.
- that we should not be afraid to try something new
- that including the customer in all iterations of products will help your more than anything else
Some advice that we can give to people who take this class in the future:
- take it seriously, it can really help you develop important business skills
- start early! work hard, don't procrastinate
- have fun with it, try to do something that you are interested in
- definitely read the textbooks, they are invaluable resources