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Entrepreneurship is Design.

Posted November 8, 2012

Live blogging from the Inspire. Design. Do. event at Kendall's Historic Federal Building. Stay tuned...

5:00 pm

Wrap-Up from Jon Moroney:

The thing that connects designers and entrepreneurs is, we are trained to learn how to learn. 

Creative people's minds tend to wander. That's why we put pipe cleaners and modeling clay on the table.

The point of today was not to tell you to go out and start a business. The point was to change your experiences. Zoom out. Look at the whole experience. Zoom in. Look at the details. Don't be afraid to fail. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Starting a business is an end result of this mindset. entrepreneuralism is a way of attacking problems and encouraging constant change. This is the way of thinking that leads to positive experiences. Thanks!

Questions from the floor:

How do you keep motivated when your business moves from innovation to maintenance?

Craig: That's when perserverence and tenacity comes it. There is a certain freedom to being your own boss and determining your own future. But when you're working for someone else, you don't have to worry about mortgaging your house to make the next payroll. Entrepreneurs have to worry about that. 

So what the things you're looking at? What markets are looking for new ideas?

Craig: You want to leverage your experience and your passions. If I were just coming out of college, I would be interested in the nano sciences; I like the things that can positively change lives. There's a world of opportunity there. There are a lot of geeks in the labs that would love to get with a business major and build something to enable and change people's lives.



More advice from Craig: Know what the market is. KNow the problem you're REALLY trying to solve. It may not be what you think. Get out into the world and find out what is really happening, then take it out of context and re-examine it. 

Mike: What are some good personal habits that will fuel how you see the world and identify problems?

Craig: Perform a personal SWOT. Try not to filter every idea through personal experiences. Look with fresh eyes. Find a problem you are passionate about. Be tenacious and passionate. Remember: The solution you think you have today is not the solution you will have in the end. Understand your business, know the dynamics and have a great team. Be flexible, be adaptive, be open, be willing to realize you don't have the perfect solution and learn from your experiences and mistakes. And ask the question, "What not?"


Our next speakers: Craig Hall, president of Lee Shore Equities, who has started 8 companies and 2 non-profits. He’s on the board of Cascade Engineering, NewNorth Center for Design in Business, Lakeshore Advantage, Nucraft Furniture, Alpena Power Company and is an Entrepreneurship Task Member at Purdue University.

Mike Morrin from StartGarden. He handles the investment side of things, and worked with Craig Hall at a company called Digital Commerce. He has worked in product development, software and even the music business. StartGarden is a 15 million dollar venture capitol fun.

Craig: Entrepreneurship is about inspired design. The people you associate with can influence your attitude. They can be inspiration. No matter how succcessful or down you might be, there's nothing like learning from your peers. The game of entrepreneurship is creating something out of nothing through inspired design, and make a living out of it. Craig went to engineering school, and engineers solve problem, by taking a calculated risk. If you look around, you can see problems, whether it's an item that breaks, or a health challenge in your family. 

Another consideration for Craig, was how he could make money in his sleep? The answer is a scalable business, one that puts out more than puts in.

Mike: There's a difference between an idea and a business? What is that?

Craig: Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone here probably has several. Solving a problem doesn't mean you can build a company around the solution. Invention is different from commercialization. You might have a passion for something, but you have to take a step back and ask, what is the real opportunity? 

Mike: From a business standpoint, what are some attributes you see in the marketplace? Have you had to change an idea or invention because of what you have discovered?

Craig: No inventor has the end solution. You can overengineer something. You think it's the perfect solution, but you don't know until the market tells you. That's what lean start-up is all about. Get the product out there and let the market guide it. 




Questions from the audience:

When did Miles know his idea was good? When he started getting paid for it.

What was his lowest low? When someone he respected gave negative feedback, and Miles realized that the businessman didn't actually look at the idea.

Is it hard to be a single founder? Yes. Miles doesn't have an accounting or design or engineering background. He has to find people to supplement his needs. If he did find a partner, that person would meet his weaknesses.

What does Miles recommend as the first step that should be taken? In Miles case, he spoke to a patent attorney. But just talking about the idea and putting it into words, and talking to business professionals.

Did Miles get stuck between having the idea and making the prototype? Yes, and that point was applying for, getting turned down, and finally getting the funding to create a prototype. Losing a bunch of competitions was discouraging, but he never gave up.

And where can the product be bought? It's not quite ready yet, but he's taking orders for when it is!


