Hi! My name is Rachel Griffin and I am a Senior at James Madison University. I'm majoring in Management with concentrations in Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, and European Business, and have minors in Economics and Environmental Studies. I am the Vice President of Finance and Administration for JMU's Net Impact Chapter, which focuses on social entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, and corporate social responsibility. I am also a member of the College of Business Student Diversity Council, which studies diversity in different companies and tries to promote on-campus diversity. Last spring I studied abroad at the Universiteit Antwerpen in Antwerp, Belgium and had the time of my life traveling all around Europe! I'm really looking forward to getting involved in my Management classes this semester and becoming an Entrepreneur Extraordinaire!
Bill PurdyEditMy name is Bill Purdy and I am a senior at James Madison University. I am a Management Major with aconcentration in Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. From past work experiences and my time at JMU I have developed into a dedicated, hardworking individual with great communication and time management skills. I have many passions and ambitions in life and I strive to one day own and operate my own business. I am looking forward to the rest of my senior year expanding my knowledge, and becoming an entrepreneur extraordinaire.
Ethan DortonEditHey, I am Ethan Dorton! I'm a senior at James Madison University, and I am majoring in Management with a concentration in Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. I am excited about becoming an Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, because that is what I want to be the rest of my life. I want my future job titles to either say Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, Visionary, Innovator, or Chief Motivator. I am very optimistic person, I work really well in a team, I am great at building off of others ideas, and I work hard to achieve my goals. My ultimate goal in life is to be successful enough to start my own VC firm, and help other entrepreneurs achieve their goals and dreams. Until then, I look forward to learning the entrepreneurship process and hopefully one day mastering it!
Getting StartedEditAt first we were struggling to come up with a product that people could benefit from and also one that people would want to buy. After much consideration, we decided to go along a social entrepreneurship route and make a product that would benefit society!! We decided to create a business model where we would sell a product and donate 50% of the profits to a specific charity. Our hypothesis was that people would be willing to spend more money on a product if they knew that the money they were spending was going towards a good cause. We interviewed a lot of people about what charity they would want their money to go to. Although we got many great answers and ideas, there was overwhelming support for cancer research. We agreed with this cause and decided that we would start out selling a product for cancer research! At first, we debated on what product to sell - we were thinking either water bottles, sunglasses, or bracelets. The sunglasses idea we got from some customer discovery questions. One girl told us that if she was at a football game and forgot her sunglasses, she would definitely be inclined to buy a pair - especially if they were in support of a good cause! Eventually, we decided to go with sunglasses at first due to customer discovery and the fact that we could order them in smaller quantities, which would minimize our risk, in case we couldn't sell them all.
Sunglass Sales and Product ExpansionEditWe began selling our sunglasses at football games. We also continued customer discovery in our early sales and got great feedback! We decided to choose the American Cancer Society as the charity that we would donate to. We also realized that people wanted to donate money to our causes, either in addition to or in lieu of purchasing sunglasses. We were happy to receive donations from everyone and are donating that money straight to the charity. We were pretty successful our first day of selling, managing to sell 12 pairs and raise $17 additional dollars in donations! Our original sunglass design was the standard wayfarer frame in many different colors. Since this is JMU, we definitely experienced the most success with purple and yellow sunglasses. After our first successful day of selling, we needed to purchase more inventory and we also decided to try to expand our styles of sunglasses. We did some customer discovery and found that people might be interested in an aviator design and a girl-vintage style. In order to get these in for the next game, we had to put a rush order on them, which unfortunately raised our costs a little bit. We went to sell these new sunglasses at the next football game and again had great success with the wayfarers. We had a little bit of success with the aviators but almost none at all with the girl-vintage style. This was a setback for us, but at least the wayfarers were doing well enough that we were able to profit from our sunglasses venture. In total, we were able to donate $105 to the American Cancer Society! This amount includes half of the profits that we made in addition to the amounts that people donated to our cause. We are very pround of how our sunglass venture ended and that we were able to contribute to society.
