Category Archives: Venture Creation

The Final Countdown…

SAM: Student Art Market is coming up soon. Very soon.

SAM4

As we dove into a week of tying up loose ends, I found myself remembering one of our first class periods. The reading that week pointed out the importance of choosing who you enter into a new venture with. As you hit obstacles, you’re going to want to have people by your side who can help troubleshoot, instead of leaving you alone to face the challenge. You want to have the type of team who will question how much work you’re taking on, not because they don’t think you’ll deliver, but because they actually care about your well-being and how far you’re willing to stretch yourself.

Throughout this process, we’ve all been pushed outside of our comfort zones. For some, that meant approaching our potential audience to pitch an idea. For others, it might have been helping to maintain a web site for the first time or building out 3 year projections. For me, it was learning to fully trust a new set of business partners. I’m accustomed to sharing major responsibilities with someone that I’ve been working with for nearly a decade. There’s a level of understanding, nuance, and safety that develops in that length of time. Although, I’ve known most of my team for about a year and a half now, the idea of creating a venture of this nature came with real risks. Would we make back our investment? Would people show up to the event? Would we all make it through in one piece? Would this project succeed or fail?

Our event is only 4 days away, and instead of feeling stressed out about the impending activities, I’m excited. While I know that our team is not only capable, but exceptional, it’s hard to predict how everything will turn out.

Stay tuned to find out next week!

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Great Things Coming!

SAM

After a great meeting with David at Casey Moore’s last Wednesday a date was set for our Student Arts Market. We are excited to announce that NOVEMBER 22 is the day! Mark your calendars! We’ve definitely marked ours and have jumped on this excellent opportunity. No more than 24 hours later we got our website, facebook and email up and running. Check us out at http://haveyouheardofsam.wix.com/sam2014 or go on facebook and find us at https://www.facebook.com/StudentArtMarket. This week has been exciting as we’ve been feeling the fruits of our labors. Our teamwork has reached a new level. Getting all of our media up so quickly required timely response, collaboration and support. Each of the five of us has offered unique talents and skills and we’ve been having a lot of fun. Along with developing our marketing plan we have also been sharing our good news with our potential student artist exhibitioners. We have also been careful to continue to brainstorm as a group all logistics so that the Student Arts Market will match our great vision. It is very rewarding to see how all of our preparation through research and filling out and keeping our business model poster updated has allowed us to bring things together quickly. There is definitely buzz around the Student Arts Market and anticipation for positive outcomes. We are very happy to have our venture hosted by Casey Moore’s. The parking lot opening from the restaurant will make for an excellent place to showcase our artists and provide a casual atmosphere for our community.

What’s in a Name?

When choosing a name for your business, is it better to go with what you like and know you can sell, or is it better to listen to your costumers and learn how to sell what they want? On the one hand, you are going to be the person who has to look at it and deal with it all the time, so it should be something you like. However, you also have to consider what your costumer likes hearing and what draws in their attention. What costumers do you listen to? Some of people might have conflicting ideas, and then what do you do?

Mollie and I decided to do the same process for coming up with a name for our venture that we did when we were in class suggesting venture ideas, by listing names on post-its and posting them to the wall. This time instead of using our own strengths as criteria, we used the key words that we have been discussing in class and tried to use them whenever we could. We then took these names and surveyed people about what they though of them.

My results were not what I was hoping for. Even though some people I surveyed did like a few of the names I liked, they did not like or mention my favorite name in their feedback. Not only that, but there was not a general consensus about one name, but instead people liked a few different names.

It is at this point that I wonder where does my vote count? I look forward to seeing what everyone else found out and to see the process we choose to pick our name.

Kids are smart!

We’ve arrived at a very exciting decision this past week in class: our business venture will be a Holiday Arts Market at a local bar restaurant, Casey Moore’s. We know that our customer segment is a multi-sided platform, as we will serve two groups of people: student artists who will submit and sell their work, and the other people who come and buy the art.

We are still pinning down who exactly these ‘other people’ are, where they live, what they do on the weekends and how much they are willing to spend on art, but this week’s introduction to the Empathy Map will help us. The Empathy Map looks like this:

 Empathy-Map

It is our job as founders of the business to fill in the Empathy Map as we become more knowledgeable about our customer(s). The idea is that by the time we’ve filled a map out for each customer segment, we will have a clear archetype of who will be attending the Holiday Market. Talking to people about the market and our previous ideas has really been eye opening. It is extremely exciting to find strangers that think your idea is awesome and will actually work…and on the other end, kind of disappointing when strangers don’t think your idea is cool at all. As someone particularly interested in creating theatre for young people, I wonder what may happen if I interviewed or surveyed my audience before creating a piece.

I feel confident in stating that many many many adults do a lot of assuming about what children want to see onstage. As a Theatre for Youth MFA student, I am one of those adults. I recently wrote a play for young audiences, which will be produced at ASU on November 1. It’s called Nadine’s Coloring Book and it is about an eleven-year-old girl coming to terms, in her own imaginative way, with her father’s premature death. No one under the age of twenty-five has read this play yet, and although I’ve invited the 60+ children I teach, direct and interact with on a weekly basis, I wonder if my script would have been different had I spoken to my intended audience first. This leads me to wonder what would happen if children’s theatre companies actively spoke to children (and teachers and school administrators) about the types of scripts they’d like to see. So often, the shows being done for youth, especially at theaters that rely on field trip sales, are book adaptations of beloved stories. Maybe administrators want something a little edgier, too, but no one will ever know until they ask.

