Building Blocks of Business
Sufia Lodhi is a little nervous about July 11th. It’s the final pitch night for the latest group of entrepreneurs to go through Economic Development Greater Saint John’s, Navigator Venture Validation Program. She will present a business idea she’s been developing over 13-weeks to peers, friends, family and community business leaders . At first, Lodhi didn’t even know if she wanted or needed the strategic business course.
“I am mid-career and have been in management for years and really thought I didn’t need a program like this — after all, I’ve already worked in business, right? Well, I parked my arrogance at the door and opened myself up to the possibility that I did not in fact have all the answers — and I was pleasantly surprised. I learned a lot,” says Lodhi.
Before William Bursey even signed up for the VVP, he already had a business plan started for Fetch, a high-end dog daycare and boarding service that would also let owners check in on pets via Facebook and Snapchat. He says the program helped moved his idea forward.
“The program has been more than I could have asked for. With all the knowledgeable and likeminded people, it really pushes you to think deeper and in more creative ways. For me personally, it has fueled the fire and passion I have to launch my first business,” adds Bursey.
Lodhi, Bursey and 10 other aspiring entrepreneurs were exposed to a combination of collaborative group work, one-on-one mentoring from business experts and pitch development. Lodhi wants to create a luxury lifestyle brand for kids and the course walked her through creating a value proposition, identifying customers and competition, operation costs and creating a business model. All before she finalized a name for her business.
“With our process, we start with the problem and the customer, the pain points, and we build the value proposition around that learning. We spend one-third of the program just uncovering the pain points. Branding doesn’t become an issue until you start to look at the business model and what type of brand you’ll need to communicate and create relationships with your customer,” says EDGSJ’s Entrepreneur Development Officer and VVP program lead, Dakota Lutes.
Both Lodhi and Bursey say the process was critical to their development as entrepreneurs-in-the-making.
“The program really helped with the financial side, which is the most intimidating, yet most critical part of starting a business and figuring out if it is viable. Instead of talking in broad terms, the program forces you to become very focused,” says Lodhi
“I would absolutely recommend this program to others. It has provided so much value to me, beyond that fact that it has helped develop my business model and understand my customers at a whole new level, it has really given me a ton of confidence as I look to launch in the very near future,” adds Bursey.
Lutes says as both entrepreneurs continue to build their businesses, they can access financing through the low-interest IMPACT loan and once their business launches they can also turn to the KickStart Your Business program for more help.
“KickStart Your Business an 8-week business networking and training program that puts them in a group of other first year business owners. The course goes over marketing, sales, accounting, and human resources and helps them reflect on what’s working and what needs to change,” adds Lutes.
In 2017, EDGSJ’s Navigator programing helped people in our community launch 26 start-ups that resulted in 55 full-time jobs.
Originally published in the Telegraph Journal, July 10, 2018