Mercy HouseEditWe knew that after the success of our sunglasses sales we wanted to expand our product line and potentially set up a one-for-one model where for every product we would sell, we would donate one of the same product to charity. Since our entire product idea was inspired by the one-for-one model set up by TOMS, we really wanted to attempt to do one ourselves. We therefore set up a meeting with the director of the Mercy House, Twila Lee. We asked her for potential ideas on what kinds of items we could sell that the Mercy House needs that people would also want to purchase for themselves. She had a lot of great ideas, but the one that we liked the most was to sell scarves and gloves for the upcoming winter, and in our one-for-one model, we could donate the scarves and gloves as holiday presents for the people that the Mercy House helps! She also told us that the Mercy House owns two thrift stores nearby and that we could use them as another channel with which to sell our products. Twila also told us about a imprinting shop that we could use and she thought they might give us a discount if we were working with the Mercy House. When we left this meeting with the Mercy House, we were feeling great about this new partnership. Unfortunately, this feeling didn't last very long. We tried to contact the person that Twila told us to call for the thrift store partnership, but never heard back. We called and emailed him and left multiple messages, but we still didn't hear back. We also tried to look up the imprinting shop that Twila told us about, but we were unable to find it online. In addition, by talking to some people, we discovered that it would be harder to sell scarves or gloves to our main customer base of JMU students. Many students already have those items and don't need multiples. Additionally, scarves are a primarily fashionable item, and it is not so much fashion as warmth that is important in the scarves that we wanted to donate to Mercy House. It was looking like we would have to find a new direction to go in.
Hurricane SandyEditOn October 29th, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit most of the East Coast of the United States and caused particular damage to the New York/New Jersey area. Many people lost power for weeks and had a lot of their property destroyed and flooded. The devastation was so much, we knew that this was a need we had to start working towards. This was especially important to our group, because one of our members, Bill, is from New Jersey and experienced the destruction first hand. We knew that the American Red Cross was doing a lot to help and needed donations to continue to provide aid. We decided that we wanted to sell T-Shirts with a message about Hurricane Sandy on them and donate half of the profits to the American Red Cross in order to help their relief efforts. We knew that we had to get to designing shirts to sell and get them printed right away!
Once we came up with a design for our T-Shirts, we took the design to Daniel's Imprinted Sportswear shop to get them printed. After some modifications to our design and MVP (further explained in the section: MVP Evolution), were we able to order our shirts for $5.87 each. Unfortunately, we experienced some delays with our order and got the shirts a few days later than anticipated. Since it was so late in the semester, we were unable to sell all of our shirts, but we did experience some success! On our first weekend of selling we sold 7 shirts, and over the next week we sold 9 more. If we had more time, we probably could have sold the rest, and will still try to continue to sell after class is over, but we are very happy with our success and the money we have raised for the American Red Cross!
As I mentioned in our "First Sales and Product Expansion" section, with our sunglasses, we started out with just selling the wayfarer style in many different colors. During our first day of selling, we asked people what other styles they could potentially be interested in. Of the options shown to them, people seemed to like the aviators and the girl-vintage style. We then ordered some of these styles. When we were selling these new orders, the wayfarers still sold great, the aviators were okay, but no one was really interested in the girl-vintage and we only sold a couple pairs.
We started off by designing a T-Shirt on Custom Ink, and really liked the design of it, but we did not like the price. We decided to just use that design as a draft and go to an imprinting shop in Harrisonburg. We went to Daniel's Imprinted Sportswear on University Boulevard. On Custom Ink, we had experimented with both long sleeve and sleeveless shirts. At first we were thinking about going with the main design we made on Customer Ink, which was a long sleeve shirt with a design on both sides. When we learned that would could cut the price by going to short sleeve we decided to make that change. For a short sleeve Gildan t-shirt with print on both sides, it would cost $9.37 per shirt. We then decided to move the main design on the front and leave the back blank. If we did that and switched the brand of the shirt from Gildan to Fruit of the Loom, we were able to lower the price to $5.87 per shirt! The Fruit of the Loom shirts we of the same quality as the Gildan shirts, so we really didn't have to sacrifice much to lower our price. Daniel's said that they would make a design similar to the one we made on Custom Ink and email us the results to approve. The sent us two different designs and we unanimously approved of the second one. We are very happy with a new design!
Critical Success FulcrumEditThe main thing we needed to achieve success in our business model was to reach as many people as possible. Since we were purchasing our supplies from other sources, it was really up to our selling techniques to make our business work. We really needed people to buy in to our product. For that we needed good partners to work with. With our sunglasses, we were donating our profits to the American Cancer Society. Cancer has hurt the lives of many people, so the fact that we were donating to cancer research really spoke to people. This got people interested in our business and encouraged them to buy our products. We were happy that we could help a very important cause and also appeal to consumers.
When we switched to selling T-shirts for the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief, this also appealed to our target market of JMU students because many people here are from the New York or New Jersey area and experienced the devastation themselves. I believe that customer discovery was critical to our success because we first needed to figure out what people are passionate about. For our business model to succeed, we really needed to appeal to the consumer, which we believe we were able to do.
