Have you been kicking around a business idea in your head for a while, but lack the confidence to move forward with it? Have you recently started a business but don't have the customer demand you anticipated? The Customer Discovery workshop may be for you. It shows how to replace wishful thinking and uncertainty with customer feedback and validated facts - something called evidence-based entrepreneurship.
McLennan SBDC is one of five SBA pilot sites in the nation offering this immersive, real-world learning approach to "main street" small business entrepreneurs. The Customer Discovery workshop will be conducted over two weeks at City Center Waco at 801 Elm Ave., Waco, TX on August 9 - 23, 2016. Workshop fee is $25 per person, payable to City Center Waco.
The ideal candidate is an entrepreneur who has recently resolved to start a new business or one who simply has a novel business idea they’d like to test with direct, real-world input. Instruction will be delivered in a small cohort or group of teams, so space will be limited. Women and minority entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply.
The program is taught using a “flipped classroom.” All coursework is done prior to class to allow for student-led interaction and direct feedback from instructors. Teams are tasked with interviewing 20 or more potential customers in two weeks to determine “product-market fit” or whether a product solves a real market need.
This means, that after the opening workshop on August 9, teams will work on their own, outside the classroom, talking to potential customers about their business problems and needs. Teams reconvene for the closing workshop at the end of the two weeks on August 23 to present their findings in a “lessons learned” workshop.
After spending time in front of customers, teams often come away with significant customer insights that inform how they think about both their idea and next steps. Finding out if their product/service is a business opportunity worthy of pursuit - based on validated customer feedback - is considered "success."
In the words of a recent Customer Discovery workshop participant and SBDC client:
"This was a tectonic shift in our approach and understanding of what we have to do to succeed as a startup. The combination of the Lean Startup content from Steve Blank, etc. plus the brutally honest & challenging feedback is really powerful…it’s in a league of its own..."
On March 29, 2016, the winners of the SBA Lean for Main Street Training Challenge met with presidential advisors from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of Technology and Innovation, Douglas Rand, Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship and Daniel Correa, Senior Advisor for Innovation Policy, invited Lean Challenge teams to exchange perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of teaching lean methodologies to traditional or "Main Street" business owners.
Jane Herndon of McLennan SBDC shared why adopting a lean approach may be even more critical to traditional business owners. "Unlike a tech startup, the majority of Main Street entrepreneurs not only 'seed' their startup but continue to fund their businesses with their own money or that of friends and family. Families, communities and local economies suffer when a small business has to shut its doors because its business assumptions don't pan out." So, instead of launching one's company with a business plan full of unproven assumptions (guesswork), lean startup de-risks new venture or product introduction by emphasizing experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over guesses, and placing "small bets" over big, up-front investment.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a national network of resource partners who are uniquely well positioned to make lean tools and methodology accessible to small businesses in all corners of the country. Through a partnership with the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps ("I-Corps") program, the SBA is training and building the capacity of five of its field assistance centers to become experts in I-Corps instruction and will work closely with them as they adapt and deliver new variations of the program to targeted audiences in their regions. I-Corps, the curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), provides a framework of principles and practices challenging conventional notions about business model planning.
Link to the SBA's Office of Entrepreneurial Development original announcement.
The goal of the McLennan Community College Small Business Development Center is simple: connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs with the ideas, people, services and resources they need to succeed. Think of us as your business information concierge. Our seven-county service area includes McLennan, Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Hill and Johnson counties and our consulting services are always free and confidential.
New to the SBDC? Has it been over a year since your last visit? Click on the button above to request a free, confidential appointment.
The McLennan SBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, McLennan Community College and the North Texas SBDC. “The McLennan SBDC is a business consulting and training center of the North Texas SBDC. The North Texas SBDC Network serves 49 counties in North Texas.” Historical business photographs - courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
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4601 N. 19th, Bldg- A Room-36B | Waco, Texas 76708 | 1-800-349-SBDC (7232) or (254) 299-8141