Can you Build a Business in 3 Days?
I did! And It Was A Very Rewarding Experience
For my Entrepreneurship class freshman year, I was tasked with completing either a 3-day startup or a 3-week startup. If I chose the 3-day startup, I was allowed to miss the last 3 weeks of the course. I chose the 3-day startup, but not just for this reason.
This program was sponsored by our J.D Brown Center for Entrepreneurship and I wanted to learn more about the community the college is located in. For my final part of the assignment, I was to write a paper on my experience and include our lean canvas for our company or idea. The result is below.
The 3 Day Startup program is designed to bring entrepreneurial-minded students together and create a company or product in a weekend. York College has recently brought this program to students and the community. When I was first told about the program, I was not sure what we would be tasked to do or how it would be.
I thought that there would be many presentations and lectures and we wouldn’t have much time to work on our ideas. However, what pushed me to apply was that I had recently declared Entrepreneurship as my minor, and I plan to start a business after college and continue working on my current business.
The program was broken down into seven main parts, ideation and brainstorming, preliminary pitches and feedback, idea voting and formation, customer discovery and market research, mentorship, worktime and research, and the final pitches. While each section did have a presentation, they were extremely helpful and given to us by the Program Director of 3DS, which made the whole process even more interesting and exciting.
We begin with ideation and brainstorming. This section was exciting as several people had ideas they felt strongly about. I had an idea for bike stations that were along the bike path and users paid a monthly fee to access them. I didn’t pitch the idea though because I was not passionate enough about it and just wanted to watch others pitch theirs.
I sat at a table with an engineering student and two other community members. All three pitched an idea, but only one from our group made the cut. I had asked several questions about the projects that seemed viable. Some of the projects were great in theory but had not been completely thought through and lacked a way to raise revenue and be sustainable.
The next section was the idea voting and team formation. Each person was given two minutes to present their idea then we put our heads down and were given two anonymous votes. We were told to find a problem, create a solution, and find a way to make money from it. There were almost two dozen great ideas that people had thought of. This part of the program was interesting to see how passionate people were about their idea and their presenting style.
Many people came prepared with prototypes, while others just created their idea moments ago. I listened to each of the ideas and they were all unique in their own way which made it difficult to choose just two. I had four in mind, real estate reset, textbook exchange, a home base for bikers that commute to downtown via bike, and beeswax food wraps.
Real estate reset was a great concept where the company would purchase condemned buildings from their owners, put some money into them, then resell for a profit. Textbook exchange would be like a digital billboard for students, so they could trade and purchase textbooks from their fellow students. Homebase would be a truck stop type of building but designed for bikers. This building would allow customers to store their bikes during the day and retrieve them after work.
The final idea I wanted to vote for was the beeswax wraps. These are pieces of fabric coated in beeswax and essential oils. They are a green alternative to plastic wrap or foil. The two I chose in the end were Homebase because I use my bike often and beeswax wraps because I thought the concept was interesting and enjoy being green wherever possible.
Our team consisted of two community members and two York College students. I enjoyed the team that we had formed because we all had an interest in helping the beeswax idea but also came from different backgrounds and had our own unique set of skills.
The next module after our teams were created was customer discovery and market research. This was extremely helpful in 3DS and for the future when I perform market research for future ideas and ventures. This part was almost exactly like the Venture Block simulation, a program we were assigned to help us with conducting market research, but we were researching food wraps instead of an adorable bear-dog breed (the product that the simulation was based around).
We found a great amount of information from this part of the event. By talking to over 70 community members and 14 business owners and managers we found that almost 90% of the population uses plastic bags at least once a week. Of the 14 businesses we surveyed, 13 said they would sell the product if it was available. Many customers had also said they would purchase the product if it was more widely available. We concluded that there is a market and demand for beeswax products, but few companies have tried to enter therefore, we have plenty of room to grow.
After the customer discovery, we talked to several different business professionals who gave incredible feedback on our idea and how to carry it out. Two of the mentors that we had talked to worked for Tutoni’s which is an Italian restaurant in downtown York. The group also used to manage Taste Test, which was an incubator for restaurants and food trucks.
We also spoke to a veteran who has had many government jobs and has experience in a lot of fields that would help budding entrepreneurs like us. Our final mentor was a professor of Entrepreneurship from York College who provided us with several tips and tricks that he has learned in the business world.
While talking to the mentors one had mentioned a quote that stuck with me, “Jump first, then learn to fly on the way down”. This stuck because it motivated me to try new ideas and see what happens, I could either learn to fly and succeed or just fall and fail but climb back up and jump again.
Our mentors provided us with some deep insights on what we did well, needed to fix, and should add to our final pitch. We were given the rest of the day to collaborate with our group and complete more research. We were also given a time frame to create a rough pitch deck and present it for feedback from the other participants.
Our first presentation went decent overall, but some major changes were needed. For example, people still seemed unsure about our product and needed more information to clarify. We conducted more research and learned exactly how the bees create wax and other information. After our research, we all felt comfortable that we could tell a potential customer how the product is made, from bee to shelf.
Sunday was the final day of the event. We were given the whole morning to perfect everything and learn our material so that were could answer any questions the board of investors had. We worked with another group and listened to their presentation, and then we listened to theirs. This helped us gain great feedback for what we still needed to work on. When we were to pitch our final presentations, we asked to go first and had our wish granted.
We were nervous at first because the board consisted of local CEOs and executives, and the president of York College, Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith was there. However, we comforted ourselves with the fact that we had practiced this several times and could answer any questions that were thrown at us.
Our presentation was very successful and we were excited about the results. We had a lady approach us from Catamaran, a well-established accelerator based in Harrisburg. She told us to contact us if she had any questions or wanted to work with her. Personally, I created many connections that I didn’t have before and enjoyed working with the team that we had.
The 3DS program has helped me build my skills as an entrepreneur and I hope to continue working with this team and will attend more events through the J.D Brown Center in the future.
Link to the program’s website: http://3daystartup.org/
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