Our innovation was in our 50/50 business model. We donated half of the profits that we made to charity, which differentiated us from someone who would just be selling sunglasses or t-shirts. From our customer discovery we learned that people would absolutely be willing to pay more for a product if they knew that half of the profits were going to charity. Many people who purchased a pair of sunglasses already had a pair, but wanted to contribute to the cause. In the case of making the shirts for Hurricane Sandy, we had a good story to sell. One of our group members, Bill, lives in New Jersey and was personally impacted by the storm. This definitely adds a more personal touch to the product. We even had competition in the class for this product, but we had a story to tell, which I believe differentiated us from them.
When forming our business model, we decided that we could define four different customer archetypes as our early adopters. These four groups were:
1) Adults/Parents who want to buy a pair of sunglasses for themselves
2) Adults/Parents who want to buy a pair of sunglasses for their children
3) JMU students who need sunglasses at a football game
4) Charitable individuals
We believe that the last group, the charitable individuals are the ones most likely to buy our product. The business model really speaks to them and they want to purchase something that is contributing to a good cause. Another important early adopter for our success were parents at football games who wanted to buy sunglasses for their children. While students would be a little hesitant to spend their money on a pair of sunglasses, they would not hesitate at all to ask their parents to buy a pair for them. We also learned that where we sold sunglasses was important. People in the Baseball or Festival lots were more likely to purchase a pair of sunglasses than those people in the Godwin lot.
Our customer discovery was crucial to our success. We used it to determine what products to sell and what charities to donate to. In total, we have record of talking to 35 people, but we had informal conversations with much more!
Here are links to some of our best customer discovery videos:
Business Model CanvasEdit
ProblemsEditOne problem we encountered was obtaining accurate customer discovery. We found that when you interview
people, they definitely tell you what they think you want to hear. This is more so when they are being videotaped, and even more when they are friends of yours. It is easy to tell someone you'll buy something from them, and another thing all together to actually do it.
Another problem we encountered was our experience with the Rockingham Memorial Hospital Cancer Center. When we decided that we wanted to start off by donating our profits to cancer research, we first contacted RMH to see if they would like to start up a partnership. We thought that they would be excited to work with us and potentially get donations. We went to RMH Cancer Center to set something up, and they just gave us a number to call. So, we called them... but they never called us back. So, we called them again... and they never called us back. We then decided to go to a national charity and ended up donating our money to the American Cancer Society.
I previously mentioned our problems we encountered with the Mercy House. We were unable to find the imprinting shop that they told us about and were also unable to get in contact with the person who runs the thrift store. Above all, we did not believe that we could appeal to consumers selling scarves and gloves that we would donate to the Mercy House. If we couldn't get people interested, then we wouldn't be able to pursue this venture.
A final problem that we experienced was lack of communication with Daniel's Imprinted Sportswear. They told us our shirts would be ready by November 28th, but when we called them that day (after being transferred about 4 times) they said that the shirts would definitely come the next day and that they would call us when they did. The next day came but we did not receive a call. We called them on the 30th and (after being transferred to about 4 more people) they finally told us that our shirts were, in fact, ready. We got our shirts, but later than we had previously anticipated.
To purchase our sunglasses we used the website Olympic Eyewear: Olympic Eyewear Website
We got our t-shirts printed at Daniel's Imprinted Sportswear 600 University Boulevard Harrisonburg, VA, 22801 (540) 437-7618 Daniel's Imprinted Sportswear Website
Our Weebly Blog can be found at: Weebly Blog
Our Youtube Channel is: Youtube Channel
Our Final Video!! Final Video
Words of WisdomEdit
From our experiences with 50/50 we would like to offer some words of wisdom to future generations:
1) Start early! I'm sure that everyone will tell you this - but that just emphasizes how important this is. It is critical to your success to get the ball rolling right away. Especially if you are selling a product that requires development - you don't want to get down to the end of the semester without any sales.
2) Don't get complacent! If there is downside to starting early, it is that once you have a few sales under your belt you might think you can take a break. Well, you can't. You must be constantly working on trying to improve your product and selling what you have. Don't assume that just because you have a few good days of selling your success will continue if you don't put effort in to it.
3) Work on a product you love! Nothing is worse that dedicating your time to something you are not passionate about. Loving your product is critical to your success. If you don't feel good about your business model, customers will pick up on that and chances are you wont do a good job selling it.4) Work hard! This class takes a lot of effort. If you want to succeed in this class, or in entrepreneurship in general, you have to be willing to put a lot of work in. You wont be able to have success just because you wish it.