Quick & Dirty Business Model, Pitching and Prototyping

The Task, Part 1: Looking at the findings from our initial stage of research, pinpoint a problem area and develop a business idea that solves it. Ben and I had visited and observed local CSA farmers at work for our research, and one problem that had come up was the difficulty of recruiting new CSA members, due to the barriers people perceive around cooking with CSA produce – not knowing how to cook and otherwise use up all those vegetables every week.

My Solution: Community Cooks, a CSA-based cooking school in which the weekly classes are focused around the produce in that week’s CSA box. People signing up for a CSA could add on cooking classes with their subscription (either a full session to match the length of their subscription or a short session for the first month of their subscription), and people interested in trying a CSA could also try out the cooking classes by paying a drop-in price. The instructors would be recruited from the more-experienced cooks among the CSA membership, and would be paid per class taught. Check it out in more detail in the PDFs below:

Community Cooks pitch (PDF)

Community Cooks business model canvas (PDF)

The Task, Part 2: In class last week, we had a surprise trip to the farmer’s market to test our our pitches on real people. We went around the market in pairs and threes, approaching people and asking them to judge our pitches. Over the course of the morning we got a lot of practice with on-the-spot presentation skills, and learned mighty quickly to cut to the chase and be clear and concise and on-topic (although that is still easier said than done). Watch one of my pitches below:

The Task, Part 3: Our follow-up homework this week was to adapt/develop our business idea into a mobile app, create a digital prototype, and test it on at least 3 people. After a lot of rough sketches on paper, talking it through, and scribbling some more, I settled on an adaptation of the original Community Cooks idea to fit the context of a mobile app. Instead of cooking lessons, the app facilitates finding and sharing recipes based on local food. It has a focus on products and produce from local farms, which the farmers can update when things are harvested. When it came to digitizing the prototype and getting into the more formal testing style, I had a chance to refine the features based on each person’s feedback and reactions to the app. See a video of the latest test, and check out the full PDF prototype below:

Community Cooks app prototype (PDF)

Some thoughts on the process thus far:

1) Ideas are fun. Business ideas are hard. It’s one thing to come up with the grain of an idea as a potential solution to a problem, it’s another thing to flesh it out into a business idea, and it is a whole ‘nother thing to actually consider it in terms of viability and think about things like costs and revenue, distribution, and resources. My eyes actually glazed over a bit just typing that sentence. These are not things I’ve every really turned my mind to before, and it has been ridiculously intimidating and challenging trying to get my head around even approaching this kind of thinking. At the beginning of this quarter I posted about how I was setting out to embrace the idea of entrepreneurship, but embracing the actual gritty, grimy details of it is going to be the real challenge for me.

2) Ideas are fun. Talking about ideas is hard. Short and sweet still doesn’t come easily for me, and will take a lot of practice, rethinking, and revising, over and over and over.

3) Ideas are fun. Sketching ideas is fun, too. Stopping myself from going too high-fidelity, too fast (like, the second I touch a computer) is hard. I think I missed a lot of opportunity for feedback on the barebones idea of my app because people looked at the design-y rendering and got caught up in the details of layout and wording instead of considering the worth and usability of the actual functions themselves.

Onwards and upwards from here, I suppose.