Monday, August 4, 2014

The 2014 Innovation Showcase: From Inspiration to Motivation

By Melissa Dylan

Ideas are easy.  Mine hit me mid-project.  I had just learned how to sew.  After discovering that Joann Fabrics rendered part of their product unusable by putting their logo on it I sat on the floor of my apartment and vowed, Scarlett O’Hara-style, to never shop at Joann Fabrics again.  My resolve failed the next day when I realized I had no other local options, and that shopping online for fabric is the worst.  The resolve restarted when I vowed to build the greatest chain of fabric and hobby stores of all time.  I really need to stop vowing things, because it’s clearly getting out of hand.

Ideas are one thing.  Execution is another.

A woman of my word, I started doing market research, some of which consisted of me approaching strangers at the mall and asking them to pretty please fill out a survey.  I learned that:

  1. There is a huge gap in the sewing/hobby marketplace in small town America
  2. It’s a huge growth industry
  3. If I’m going to become a Fabric Mogul I’ll need a lot more business know-how
  4. I really like making numbered lists.

Cue Kelley Direct Online MBA & MS Programs 

(Insert exciting music here.)

A year into the program I’ve learned a ton of stuff I didn’t previously know, all of which is imperative for an entrepreneur.  Still, enthusiasm for my brain child was waning.  I have a family to provide for, a good job, and a fabric hoarding problem that I probably shouldn’t enable.  Polishing the MBA just to put it on the mantel instead of launching an enterprise just seems so much more…not tiring.

Cue C563, Professor Todd Saxton, and the Innovation Showcase 

(Insert theme song for Speed Racer here.)

This version of C563, geared toward business models and the venture ecosystem, included a visit to Indiana’s Innovation Showcase, where 70+ entrepreneurs, with their own sets of great ideas and a lot more momentum than I have, stood up in front of Angel Investors to pitch their businesses.  They only had 60 seconds to pitch.  It was Shark Tank squared.  It took guts.  Lots of them were nervous.  One guy blanked on his speech and stood for 30 breathtakingly silent seconds.  One guy played his trumpet.  One woman got on stage and ate dog food.  Yes, I’m serious.

The winning pitch was for a company that has designed a product to eliminate bruising following an injury.  Professor Kim Saxton attempted to purchase some on the spot.  A brilliant idea, a huge untapped market, and a product that worked.

Being surrounded by that much innovation was intoxicating.  It’s like being at a sporting event where everyone is rooting for the same team, only the team is innovation and everyone is winning.  So in other words, the nerdiest sporting event ever.  But those were my kind of nerds.  And inspiring: every one of those innovators was actually doing something about their idea, presenting it to the marketplace, and attempting in their own way to make the world a better place.

Even better than the presenters was attending with fellow Kelley Direct students.  Any opportunity to socialize and collaborate in person enhances the KD experience.  These were fellow innovators like me, and we bounced ideas off each other like we were all ping pong tables during a beer pong event.  People would hear an idea and raise it to another level.  For instance: mobile fabric store.  Bam.  That’s now a thing.  There was even a lengthy discussion about how to monetize a concept someone said as a joke, but most of us are still pretending that never happened and no actual monkeys were harmed.

Starting a business doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Where before it was just me, my idea, and my stubborn belief that All Fabric is Created Equal, now it’s a community of eager entrepreneurs to use as resources, to solicit feedback, to grow together as we examine the marketplace and learn from each other.

Ideas are easy. Momentum is hard. C563: Special Forces Section is the solution.

What’s your next move?

About Melissa 

Melissa Dylan works in marketing for a small firm that doesn’t know about her hoarding problem.  She lives in Washington state with a husband, two kids, two cats, one dog, and a lot of fabric. Melissa is also a first-year student in the Kelley Direct Program where she is pursuing a dual-degree MBA and MS in Marketing. 


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