This semester has been one of the most edifying periods of time in my life. One that I will never forget, or take for granted. This semester my business partner and I started a company called Resense and it has been a wild ride. From researching and curating our product: the Memory Box to competing in national competitions, every step of the way was a learning experience. Last month we traveled to Texas to compete in the TCU Values and Ventures Competition. While we did not win, we were able to take all the feedback we received from that competition and learn from it. Now, in less than a week we will be competing in another national competition called E-Fest in Minneapolis. If you have followed along on this journey, you will have realized that I love my cliche inspirational quotes and I have to end on one from George Bernard Shaw: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
Throughout my life, change and accepting that I was wrong were two of the most difficult things for me. This was mostly because that meant that I needed to swallow my pride and admit that I am not perfect but also that with change nothing will be how it was. However, recently as I have matured I have been able to accept, embrace, and look forward to changing. Like Shaw says in his quote, I realized that change, in most cases, means that something was getting better or progressing. I was learning a lesson and bettering myself personally or something was getting fixed leaving a better version than before. That is progress.
This is something that we hoped for as we analyzed the feedback from the TCU Competition. We know that our product is not perfect and the judge’s thoughts, critiques, and ideas allowed us to see the major areas in need of improvement before we compete at E-fest. With our pitch, we focused on the pain that we were solving and how our product was able to create a tangible impact for potentially millions of people. However, we were missing data to back that up. We were forgetting one major thing: anyone can have an amazing product but if no one was willing to purchase it, then it is worthless. Before TCU we had some engagement on our website and over 20 inquiries of people interested in purchasing the Memory Box, but only one followed through. This was a major problem and the judges pointed that out. While eye-opening, we did what any good entrepreneur would do: pivot. Something is not working, so we need to change what we are doing in order to get it to work. After some analysis, we realized that we were targeting the wrong audience when sharing our product. We initially targeted care facilities directors, but we soon came to realize that they don’t have the time to test our product with residents. So this week, we did some research and started to target Activities Directors. We also changed our sales pitch, we offered to host activities nights at their facilities and bring the boxes as welcome gifts to introduce them to the residents and the directors themselves. After that change, just this week we have got 5 AD’s on board to test out our product in over 7 facilities with scheduled dates for the activity sessions. Shaw was right, with a pretty simple change, we were able to see almost triple the progress that we have seen all semester. This will not only add credibility to our pitch at E-fest but it will also show the need for our products. We will be quoting some of these activity directors who thanked us continually for being excited about helping these residents and for finding new ways to help their memory recall and keep them active.
Next, some of the feedback that we received in person was regarding the design of the box. We do agree that it does look like a prototype. We decided to help increase the aesthetics before E-fest. We redesigned some of the materials that are going to be in the box to make sure everything is consistent and matches. We also made it look more professional by adding more of our branding and redesigning the information handout which is the first thing the user sees when opening the box. This not only makes our product look better, but it looks more professional.
Finally, to help ensure our success at E-fest we made changes based on the feedback we received from the judges and our customers. Many of the products were beneficial to the customers, but we came to find out that the Coloring and Sudoku product was frustrating. We forgot that not everybody loves sudoku but some love Coloring and vice versa. So having a product that combined them both was destined to cause frustration. These boxes are meant to relax and stimulate the senses not frustrate the user. So, we decided to design and produce a whole separate Adult Coloring Activity. We made sure the designs were big and simple enough for our users and we are excited to hear back from them if this solved the problem that we were facing. We are also hoping to decrease the frustration of the caregivers by redesigning our survey system and asking better questions that can be answered quicker because we realized that many of these care facilities are short-staffed and do not have the time to answer a lengthy survey after each box has been used.
So to conclude. George Bernard Shaw was right. While the changes we made might seem minimal. My business partner and I have already seen vast improvements in one week. We grew the business in one week more than we have this whole semester, simply by looking at the problem from a different perspective. I guess this is what entrepreneurship is all about. Finding a problem, begin to try to solve it, and if your approach does not work, pivot until you find the perfect solution. For a while there we were pretty discouraged. No one was purchasing or genuinely interested in our product. However, by shifting our perspective and looking at the needs of our customers more deeply we just realized that we were talking to the wrong people. Once we fixed that, we have yet to have an Activities Director not schedule an activity session with us and partner with our company. We cannot have progress without change and sometimes that change is just shifting our perspective slightly.