About UsEditA&M Glassworks was started in January of 2014 as part of a semester long project for MGT 372 Entrepreneurship at James Madison University. The organization consists of Andrew Hasset and Matthew Sullivan, both of whom will be senior TIE Management majors at James Madison University at the time of publishing. Although some would view having only two members as a disadvantage, the A&M team looked forward to the decision making process being less convoluted and the greater control they would have during their venture creation. The team has spent the semester trying to cash in on making the correct little bet that would launch their venture into the next level.
Andrew and Matthew knew early on they had similar visions for their 372 ventures. Both agreed that the product needed to be simple and original. It needed to speak to the selected market which was initially identified as the JMU student population. They both spent the first week or two identifying potential gaps that they could wedge a venture into. Some early ideas included a Tow Rope Storage System for a Wake Boarding Boat, a Optical Mouse built into the back of a cell phone case, and some Paracord Dog collars that Matthew was already producing for his own dog. The first two ideas proved to costly and timely to pursue even to an Minimum Viable Product(MVP) stage as they were just not realistic. The third idea, although an MVP was already finished and the product was already at a sell-able state, after hearing some early feedback, the team agreed that the market would be small and difficult to penetrate at the proper price point at JMU. This led the team to start looking into more realistic venture opportunities and eventually the teams first little bets.
Early Little BetsEdit
Wine Bottle Flower VaseEditInstagram account to gain word of mouth appeal. The first customer posted a picture of the finish vases hung, and the picture received over 100 likes in a little less than 2 days. Andrew was then able to gather more pre-sales and he continued manufacturing more bottle vases.
However, the process was very time consumer and we encountered several problems along the way. The first problem came in the form of the paint designs. Paint does not adhere well to glass and the taping of deigns was causing the paint to pull away from the bottle when the tape was removed. We solved this by using higher quality paints and waiting longer for the paint to setup before attempting to mask out designs on the bottles. The next problem was the appeal of mounting. Feedback from the class showed that most people thought that we should provide all mounting hardware down to the screws taking out the need for any additional materials required by the consumer. We took this one step further and not only provided the anchors and screws, but Andrew would mount the product for the customer for no charge. Weather also plagued the painting process making it difficult to work on these during free time which pushed back the production time on some of the units as well. Finally, the customization of each individual order meant we couldn't really pre-produce the bottles and have mass sale days. We never really solved this problem although with more time in the semester, we would have most likely moved to a pre-made model with a design that received the best customer feedback.
The bottle vase cost us roughly $3 in materials and were sold for $10 or 3 for $25. This gave us a decent margin to work with as long as we could keep selling them. However the market was harder to reach than we originally anticipated and the orders stagnated towards the end of the semester
Our business model was pretty straight forward and really focused more on the experience than the actual model. The team wanted to remain extremely flexible so we could adjust to our market and what our customers wanted. For this reason, the team never really fully tied ourselves to this model. It was more of a guideline for where to begin but it was difficult to show our flexibility with it.
Iterations & Evolution of MVP'sEdit
We experimented with two different evolutions of the wine bottle vase during the semester. Both were only possible due to a innovative bottle cutting tool that gives a very symmetrical score line. Luckily, Matthew had purchased one of these tools earlier for an unrelated project.The first was a wall mountable light fixture with a cord. It would mount the same way as the flower vase except inverted and the bottom(now the top) would be cut off to allow the light to radiate from the lamp. The MVP was constructed over the spring break holiday and by the time we returned, and presented the idea as our new MVP, we realized it was not as attractive as an idea as we had originally thought. We couldn't really nail down a way to market it to the consumer and we wanted to clean up and possibly get rid of the cord before moving forward with it. Before we could get around to iterating this MVP into phase 2, we were presented with the innovation challenge. We decided to come up with something new, rather then keep pressing forward with the first lamp iteration.
Our second evolution of the original flower vase was a table top wine bottle lamp. This would give the cool custom decorative effect while limiting the invasive mounting procedure of the wall mounted flower vase. It would include the same light fixture internals as the first iteration but would would turn the bottle back right side up and mount it on a decorative wooden pedestal. The bottle could be painted to the customers desired taste. However, we realized that it may be better to use a small amount of paint and leave the internals mostly exposed after feedback received during its unavailing at the innovation challenge. This was mostly due to the fact we used an expensive($4) light bulb that emitted a candle like flicker. We planned to continue to produce and sell the bottle vase as well as push forward with this new MVP and start gathering feedback on what customers wanted out of this new model, until we met with Dr. Wales. Dr. Wales reminded us that just because customers like one version (the vase) they may not want another. With the semester coming to a close, he asked us if we really thought our time would be best used trying to launch this new product. We ultimately agreed he was right and we would not have enough time to successfully launch a product we weren't even sure the customers wanted. We planned to do what we could to end the semester as best we could.
Current Venture PositionEdit
At the end of the semester, A&M Glassworks generated $140 in profit and $240 in total revenue. Although the venture was not the most profitable in the class standings, it was definitely one of the most original and creative ventures. The team strived to stay away from the normal college money makers such as screen printed shirts and we feel we were successful in that regard. We remained different from our competition throughout the semester and that was more important than having the highest profit to our team. A&M Glassworks decided to close at the end of the semester and the partners will pursue their own respective ventures in the future. Matthew will apply what he has learned from MGT 372 and try to place some little bets in an industry he has often thought about entering since its inception several years ago. Although he will be applying for possible career positions in the normal business market, he plans to place a little bet in the market of Plasti Dip for automotive applications in his free time. Upon graduation Andrew will be working for CEB, as a Business Development Associate. He plans to pursue his MBA within the next few years, but has not ruled out an entrepreneurial path. He plans to use the skills and experiences from MGT 372 later on in life to pursue ventures in the real estate industry
Our team has learned many lessons from this class and we look forward to applying those lessons in our future ventures and endeavors.
Advice and Lessons LearnedEdit
- The first important Lesson to be taken away from this class is; the better the problem you try to solve, the easier it will be to make your product successful. If you find a problem that truly pains the customer, they will line up to purchase your product and your marketing will take care of itself.
- Next, pay close attention to the lessons learned early in the class. Fail Fast, Fail as fast as you possibly can. Move on. Do not get caught up in your dream project if it is a loser. Don't be afraid to keep trying different things until you find one that is successful. This can happen the first week of your venture or in the middle of the semester, but it'll be easier to be successful with a start up winner late in the semester than to try and push a loser across the finish line.
- Get an early start. Keep up with all work when you have time to do it and don't push it until the end because I assure you, you will be much busier at the end of the semester as opposed to in the middle.
- Document you process. Take lots of pictures during everything you do. Even better than that, take videos of you doing things. Having lots of media at hand will make the final video project much easier to complete.
- Take the challenges seriously. The sales challenge will help you gain revenue because it will push you to make sales. Take them serious and actually meet the criteria Dr. Wales sets for the challenge because you'll be that much better off after the challenge. The innovation challenge can really help to let you gain a new perspective of where your project stands and if you really have your most creative work in your venture.
- Know, Understand, and Embrace your environment. Selling Ice Cream in the beginning of the spring semester would probably not be smart but if you start class in august, you could benefit from that venture for a short time. Some of the groups that got early leads used the holidays to their advantage. They capitalized on holidays like Valentines Day and were quick to act on a simple idea that could have failed(fast) but it was a little bet that cost them next to nothing and gave them a huge lead in the profit standings.