Sweat For A Cause
Class: 2013 Winter Accelerator
Sweat For A Cause is a web startup that is taking the concept of fitness-driven fundraisers online
Thanks Kevin Willett and DracutTV for inviting me to your show and giving me the chance to talk about Sweat For A Cause and my experience as a participant in the Sandbox Accelerator
Ask and you shall (give yourself the best chance to) receive!
One of the speakers at the accelerator Barrie Atkins, drove home the point when she stated that - "the #1 reason people give (money) is because they were asked".
This statement epitomizes one extremely important lesson that I learned during the course of the Accelerator program -
Making an Ask! In the business world an "Ask" typically applies to asking for money from an investor, but I believe it can be broadened to other facets of business and life as well -
- Asking current customers for feedback
- Asking potential clients to give your product a try
- Asking mentors for advice
- Asking coworkers for help
- Asking investors for money
- Asking loved ones for their opinions
- Asking people for their time
My upbringing has always pushed me to be self-reliant. Often this has translated to not wanting anything from anyone else. While this holds me in good stead in many situations, it has proved a stumbling block when it comes to certain complexities of running a business (and sometimes in life too).
I realize that the destiny of my business is mostly in my hands. But over the course of the accelerator, I've come to understand that its success still depends on a lot of external unknown factors. By systematically identifying what those factors are and subsequently making the right ask to the right people, I'm giving my business (and myself) the best chance to succeed. I've also learned that people have the tendency to give and over the last 10 weeks, by asking I've been able to get -
- Nonprofits to tell us that SFAC needs to be able to generate more donations
- Lots of new nonprofit clients
- Unrestricted access to our mentors' valuable thoughts
- Opinions from friends on strategy and
- In one instance, upfront money in return for future services from a customer (more to come on this!)
Thank you mentors, advisors, speakers and fellow participants for instilling this confidence in me to go out and make the ask. Simply put, only if you ask, shall you put yourself in a position to receive!
Voice of a Founder!
Here's a great summary of my thoughts about Sweat For A Cause and the Sandbox accelerator -
Thanks to Kevin Willet of "Friends of Kevin" for intervewing me and giving me the opportunity to intimately express myself in a fun conversational tone.
10 things I learned from Surveys, Interview, Phone Calls and Rejections!
The last month has been all about doing surveys and getting answers, opinions and feedback and dealing with a little bit of rejection in the process! My surveys have come in all shapes and sizes. From in-person meetings to conference calls to email feedback to written surveys. While it's difficult to summarize all my surveying, I thought of blogging about the things I've learnt along the way -
- In-person meetings are the best!: They allow people to better express themselves. They also give the opporunity for follow-up questions which means being able to dive deeper into their thoughts.
- Asking for help, advice or guidance is the best way to get people interested in helping out
- It's important to keep your mouth shut and listen: It's easy to get defensive, but resist the urge and you will benefit immensely (I learnt this the hard way!)
- People are more likely to respond if they feel like they're a part of the solution you are offering
- Written surveys are hard to create: Everything from the tone of questioning to initial description to number of questions and answer choices in the survey is crucial. Feedback on your survey from trusted individuals/professionals is important before sending out a survey. And even after all that, you may not suceed in getting too many responses.
- Get used to talking before a phone call: Especially before early morning phone conversations. It's a funny feeling when your mouth isn't in sync with your thoughts. More so in a phone conversation when your voice is all you have.
- If someone doesn't respond that doesn't mean they don't want to help: Put yourself in their shoes and their rejection will seem justified.
- Negative feedback is better than positive reinforcement: Negative feedback or constructive critisism forces you to think long and hard and dig deep to come up with solutions to the problem you're trying to solve. I went out of my way to push people to tell me how SFAC can improve rather than simply listening how great the concept is.
- It's ok to ask for references but only towards the end of a meeting: 50% of my meetings ended with the other person willing to make introductions. Ask politely and you will get!
- Follow-up is important (I feel like this is the key to any successful business interaction. Just need to figure out new ways to follow-up with each individual that I've spoken to besides a thank-you email)
I'm really glad the accelerator and my mentors have pushed us to prioritize getting feedback directly from customers/partners (both current and potential). I feel like our decision are well informed and making them has been easier as well. Next up - Going through the process of collecting all the information gathered, parsing it and taking action to move forward!
I realized that I never had the chance to post Sweat For A Cause's goals for the program, so here they are.
The thought process was to set aggressive, but achieveable goals. Given that we've been up and running for a while, our plan is to use the momentum to generate revenue and turn Sweat For A Cause from an interesting idea into a sustainable business venture.
The process will start by segregating our target customers, reaching out to them to better understand their needs, evaluating pricing models based on the value Sweat For A Cause provides. This would lead to a Business Model.
Next would be to set targets for our business, so we can understand what investment we need and with that, create a reliable pitch deck for investors.
The third goal is about continuing what we've started - attracting new nonprofit and corporate customers, maintaining activity on our site and creating new partnerships.
It's going to be interesting to work on these goals over the next few weeks. The motto is to "Work Hard and Work Smart"!
The goals are listed in detail below -
- Build a realistic business model incorporating customer segmentation, value proposition, pricing models and fixed/variable cost estimates
- Customer Segmentation/Value Proposition
- Interview 25 nonprofit development directors/fundraisers
- Survey of 50 nonprofits across all sectors
- Interview current users/athletes
- Survey of 100 individuals
- Understand donor motivation through website features
- Evaluate relationship between Health Insurance companies and corporations
- Pricing Models
- Transaction fee % per donation
- Tiered pricing for nonprofits
- Per employee pricing for corporations
- Flat pricing per corporation
- Fixed/Variable Cost Estimates
- Employee Salary
- Software tools, web hosting
- Legal costs
- Customer Segmentation/Value Proposition
- Develop a compelling investor pitch incorporating the business model assumptions
- Figure out investment needed
- Equity offering in return for investment
- Pitch Deck/Slideshow
- Establish partnerships, pilot customers, and/or other relationships that will test and/or validate the business model
- 10 more nonprofit partners
- Increased donations through enhanced site features
- Sponsor an athlete (fundraising goal per athlete)
- Team challenges
- 2 corporate challenges/events/fundraisers
- TR Miller/OFH partnership for rewards