“Contrary to popular opinion, the hustle is not a new dance step – it is an old business procedure” –Fran Lebowitz

October 28, 2014

TRAINING SESSION 4: COMMERCIALIZATION STRATEGY

October 8th, 2014

 

We had a packed schedule to tackle at today’s session. Not only did we have the weekly curriculum we also had two great guest speakers in today: Richard Cohen and HubCentrix, a local startup from St. Petersburg.

Richard Cohen’s story is an important one for entrepreneurs. Like many (if not all) entrepreneurs, things haven’t always gone as he planned and he spoke about overcoming tough times and staying motivated and in a good mindset. An entrepreneur from the age of 24, Richard always had a drive to succeed. 15 years after starting his mattress manufacturing company he had a desire to get his MBA, but with a family and a business he decided on a graduate degree in counseling and psychology. He learned how to better manage himself and the people he did business with. He was better at handling challenging situations, developing interpersonal relationships, and was able to better separate his business and his home life. This is a time when he became an avid runner as well. He called these coping skills, and they would be the skills that would see him through one of his toughest challenges.

In 2008, at the age of 60, he and his wife had to close their business; they lost their life savings, and one car. He had people help him with his resume, he looked at career websites, and finally he was honest, “I just didn’t want to work.” He said after all they had been through he just wasn’t close to being in the right mindset. He remembered an idea he had once after completing the Chicago Marathon that he never really entertained again until then: he was going to run across the country.

On February 14th, he touched the sand in Jacksonville Beach and took off running. He ran 20 miles a day, mapping out his route the night before each run. He and his wife stayed in motels, with friends, wherever they could as he made his journey. For 11 months and 1 week they did this. Richard ran 2,350 miles, over 600 hours, and finally made it to the west coast.

Feeling back on track after the run, he and his wife retired to Tampa where he began to network and look for new opportunities. Putting his entrepreneurial experience to good use he became a small business consultant helping clients grow and expand their operation.  As he wrapped up his story he said, “Being an entrepreneur is an adventure, you have to manage yourself, be honest with yourself, and know that it all depends on you.”

Richard’s story proves that no set-back is the end, and that by using all of your experience and skills you can create a new path for yourself. I don’t think there was a person in that room who wasn’t impressed and inspired by this gentleman.

Our second group of guest speakers was from HubCentrix, a local company that specializes in document storage, creation, and sharing.  It’s very similar to Dropbox but with more services and capabilities.

The HubCentrix team gave a great presentation that was particularly helpful to our participants. They explained their value proposition, market analysis, Meta data, how they discovered their market, future projects, the benefits and features of their product, bringing to life some of the earlier Startup Quest coursework.

After their presentation, 1 ambassador from each team got to go sit through a private tutorial with HubCentrix then take it back to the team to see if they would use it for this program. HubCentrix has offered free trials of their services for any Startup Quest team who wanted to use it. We had 3 teams elect to use it and we can’t wait to see what they say.

If you’re interested in HubCentrix check out their website at: http://www.hubcentrix.com/index.html

After we wrapped things up with the guest speakers it was time to get to work.  I saw a lot of laptops and notebooks out, hopefully a good sign that teams are tackling their tasks and steadily moving forward with the business plan. I also heard a few questions about the pitches: How long would they have? Would there be time for questions after?

The answers are, each team will have 8 minutes total to deliver their pitch and an additional 2 minutes will be given for questions from the judges’ panel.

You can really tell by week 4 teams have begun to settle in their roles. As I looked around I noticed mentors talking less and participants speaking up more. Team leaders are beginning to emerge, members show varying levels of initiative and work to create balance, and people begin to feel comfortable within their groups. These team dynamics are common and it will be critical to the team’s success on how they handle it. Already you can begin to see what teams will propel forward over these hurdles and which ones will have more of a struggle. However, as we have learned from past sessions, team struggles do not mean they won’t create a winning business plan, and sometimes passionate disagreements can help create a better plan.

It’s the end of week 4, next week we’re officially halfway to the Pitch Contest!