Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

How to Start a Startup: Roundup of How 2 Tuesdays

How 2 Tuesdays at the Blank Center are short, workshop style sessions meant to bring you very specific, user friendly instruction on some of the most important things you need to know for your venture. They follow the journey of a startup, from business idea to scalable business, touching on every stage in between.

What’s first? Validating your idea. In How 2 See If Your Business is Feasible, Chair of the Entrepreneurship Division Andrew Corbett encouraged the entrepreneurs in the room to discuss their ideas with friends, professors, potential customers and competitors, industry experts, and suppliers in order to get feedback. Professor Corbett posed a question: “Ask yourself this – what do you not know about this business opportunity?” He went on to reframe the exercise of feasibility as addressing “what don’t you know.” Meaning, define your most important questions and take action to answer those questions. As a last piece of advice, Professor Corbett urged discipline. When you have conversations with others, be clear about what answers you are looking for and you will be able to move your business idea forward faster.

Professor Corbett also emphasized the importance of capturing and communicating the unique value of what you’re doing:  “You’re making your play because it’s better, stronger, faster, cheaper, more efficient, it’s more something. You’ve got a value proposition that you hope to develop.” To help you better define customer jobs, gains, and pains, Beth Goldstein, business consultant and Babson professor, then introduced Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas in How 2 Discover Your Customer. What tasks are your customers trying to get done? What pains are they encountering? And what solutions does your product provide?

Value Proposition Canvas is illustrated here with the example of a new taxi smartphone application. Slide courtesy of Beth Goldstein.

Professor Goldstein suggested four research methods to discover your customers’ needs: surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and ethnography/observation. And don’t be concerned if what you learn takes you back a step and you return to working on your space or target market. Professor Goldstein said, “Customer discovery is not and business in general is not lots of Eureka moments… it’s a build.”

When you have your target market clearly defined, it’s time to move on to marketing your startup. Dana Harris, co-founder of Red Javelin Communications, emphasized knowing your customer so you can “deliver the right message in the right way” in How 2 Market Your Startup.  What’s the right message? Simple, compelling, and consistent messaging that communicates your value proposition. And what’s the right way? There many marketing channels to consider, so Dana ultimately recommended looking for where your areas of personal passion, areas where you can provide unique value, and areas that reach your potential customers intersect, and then picking channels and tactics that target that intersection.

Slide courtesy of Dana Harris.

Specifically for early stage startup teams, Dana suggested committing to content creation and to social media frequency. She urged, “The most important thing you’re doing is creating content.” She added some very practical advice for sharing content and posting on social media:

  • Blog once a week
  • Twitter 3-5 times a day
  • Facebook once a day

Finally, Angela Sanchez, MBA ’11 and founder of Artyfactos, gave us a behind-the-scenes look in How 2 Get Your Product Ready for Retail. She highlighted five tactics, including setting pricing for different channels (wholesale vs. direct-to-consumer), taking clear photos, writing very detailed descriptions, creating line sheets with pricing and information for retailers, and having samples on hand.

Angela also shared a personal story about how she was able to introduce her product to new retailers. She was having difficulty connecting with sales reps – until she leveraged her new network from the WIN Lab, CWEL’s eight-month accelerator program for woman entrepreneurs in Boston and Miami: “I was lucky enough to be selected to be part of the WIN Lab Accelerator here in Boston. And that was what really changed for us. Because my mentor […] is in the clothing industry, but she works with sales reps and she introduced me.” From that connection, Angela went on to network further and Artyfactos is now in fifty boutiques in eight states.

Angela’s story is a terrific reminder not only about the importance of building and activating your network, but also about the richness of entrepreneur resources available to you at Babson. The Blank Center is thrilled to be a hub, connecting you with the support you need in your entrepreneurial journey. Through the Butler Launch Pad alone, we jam pack the academic year with learning experiences, mentoring, and over 80 events and workshops.

In the How 2 Tuesday series specifically, we are excited to welcome David Chang, entrepreneur (5 startups/exits) and angel investor (40 startups), back to campus next week to share advice about pitching and fundraising. Professor Angelo Santinelli will follow a few weeks later to answer your questions about term sheets. Plus, we will have a special How 2 Tuesday session in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week with Babson’s first ever Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Joe Zhou. We hope to see you there!