Now we're hearing from Miles Smith. 22-year-old Smith, a student at Grand Valley State University, had an idea for using break-away technology on fishing lures, which has helped him win start-up money from several investors. He started his company, BAHRS, LLC, as a vehicle to develop and innovate new products in the sport fishing industry. A business major, he doesn't consider himself entrepreneurial, although when he was 11 he had 3 paper routes, and used his paycheck for candy and Legos. In college as a freshman, he would buy longboards on Craig's List and flip them. He'd buy them for 30-40 dollars, and sell them for 150 dollars, which paid for books, rent, and lots of Yesterdog hotdogs. 

Miles used the anology of polevaulting. teh hardest part, was standing at the beginning of the runway and taking the first step toward flinging himself into the air. As president of the GVSU Entrepreneur Club, he knows the hardest part is taking the first step. There are a lot of excuses and reasons to ot take the first step. And that's sad, because taking the first step isn't that hard.

Miles first step was an competition, where he pitched an idea. Then he went salmon fishing, where he kept losing lures. What if there were w break-away lure, designed so fishermen lost only the hook, not the entire lure. He pitched that idea, and came in third. He then took it to a business plan competiton, which was much more intense. He began to see the viability of his product, and got a lot of feedback, including the question, "What happens when you catch a fish? Won't the lure break?" (The answer is "set the drag.") Miles pitched his idea at 14 different competitions, and came away with $20,000 and numerous scholarships. But the best part was funding he got last December and the opportunity to design his product to make it simpler to manufacture and marketable. 

Miles finds that he and other college-age entrepreneurs need to be confident in their idea, but listen to others who have done it before, because they are probably smarter. If you are passionate about moving your business forward, don't let others take away your energy and motivation. Surround yourself with helpful people who believe in you. 



Jon Moroney tells us that all the problems and trends we just addresseds were gathered in the last two weeks. We were addressing real-world problems. And all the great ideas pulled from different disciplines, and no one used their phones to get more ideas. Well-done.



And here are the pitches!

Mobile Market
Lack of access of fresh food in urban markets
Movable Farmer’s Market such as a food truck
Must be a subscriber to get the service.
Designed for the 20-somethings who have the money to spend on fresh food.
Routes would run on a pre-determined map, and work out of neighborhood distribution centers.
The trucks would only run weekdays after 5:00 pm.
(Ten seconds to spare!)

Problem: Best way to utilize share spaces in urban communities, and people working together. Persona: A 16-year-old entrepreneurial girl, named Michelle. Solution: All those empty malls! Solution: YEM: Youth Entreprenurial Mall of Michigan, where Michelle can take business classes and sell her product.

Problem: Getting transportation schedules in the hands of customers. An app that would get the information into riders’ hands, to increase ridership. Phone apps that would make it easier to find transportation and transfer between busses.

Problem: (first, we all stood up and jumped up and down three times.) An open ended play system that harvests the energy generated by children playing. An area where single moms can bring their kids to play, and will utilize the kid’s energy in a sustainable fashion.

Schoolpons! A mobile app for teens in high school who want to balance school and social lives. Learning on line through different apps, and the more you learn the more coupons you get to redeem at local businesses. Affects teens, teachers who need lesson plans, and can employ teachers who can provide live help, and a way for businesses to generate sales. Possible subscription sales could lead to more Schoolpons.

Vanessa is a teenage girl who wants to meet Kayla and Jodi at the mall in one hour. The girls get their bus tickets online, and book together. It encourages them to rely on public transportation and not their parents. Malls and local businesses can help support the app, by scheduling events at the same time and encouraging ticketing through the app.

Problem: How does one balance work and social life? Young professionals who rely heavily on their smart phones for social interaction. A mobile app that changes the user interface, and shares work apps with personal devices, and social apps with work devices. It provides emotional stability between home and work life, provides balance.

Problem: If you live in the city, access to a grocery store is difficult. And if you’re a parent, you don’t have much time to shop for your kids. PICKY is the app. Designed for busy parents who don’t have time to make dinner. This app combines recipes recommended by friends, with fresh organic healthy ingredients – delivered! Can subscribe and get the same ingredients, or order special one-time items. I love PICKY!

Problem: You’re late for work and there’s no time for breakfast. This app will wake you up, and give you a traffic route that include your favorite place to eat, and provide traffic updates, so you know you can get something to eat and still be on time for work. Phase II will work with restaurants who will develop pre-packaged breakfasts. Users will get an RFID card, take the fastest route, scan their card and get their breakfast and go!

