Now that we’ve entered August, it’s just starting to dawn on me how few days of summer we have left. In just a couple of weeks, my older daughter starts “big kid school.” Dance class picks up again in a month for both girls, the fifth year for the older kid and the first year for the younger one. The yard keeps growing at an alarming rate, but I seem to be doing a better job keeping up with mowing this year. However, the weeds are still a bit out of hand…
As I mentioned last time, we have a new little guy in the house thanks to someone dumping him out here in the Oasis. His favorite activities so far are eating, harassing the other pets, and exploring. Having a new kitten exploring the house is forcing me to actually work on decluttering and cleaning the house room by room. Over the course of several years, we had several relatives either pass away or downsize, and we ended up with a lot of furniture and extra stuff. The furniture isn’t the problem – the issue is integrating the new stuff in with our old stuff. We also have the problem of the kids outgrowing things, and not having the time to move the old, outgrown things out to the garage. Having two kids and three pets as “helpers” doesn’t speed up the process, either.
I’ve also tried to fit decluttering into a busy month of mentoring and building businesses. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was invited to help mentor the companies running through the University of Iowa JPEC Summer Accelerator. Eleven teams were going through the program, each with interesting ideas for businesses. Ideas ranging from household products, to virtual assistants, to online services. I was able to see all of the pitches twice over the course of the three weeks I helped with the program. The teams I found did the best were the folks who actually listened to the advice the mentors were giving and acted on that advice. Several of the teams were building physical products, but only one of those teams eventually created a physical, functional prototype.
I was actually surprised at the lack of creating a physical minimum viable product by a lot of the teams. It seemed like they were relying too much on computer simulations and weren’t actually trying to get their product into the hands of potential customers. By the final time I listened to the pitches, I could tell that a couple of teams had just given up. Only half of the teams were allowed to pitch at the launch day, and some of the teams knew they weren’t moving on. I wasn’t able to make it to the program’s launch day, but I’m hoping those teams keep pursuing their ideas. I would love to see what kind of progress they can make in the future.
I was also invited to help out judging the final pitches and poster session at the Jacobson Summer Institute run by The University of Iowa. This program is meant for kids in junior high, and is the first exposure some of them have to the entrepreneurial world. For whatever reason, there were a lot of different soap-related businesses. Is soap that easy to make? The pitches that placed in the top three were incredibly creative, and hopefully those kids will continue with their projects during the school year.
Among my projects, Sexy Life has officially rebranded to BondingBox! Of the four names we were testing, BondingBox had the most positive feedback. The other three names we were testing included “Life on the Couch”, “Sweet and Spicy”, and “ReTreat” – all good names, but they just didn’t have the appeal of BondingBox. Sexy Life had a great run, but it was time to find a name that more closely fit with what we were trying to do as a company. Plus, BondingBox doesn’t have the problem of hitting porn filters the way Sexy Life did, so people can actually view our Web site at work.
Our team made the trip to Des Moines last week to fill out the paperwork and incorporate, and a couple of days later we got our tax number and bank account set up. I suppose it’s an actual thing now! We have the product, we have the paperwork… now, all we need are paying customers! If you haven’t yet, sign up for our newsletter. Not only will you be able to keep up with what we are doing, but we’re planning extra content and subscription discounts through the newsletter. Check it out!
On the Cider Finder front, we’re still plugging away at the project. We still haven’t heard anything from Colorado about going to the accelerator out there, and we were not taken by any other accelerators. It’s not surprising that we weren’t scooped up by an accelerator – we need some traction first on the idea, and we need to prove that it’s not just a feature of another product. We got some great feedback from the accelerators to which we applied, and it’s given us the confidence to keep working on the project. We’re still building the database, and Kevin and I are going to start working on the layout and user experience of the app in the next few weeks, when he gets a break from his client work. Even with the rejections by the accelerators, I’m glad that the team wants to keep moving forward with the project.
I’ll be seeing the entire Cider Finder team at Startup Weekend Fairfield at the end of September. In order to avoid double-booking things, I spent a little bit of time planning out the rest of the year and started adding events to the calendar for 2018, including EntreFEST in Cedar Rapids and the Young Entrepreneur Convention in Des Moines. There aren’t too many things left on the calendar for 2017, but the events that remain are pretty important: Denver Startup Week, Innovation Expo, Startup Weekend Fairfield, Startup Weekend Iowa City, and Iowa City Open Coffee. Event registration opened for Denver Startup Week a few days ago, and I was able to fill out my calendar with all sorts of interesting talks and seminars. Most of the things I chose were either in the founder track or the design track, and it seems like the week is pretty front-loaded – good for me because I have to hop on the train back to Iowa on Thursday evening of that week, in order to get back for Startup Weekend Fairfield.
I’ve spent a decent amount of time working on the Facebook page for Iowa City Open Coffee, and the team and I have been working diligently on everything related to Startup Weekend Iowa City. When I took over running Iowa City Open Coffee, I had completely forgotten about the Facebook page. I had just been working on the Meetup group, and over the past few months, I’ve noticed that a bunch of people keep joining that group but nobody new ever comes to Open Coffee. Other groups have transitioned off of Meetup, probably because of the low engagement and the high price tag of “running a Meetup.” Luckily, I’m not the one footing the bill for that group. I did suggest that we migrate everything off of there over the last few months of 2017, because I’m getting more engagement just from setting up Facebook events and inviting a few dozen people, than I am from the Meetup group of more than 600 people.
The Startup Weekend Iowa City organizing committee finally received access to all of the official Startup Weekend Web sites this past week, so we’ve increased our efforts to get everything set up and get some promotional material put together, so we can start blanketing the state in advertising. If possible, I’d like to get to a few 1 Million Cups locations and make announcements inviting the audience to the event. I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, since we’re less than three months away from the event, and a lot of Wednesdays are already booked. It might just end up being a game of contacting the right people in cities within a reasonable driving distance of Iowa City. We’d love to see people from all over the state participate, and we’re looking into a special rate at one of the local hotels and possibly an entire house on AirBnB to encourage people to make the trek to Iowa City for a weekend. Stay tuned for more information on Startup Weekend Iowa City as it develops.
Even with all of this stuff going on and all of the events on the horizon, I’m making time to spend with my daughters these last few days before school starts. My older daughter needs to pick out some clothes and a backpack for school, and I need to take my younger daughter over to the dance store to get her ready for her first dance class. It’s hard to believe that my older daughter is starting kindergarten – it feels like just yesterday she was starting her first dance class at just over 18 months old. Four more years, and the younger one will be starting grade school.
Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun.