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Great Ideas Hide Behind Challenges
I entered the Laurier Launchpad program with a vision of doing for lunch what Tom’s has done for shoes; creating a social food venture that operates similar to a “one-for-one” model. This vision came to me after listening to a fellow speaker at Ignite Charity Waterloo, Kelly-Sue Labus, CEO of Nutrition for Learning, speak about the need to address the funding gap being experienced by school nutrition programs in Canada. Their program operates in over a hundred schools, and is supported by over a thousand volunteers, who provide nutrition for over 9000 students.
I believe that the food and security needs of our children should be addressed with a local, financially sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and health-conscious solution. Simply stated, I want to serve great lunches while donating a portion of net-profit to Nutrition for Learning.
As a graduating Laurier student who had just completed the BU311 Entrepreneurship course, I was ready to hit the ground running! But I had a problem; what do you serve as a great lunch? The market is flooded with sandwich shops, pizza vendors, shawarma hubs, etc. My model seemed contingent on serving a great, unknown lunch.
On January 8, 2013 I stepped foot into the Laurier Launchpad flipped classroom with my new venture “Human Food Collective”. Instead of conventional lectures, LaunchPad provides me with a wide scope of resources and tools to use throughout the term to validate my business model. The flipped classroom model expects me to identify problems, and then step into the real world to test solutions. This class won’t teach you how to build a business; it will push you to create one that works. This course breeds an iterative mentality. At the beginning of each class, students share weekly findings and give constructive feedback to other entrepreneurs building their ventures!
So back to my problem: great idea, no viable solution. After exploring several options of a gourmet salad and sandwich catering company, I felt at a standstill. Experimenting with my idea made me realize the capital, space, equipment and storage capacity for fresh ingredients was daunting and an unrealistic business model. And then, a sudden and unexpected coincidence emerged – a pivot.
Through the process of testing my business model,I was introduced to a local entrepreneur with an idea. This entrepreneur was entering the proof of concept stage with a convenient, healthy, fresh and local weekly meal solution. The product was simple, unique, and popular on social media channels. She even had a small group of family and friends testing different combinations – eager to try more! After meeting with this fellow entrepreneur, we agreed to put our efforts together and collaborate in product development and business model development.
What does this mean? What are the implications? What iterations needed to be made to my previous business model?
Being invited to collaborate on the new product meant joining a team. No longer was this my “Human Food Collective” business model. I was now bringing supportive puzzle pieces and insights to a prototype. The title of ‘Founder’ became less important than the concept of ‘team’. Each of us brings ideas and resources to the product and business model development, each of us are responsible for its creation.
Lesson Two: A great idea goes through big changes.
In the Laurier LaunchPad we learned how small iterations to your value proposition or idea will change other components of your business model. These aren’t small changes, and it can seem daunting to adapt the whole model. However, these iterations also mean learning more about your customers and how you can solve their problems and needs. Big Changes = Big Learnings.
Lesson Three: Stick to your values.
“A partnership is a compromise” is a piece of advice that has been passed on, and I agree to an extent. Any relationship will result in multiple perspectives on decision making. The process of joining a team has forced me to be very clear about my underlying values and which of these I want to emphasize through this business.
This is just the beginning. Small changes have big implications, and great ideas hide behind challenges.
4th Year Communications & Business Minor