Entrepreneur Program Blog / Day 1 in the 2014 Sandbox Winter Accelerator by Cheryl Hajjar, Founder & CEO of The Indigo Magic
Congrats to all of us chosen to be Finalists into the Winter Accelerator Program! We have all worked hard to get here and we should take a moment to reflect on what a blessing it is to be in this program. Special thanks to the Merrimack Valley Sandbox for doing what they do to make this all possible for us.
We started off by introducing ourselves and describing our businesses in only a sentence. We have a wide variety in the class from the food and children’s industry to the tech and medical world, but what we have in common is we all have solutions to our customers needs.
The first speaker was Claudia Espinosa who I just adored! She’s the founder and CEO of Casa Couture and was a Mass Challenge Winner. She developed the expandable shoes for pregnant women, which I think is a fantastic idea. We women know that things especially our feet can get very uncomfortable during pregnancy. She spoke a variety of important topics, including to “focusing on our strengths in our businesses. I felt this was a really good tip because as CEO’s we tend to want to do everything to get our companies up and running and this can lead to burn out fairly quickly. Some of us might see this as being a failure not being able to do everything but if we can recognize early on in our careers that a company must be made of many different tiers of expertise, I think it will be easier for us to learn how to hand over tasks to others when we do have multiple employees.
Another thing Claudia spoke about was how to effectively build our team. This is especially important not only for the accelerator program but post accelerator because we need to learn how to tap into our network for growth and progress. This will first start by tapping into each other’s resources in the classroom during the program. This will in turn prepare us for when we must tap into outside resources after the program is over. Third and probably most important Claudia told us to stay focused! As entrepreneurs it is easy for us to get “lost” in our excitement. We want it to happen for us so bad that many of us will jump before it is time to. I know have been guilty of this. Staying focused on one task at a time will enable us to have steady growth, rather than a frazzled mind.
Our second speaker was Valerie Kijewski, a business management professor at UMass Lowell. To say the least, she had our heads spinning with great information the whole time! Valerie introduced us to the business model, what it does and how it ultimately makes money. Without a solid business foundation, we cannot move forward. She focused on knowing who our target market is (market segment) and what solution our product provided for our customers. This is the crucial building block for our business.
The best part of the whole first day however was when we had to “pitch” our ideas to a room of over 30 mentors! None of us had any clue that we were going to have to do this and that was probably the best thing for us, to go in cold. That’s what I call being thrown into the “shark tank”. We then commenced the day with open networking with the mentors. Hopefully we have all narrowed down what mentors will be best in helping us with our business strategies. All in all it was an information packed, fun-filled day that left my brain feeling like it had multiplied during the course of the evening. I look forward to next week!
-Cheryl Hajjar, Sandbox Finalist & Founder & CEO of The Indigo Magic