Problem: Undergraduate students with smart phones, living in shared urban spaces, with no transportation. Hungry? What to do? Steal from roommates? Subscription based model that provides prepared meals for students. Utilize home-based kitchens that provide off-campus college students a warm meal and a place to meet and eat. Often many historic homes would provide meals in the parlor. Do it again! Heritage Hill homes can be renovated with a common kitchen where food is prepared for residents. Grab and go breakfast and dinner, and a family-style meal. Communal kitchens would prepare the meals and distribute.

Problem: Parking and commute time in urban networks. Solution: A common network of bike sharing. Take a bike at a hub network, head for a pre-determined destination, and leave the bike there. Saves parking space, parking fees, don’t need a car. How much will the bikes cost? An app will show where available bikes are located, and riders will pay as they ride. Users will save money and the environment. Incorporate with the city transit system. Eliminates circling for parking space, and spending money on meters. Can grab a bike and ride it to the event, and not have to worry about returning it.

We have a retired male professional (grandpa) who is nervous about using public transportation, because he’s unsure of the schedule. So how will grandpa get to Wal-Mart? A smart phone app with a GPS will lead him step by step. Tapped into the location-based app, as he travels on the bus, he will receive phone coupons for stores along his route. He could save 40% on cheese sticks at Meijer.



3:04 pm

It appears that ideas are coming together. A lot of high-fiving going on!


3:00 pm

Nex step: Taking the idea and turning it into a viable business idea. And according to Moroney, almost anything goes when delivering the pitch. The group can choose a representative, or do it as a team. They can sing or dance, if they want. The only catch: Deliver in two minutes. Pressure!


2:45 pm

The colorful sticky notes that littered the tables like autumn leaves have been moved aside, and at each table, sketches of all shapes and sizes dominate the scene.



Jon Moroney, a Kendall professor who works with Tiger Studios took a moment from table-hopping to reiterate what is happening: the groups were given a series of variables: A person, a trend, a problem. For example: 1. A male blue-collar worker. 2. People are working more, making it difficult to balance work and life. 3. Trend: People are using social media to engage in activities. You pick a person you are designing for, one or two trends, and a problem to solve. Combine the three variables, and what kind of ideas pop up? Now that they've gone through that initial exercise, participants are answering 7 questions to turn their idea into a business model. 



Time is flying. Now teams are charged with picking one idea and framing it. "Framing ideas" is to develop and link ideas  with each other. So, participants are trying to arrange and organize their sticky notes into a cohesive idea. (The volume in the room just got louder!)




Moving to another table:  Problem: Grocery shopping for a visually impared shopper. How do blind people shop currently? There are so many obstacles. Seeing-eye grocery carts?



Persona: Undergraduate student at community college. Problem: Access to groceries. Trend: People are using their smart phones. Solution: Develop a smartphone app, but to do what? Fresh groceries with pizza delivery? But what to do in the winter?  Or do we develop an app to help find healthy restaurants with loca food choices. Or develop an app to coordinate ride sharing to grocery stores?



While the teams are getting started, here is a brief recap of Dr. Rosen's welcome: Be bold. Stay bold. 2. Don’t waste your time, don’t think that anything you are doing is a waste of time. Data, ideas – it’s all an opportunity. 3. Don’t let perfection stand in the way of achievement. Don’t make it perfect – we’re all about rapid iteration and making it better as we go forward. My job is to help you make a difference, and create an environment where you can make a difference. From materials to construction methods to adaptive reuse, we’re about changing the environment. You are charged with shaping an environment that is always moving and changing. In Grand Rapids, this is a creative community with a head for design, it’s place that honors innovation, and it’s about entrepreneurship, but the assets of the community cannot thrive without the support of the community. It’s Kendall’s job to create a place where ideas can flourish.

And go!


Gayle DeBruyn's table: Figuring out the young guy's persona. Talking about education, food, transportation, access to fresh produce. We have to pick one person, one problem, one trend.



Here we go! Step 1, 30 minutes: Teams are beginning to brainstorm creative new business ideas based on variables including trends, personas, and problems.


1:59 pm

Message from Kendall President Dr. Rosen: Stay bold!


1:56 pm

Kendall Professor Jon Moroney is welcoming the crowd. Groups of 5-6 are sitting at tables supplied with giant post-it pads, dry-erase markers, play-doh and pipe cleaners.



Getting set up for Part 1: Education and Creativity. Room is filling up with students, faculty, entrepreneurs and business people from west Michigan, getting ready for workshop instructions.

Many thanks to sponsors Tiger Studio, Start Garden, The Factory and Kendall!


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