How do you cook?

Here is the final AC4D presentation of Feast for Days, a collaborative cooking business co-founded by Jonathan Lewis and I. Enjoy!

Pitching our Businesses

Hello friends! This week at AC4D we are learning how to pitch the social businesses we have been working on. Here is my first online attempt. Is there any way I can make the pitch clearer? What do you think I should consider adding or removing? I would love to hear your feedback. You can e-mail me at or tweet me at @bdfranck. Thanks for your support!

Social Entrepreneur: The Card Game

We students at the Austin Center For Design have been reading and discussing the idea of social entrepreneurship lately. Social entrepreneurs are individuals who are willing to start risky, innovative entities that both create profit and make people’s lives better. In one paper which we explored the authors, Roger Martin and Sally Osberg, argued that entrepreneurship is “a special, innate ability”. I disagree. While many seem convinced that only exceptionally motivated and intensely talented people can be successful entrepreneurs, I instead believe that environmental factors have a much more important role in encouraging social entrepreneurs to emerge. If we want to promote social entrepreneurship we should be less focused on the task of unearthing these super-people and more focused on creating an environment that this behavior to thrive. I have created a card game to show how important the environment is in the promotion or discouragement of social entrepreneurs. Print the cards and give it a try! Here are the rules:

Game Contents
– 6 Nontrepreneur cards
– 40 Entrepreneur level up cards
– 24 Obstacle cards
– 24 Opportunity cards
– 24 Wicked Problem Cards
– 50 Financial profit cards
– 50 Social profit cards
– 1 Die

How to Win
Gain the most many financial and social profit cards before the game ends.

Set Up
Shuffle the opportunity, obstacle, and wicked problem cards into a single deck. Place the social profit, financial profit, and level up cards in three separate piles. Give each player a nontrepreneur card.

How to Play
Everyone starts at a level zero entrepreneur or “nontrepreneur”. Players take turns drawing a card from the main deck. If they draw a wicked problem card, they must fight the problem. If they draw an opportunity or obstacle card they must level up or down the indicated levels.

How to Fight
Compare your current level to that of the problem. If your level is lower, you lose the fight and gain nothing. If your level is equal or higher you may roll the die and collect the corresponding number financial cards. Then roll the die again and collect the corresponding number of social cards.

Game End
The game is over when the main deck is exhausted. Then every player counts his or her social and financial cards. The player with the greatest total sum of cards wins!

Have fun!

Download the Social Entrepreneur Cards >

I Wish I Had Though of That!

This week our mission was to create an artifact to show the relationship between creativity, strategy, and knowledge. For fun I chose to craft my thing to have the feel of a children’s book. However, I think the subject matter remains a little too abstract for any children I know. Does the naive approach render the story enjoyable or downright irritating? I’ll let you be the judge.

“I Wish I Had Thought of That!” A Design Story by Ben

Feast For Days: An Initial Strategic Intent

Image by cliff1066

It is less than a month until our meal assembly service, Feast For Days, enters the piloting phase. As we move closer to this milestone it is important for Jonathan and I to begin thinking about what future business targets we want to aim for. Below is the first iteration of our statement of strategic intent. What do you think?

Our plan is that Feast For Days becomes the most widely used meal assembly service in the Austin area. We plan on achieving this though a low per-serving price point, strategic partnerships with nutrition relief agencies, and whimsical branding that targets a broader audience than the competition. We aspire to see our service attract low-income families and time-strapped, health conscious young adults which are both largely untapped demographics in the meal assembly industry.

Lesssons learned from building a prototype

This quarter I created a prototype for a web app called Healthify. This application allows people to find and easily modify recipes in real-time to make them healthier. The goal of the app is to encourage individuals to try healthier recipes through a user interface that encourages experimentation and gives immediate feedback of the benefits of healthier ingredients.

I learned a lot during the creation of this web app. First, I learned the value of working through the higher level concepts of an idea before diving into the details. As a developer I have a bad habit of rushing to coding as soon as possible. However, this tends to result in creating products that are poorly thought out and have little value to the end user. Working through the higher level ideas of the app and considering the goals and needs of the user allowed me to create a prototype that fit better with what the user desires.

I also learned the value of iteration. Forcing myself through the cycle of making, evaluating, and refine allowed me to see the issues with my app earlier and work through them. If I didn’t move through this process the value of Healthify as a product would have been questionable at best.

Finally, I learned that explicitly wire framing every screen of my application saves on valuable development time. I have a bad habit of coding too quickly and then making poor interaction decisions which I need to redo later. Making every frame allows me to quickly see the issues with the app and then change them before I spent time coding.

However, there are a couple things I would do differently next time. First, I would not create my prototype in HTML. I wasted way too much time fiddling around with random bugs. Also, I realized that potential clients would not appreciate all my extra effort anyway since the end result is visually indistinct from other types of digital prototypes. Next time I will strongly consider making a clickable PDF instead since it creates the same effect for end users with significantly less development time.

Secondly, I would show my idea to more people during the development process. After my final presentation of Healthify I received a couple ideas for my app that I wish I discovered sooner in the ideation process. Next time I will try to get as much feedback as possible to improve my app’s experience.

Overall I am very excited how Healthily turned out. Through rapidly iteration I was able to create a working prototype of a product that I feel has real value to people who want to eat healthier. In the coming months I hope to build Healthify into a real product that encourages people to try baking with healthier food choices.

View the Healthify work flow pdf >

View the live Healthify web app prototype >

Researching solo? Never again.

After one month into the second quarter of AC4D I have one big takeaway: doing design researching solo is the worst. Don’t do it.

I learned this lesson the hard way. At the start of this quarter I decided not to pair with another student for research. I thought I had good reason to do so. I wanted to pursue a unique topic: how food is distributed to low-income families through food pantries. Also, I desired the flexibility and nimbleness that is inherent in working alone. Arranging and executing meetings is significantly easier when there is one less schedule to factor in.

However, my perceptions of researching without a partner changed once I got onto the field. I quickly discovered how hard it was to capture data when I was completely occupied with trying to facilitate a meaningful conversation. Attempting to juggle asking questions, taking notes, and snapping pictures proved to be an almost impossible task. I was constantly frustrated by the lack of data points I was able to capture in each interview.

Things became even worse in the synthesis process. I found that a lack of another perspective meant I was frequently getting into mental ruts. It was extremely hard to effectively navigate through the overwhelming amounts of research data without someone else to provide balance and focus.

Thankfully, I have recently been able to pair up with Jonathan who is also researching low-income individuals. Having another brain involved in the synthesis and ideation process is proving to be invaluable. I find that our combined effort allows us to synthesize data at an exponentially higher rate than doing it alone.

While working alone enabled me to easily get to people, it made it significantly more difficult to record and synthesize the resulting data. As such I am now convinced of the value of having another person with you both on the field and back in the research war room. Next time I do design research I’m going to make it a priority to have someone else at my side.