Coming up, I have the opportunity to create pre/post show workshops with a partner middle school for ASU’s Mainstage TYA play. The play is about adventure, coming of age and sisterhood, and the early set design renderings are based around a playground, inspired by recyclable items and found objects. Okay, so I want to create programming that can occur outside on a school’s playground, away from the classroom, that encourage students to “choose their own adventure,” while also creating musical instruments and other practical items with recyclable objects. After learning about the Empathy Map, and listening to Steve Blank’s lectures on UDACITY, I realize that my assumptions and hypotheses are just that: assumptions and hypotheses. Why not ask the 5th and 6th grade students that I know what their thoughts are about my proposed workshops? And maybe, just maybe, they will have even better ideas to contribute.

Our Criteria

Following the ‘Doability Chart’ laid out in Effectual Entrepreneurship, the five of us have decided upon the following criteria in order to decide upon a business venture:

  1. Is it doable?

  • Can we accomplish it with our skills in two months with $100?
(Or do we know people can and are wiling to help us accomplish it?)
  • Do we have the technology and marketing knowledge and capabilities to achieve this?
  • Is there an audience/market for this?
  1. Is it worth doing?
  • For the $? For our grad school student sanity?
  • Will we break even?
  • How many hours a week can we each commit to this project?
  • We promise to respect each other’s time!
  1. Can we do it?
  • Do we have the skills, time, resources, social capital to make this happen?
  • We will respect each other’s limitations!
  1. Do we want to do it?
  • We are striving for 100% consensus.
  • We promise to be genuine and honest about our passions!

The Band-Aid Approach

Class began with our pitch. It was an enthusiastic beginning where we pointed out the successes of last week’s ideation process. Behind us as we spoke was a large poster of the Business Model Canvas filled with yellow sticky notes of venture ideas. My contribution to the pitch was pointing out the cohesive strength of the group. Partnerships provide many benefits through networking and goods, but have the potential for disaster if there is dishonesty or lack of commitment. As a collective, we decided on full consensus for our venture as part of our doability criteria. The class mission for the day was to judge our venture ideas against our criteria and get rid of the sticky notes that don’t meet the criteria. Steve Blank teaches a class on Udacity called, “How to Build a Startup.” He says the best way to take the class is to actually be creating a startup while taking the class. This is exactly what we as a class are experiencing, and I came to find out that it hurts! I have been anxiously awaiting our brainstorming and ideation process. As I mentioned above, we all left enthusiastic about the results. The next thing that I know, a fast-paced “call and response” ensues as our potential ventures are judged and ripped from the large canvas. I was so surprised at how quickly I had become attached to the ideas and wanted to pursue them all! Each time a yellow sticky note was taken from the board I second-guessed the decision. Earlier in class, we had discussed something that was coined as “founders disease”, which is when a founder or visionary is inflexible to change or to deviation from the original idea regardless of the customer response or input from partners. After one week, I was already experiencing founders disease for our potential ventures and trying to twist them every which way to fit our criteria. I realized that this process is invaluable because it will keep us focused on the potential customer. This is exactly what we want so that the potential customer becomes a customer. I felt like the process we went through was like ripping off a band-aid. It stung, but keeping things in motion and always being open for change will bring the best results.

Is it Worth Doing?

Where were we?

After an exciting brainstorming session, our aspiring team of entrepreneurs was left with a wall of post-it notes and endless possibilities as to what our venture might be. Before we wrapped things up that week, we agreed upon a set of criteria that would be used to help narrow the plethora of ideas down to ‘the one.’

The criteria were all based upon the “Assessing opportunity ‘doability’” figure found on page 13 of Effectual Entrepreneurship. I touched on this in my last blog post, Taking the Plunge. The chart asks four primary questions:

  • Is it doable?
  • Is it worth doing?
  • Can I do it?
  • Do I want to do it?

We adapted these questions to fit the needs of our own team. Is it doable with resources available to the individuals in our class, within our budgetary confines, and on a realistic timeline? Is it something that we all feel equally passionate about? Can we create this venture with a realistic time commitment from each of us, keeping in mind that we are full time graduate students with lives, families, jobs and commitments? Do we want to do it?

The process of narrowing down the ideas was less painful than I thought it would be. We didn’t need to dive into deep discussions about why an idea was taken down. We had agreed that it was important to us that we all felt passionate about the project, so if one of us admitted that they weren’t excited about an idea…it came off the wall. No arguing, no huffiness, no tears. We were women on a mission. This allowed us to pare down the ideas significantly.

Next, Linda asked us each to anonymously write down our top three choices on a notecard. I’m usually quick to make decisions, and this exercise was no exception. I selected my top three immediately. Some struggled to narrow down their favorites. Ultimately, there was a good amount of overlap when it came to the top choices.

We closed out last week’s class session with a new level of excitement. The ideas had been reduced from nearly 40 to about 4. Four ideas that each felt like real business opportunities. Four ideas that came from our team, in classroom, with a pile of post-it notes. Are they worth doing? I’m looking forward to finding out.