With less than two weeks until BUILDFest 2012, the energy levels in our Boston Incubator are off the charts. Students have been working nonstop during their mentor sessions over the past few months to prepare themselves for their first selling event of the year. BUILD’s Business Program Manager, Joseph Grassia, explained why our sophomore teams have been working like crazy. “BUILDFest as a selling event is six weeks from the start of the incubator. All of the E2’s are going from business plan to being in front of people. The normal timeline is 12 weeks, so students are working really hard and really quickly to accomplish these goals.” Every team is doing their best to be as ready as possible for the event. Many teams are planning on having actual products for sale, while others are finalizing prototypes for show at the event. Some teams will be using BUILDFest as an opportunity for market research, distributing the surveys they crafted during their freshman year and actually getting feedback from a real consumer audience.
“This is almost like a laboratory environment,” Joseph said. The teams are able to spend time testing their prototypes in the Incubator, sharing them with others to gauge their opinions. Students learn the ins and outs of starting their own businesses, and selling events like BUILDFest give them an opportunity to practice their learned skills. All students have spent time learning public speaking skills and perfecting their pitches using situational role-playing with their teammates and mentors. “The teams are getting into it! Some teams a couple of weeks ago had nothing but a business plan and some drawings. Now they have prototypes and some will be selling real products.” A few of the teams are planning on bringing limited-edition products customized for BUILDFest to sell at the event.
Joseph says that he’s seen a huge growth in BUILD’s E2 students over the past few months. Every student is unique and has a different story, but as a whole they have gained a higher level of professionalism and composure which is impressive for such young students. Students who start with BUILD’s freshman E1 program participate at school, after classes have ended. However, the second-year students must come to the Incubator location in order to continue their involvement with the program. Those students who do make it to the Incubator after school hours to work on their businesses have a drive unlike any other–they really want to be there, and it shows.
E2 teams are each in slightly different stages of their planning processes. Blind Vision teammates worked together this past week to make their duct tape wallets, a simple yet incredibly functional design. They will soon be making customizable wallets in different colors so that people can show their school pride in a fashionable way. Elite, a team that creates sports gloves, is ironing out the details of their merger with another team that designs wristbands. The endless possibilities for their product design proved to be both daunting and exciting for the teammates. Muzentil Media, a group that manufactures pens that play music, worked to ensure that their prototypes would be ready for the event. Their mentors explained the importance of appealing to their audience, keeping in mind the type of music they should load onto their prototypes for the event.
Last Thursday was a special day in the Incubator for E2 team Cookie Boss. They were given the opportunity to meet the CEO of Boston’s Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, Steve DiFillippo. Steve sat with the team and told of his journey in the restaurant business, giving advice to the young entrepreneurs on getting started. Cookie Boss team members seemed to soak in every bit of info, and told Steve all about their progress towards BUILDFest. The team plans on baking hundreds of 4-inch cookies to sell at the event. By working with their mentors, Cookie Boss has planned everything from the banner at their BUILDFest table to the special packaging for their cookies. Steve was fascinated that such professionalism was coming from high-school sophomores, saying “this is unbelievable, it blows my mind.” Davio’s Steakhouse regularly gives back to the community, and according to Steve, “you never stop. You have to keep helping people.” This is an attitude that Cookie Boss is already hoping to adopt–there was discussion of possibly donating a fraction of their proceeds to charity. Davio’s is located at 75 Arlington Street and is the location for BUILDFest on October 26th.