Hey there! My name is Levi & I’m a co-founder of the military upcycling startup Chute.
As we approach our first round of product testing scheduled for next week, let’s take a moment to reflect on how exactly we got here.
Enter mid-October 2017 on a typical Thursday evening, seemingly no different from the prior or the following. Boyce and I were discussing social entrepreneurship in his apartment when we realized that Veterans are an underserved group. “How could we use entrepreneurship to serve them?”, we wondered. Suddenly, his brain had a baby: “What if we made parachutes into hammocks, and Veterans received a portion of the proceeds?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. “That’s golden, man! Let me write that down!” The two of us became immediately excited over this idea. We stopped doing homework and instead fleshed out what ended up as Chute. Our first Business Model Canvas was drafted that very same night. Unfortunately, this was around the time of midterm exams and we lacked the proper time to work on Chute.
Fast forward one month – it’s Friday, November 10th. The setting is Pittsburgh, at the annual Pittsburgh Startup Weekend business competition hosted by Alphalab Gear. Attendees have a chance to pitch their idea to a crowd, and popular vote chooses the businesses that will be competing. Upon my relatively unpracticed pitch, the crowd loved Chute and voted us into the next round. We formed a team that covered all bases – product development, marketing, operations – and put our noses to the grindstone.
Thus began the most interesting weekend of my adult life. Our team of five worked virtually nonstop in order to build Chute in 54 hours. Simultaneously, it was Veterans Day weekend – extremely convenient timing for our Veteran-benefit business. Originally we wanted to create hammocks from the parachutes, but this changed to drawstring backpacks as we needed more of a foot-in-the-door product to begin with. We solidified what Chute is, why we do it, how we do it, what our goals are, and how we were to reach said goals.
Hard work pays off – Chute secured 2nd place in the competition out of four teams. This victory ignited a fire of excitement within each of our co-founders. We knew two things for certain: what we had created was a viable business, and our momentum could not possibly be wasted.
In order to keep the train rolling, we applied to develop Chute in the VentureLab program at Grove City College’s Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation. In VentureLab, one develops their business with coaching & resources from the college. Each week we present our progress to an advisor, work around current roadblocks, and leave with a greater sense of direction.
Six months ago we sat on a couch discussing this idea called ‘Chute,’ and we now have our first prototype to be tested soon. Progress only leaves us hungry for more progress, so we implore you to continue following us on our journey to help Veterans.
Visit https://chutestartup.wixsite.com/chute for more information, and add us on Facebook @ChuteStartup!”