Two Guys, A Girl, and A Business Idea!Edit
Hi, we're Team 6:Elyana Genovese - I'm a senior, Management major. I'm from North Salem, NY, a small town an hour north of NYC. I love to play soccer. I'm a member of Sigma Kappa sorority where I'm Sisterhood Chairman. I studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia for a semester and fell in love with the whole country. I'm so happy to be doing this project because I love the opportunity to be creative.
Isaiah Wright - I'm a senior, transfer student. I am from Bethlehem, PA. I'm a Management major with the TIE concentration and I chose business because it is strategic competitive. From being an athlete all my life I'm very ambitious, so business seemed to be the logical choice. I play football here at James Madison University.
Nate Barth - I'm a senior management major graduating from JMU in December 2012. I transferred to JMU in 2010 from the University of Miami in Florida. I grew up in northern Virginia, about 15 minutes south of Washington D.C. I love entrepreneurship and have always fantasized about starting my own innovative company. I am currently working on a concept for a restaurant startup back home, and am very excited to pursue a startup in a completely different industry here at JMU.
Our Business IdeasEdit
At the beginning of the semester we had a few ideas we were thinking of pursuing. One was a curtain blanket, that could easily be attachable to the window frame so it would act as a curtain when needed. When not in use as a curtain, it would act as a blanket.
Our second idea was to have plastic waterproof shoe covers to protect your shoes when caught in the rain unexpectedly. They would cling around your ankle, so they would be tight and rain wouldn't leak in.
This led us to our third and ultimately finally idea. We were going to make a plastic, waterproof backpack cover that clings around your backpack. To make it more innovative than products we've seen similar to this, we would attach a hood so people's heads would also stay dry if caught in the rain. This is where our business name comes from - SoundsHoodToMe. Below is a copy of our business model. The major differentiation we had in the beginning was offering backpack covers with hoods attached. However, as we did customer discoveries we found that people didn't want the hood, so we stopped producing them with hoods attached. So we still needed to be innovative in some way, so that's why we decided to go with offering the covers in different colors: black or green. Our critical fulcrum for our business model was quality. We knew we'd be able to produce our covers relatively inexpensively but we needed to ensure the quality would be good enough. We didn't want our covers to break while people were using them. We spent a lot of time developing our MVP to have the best quality we could.
Our project MVP has changed a lot over the semester, especially in terms of quality and functionality. We started using a shower curtain liner since we knew it'd definitely be waterproof. We found it was really hard to sew through this fabric and get any type of stitching to stay. We started with ribbon around the side to make it more appealing, and strung string through the loop the ribbon left. However, as we did customer discoveries we found they didn't really like that it was clear so we were on a search to find a different waterproof fabric. We ended up finding a black waterproof fabric at RagTime, called RipStock. We also bought it in green because we figured this was a color both male and female would enjoy. RipStock is really durable and waterproof since it's the fabric used in parachutes.
Here is a link to our YouTube site which has videos of our customer discoveries and see how our product has evolved over the semester: SoundsHoodToMe The slideshow above also has pictures of our MVP evolution throughout the semester. To see more updates here is a link to our website SoundsHoodToMe. It's our blog site with the updates we did throughout the semester!
We were targeting college aged students, so we knew our early adopters would be found on the James Madison University campus. Here are more details of what we assumed would be our early adopters:
- Ages 18-22
- Male and Female
- Not afraid to be unique
- Uses a backpack, not a side bag
- Has some extra money to spend
- Walks around campus a lot
As you can see our early adopter criteria is quite broad but that's because we assumed there would be a lot of different types of people that would buy our product. As we did our selling we came to find out this was very true. We sold to athletes, girls with earrings and tattoos, fraternity brothers, etc. What we learned when we were selling was that it was a lot easier to sell when they were in a group. If one of the people thought it was cool, the group members were more likely to purchase one, but vice versa as well. It was challenging when one person in the group didn't like it, the others didn't want to "go against" what they said and purchase one. Our early adopter profile stayed relatively the same throughout our discoveries.
We did not have that many resources during our product production. We used one type of fabric, some string, and the biggest one a sewing machine. Let me tell you though, a hand sewing machine was a waste of money and didn't work for the project we needed. The quality was not very good, and the stitching kept coming undone, so the stretchy string would fall out. This was a HUGE problem we needed to solve. When we went to RagTime to buy our fabric, we met a lady named Nancy Dauer. She is a professional seemstress who also works for JMU and does projects for them. We met with her one day in her office, she gave us some advice, and we planned to meet her at her house the week after. She showed us how to make the quality better, and our covers actually functional. Once we ordered more fabric online at OnlineFabricStore (it was cheaper, most stuff is) we had another meeting with Nancy. This time, it was to sew all our covers that we had cut out. The hardest part was pinning down the fabric so it could go through the sewing machine. Since RipStock is so thick, pushing the pins through was really difficult. I still have a blister on my finger to prove it.
Nacy Dauer was a GREAT resource. She didn't charge us anything after all, even though she said if she did the actual sewing she'd charge us $3 a cover. We felt we needed to thank her in some way, so we bought her a gift card!
Challenges Along the WayEdit
We had some failures along our business journey. The first one was finding a fabric that customers thought was attractive and that they would actually use it. We thought clear would work because it wouldn't stand out. However, customer discoveries proved that to be false. They didn't want it to be transparent, but instead be a solid color. As mentioned above we solved this with green and black RipStock.
Another MAJOR challenge was our stitching. We thought we'd be able to sew them with a hand sewing machine, but as you read before that did not work out. Once we outsourced our sewing to a professional, that problem was quickly taken care of, and our quality was restored.
Our last challenge was starting to sell so late. Also, taking this class in the spring would've been helpful since it rains a lot more, but we'll definitely keep trying to sell next semester! Starting to sell so late meant we couldn't make as much money since the semester was over soon.
Here's Some Advice:Edit
This is advice that you NEED to take.
- Get started early, seriously. I know everyone says it and barely anyone actually listens, but we are serious. The earlier the better. The more changes you can make in order to ensure your product's quality is the best it can be.
- Start selling as soon as possible. You can only do this, however, if you get started early, so actually listen. We started selling too late, so we couldn't make as much revenue, which is why we are currently suffering a loss. You want to make a profit!
- When you are selling, sell with your whole group. Or at least two people. We tried selling individually and it didn't work. People thought it was creepy having a single person try to sell to them. Also, people don't believe you as much when you say it's for a class. The whole, "Please, this is for a class, I need this sale" really helps.
- Take pictures and videos along the journey. We only really took pictures, but videos would've been cooler to add to our final video!
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE! It really is an awesome experience and worth all the trouble in the end (even if you don't make a profit).