This weekend was extremely busy, extremely stressful. However, it was most definitely an interesting and unique experience. For my entrepreneurship class, students were given three days to plan and four hours to execute a fundraiser for an organization called Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which provides inner-city kids with the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills.
First my group of five identified two opportunities: game day and midterms week. Since USC games are extremely popular and many alumni return to campus to enjoy home games, we recognized that if we were to sell a service or product during that time, we would be able to have a large audience to target. The second opportunity was midterms week. Everyone is stressed, and stress induces food cravings. A simple way to fundraise would be to target those stress cravings.
Our first approach was to sell raffle tickets during tailgates. However, after 30minutes of selling the tickets, we realized that there was too much competition from other teams. Moreover, our prizes had a very specific target audience, and this target was too difficult to find. People wanted to focus on the football game and not have their attention taking away by students offering tickets for autographs.
In order to avoid the competition and overcome our narrow target consumers, we decided to switch to selling cookies at night when students were stressed out preparing for their midterms. Because we would go around knocking from door-to-door, we provided the benefit of convenience and craving-satisfaction.
|Basically made 10 plates of cookies. How crazy!|
By realizing that the first idea was unlikely to succeed, we were able to change a venture, find a new target consumer, and raise a profit of $146 in 3.5 hours. However, because we had to bake over 160 cookies, we were limited in selling time. By the time we finish baking the cookies, we had only 1.5-2 hours to sell before 11pm. Any later than 11pm, people start going to sleep. As a result, we split the remaining 3.5 hours into two nights, Saturday and Sunday.
Sadly, our group teamwork wasn’t too great. While there was no fighting or arguments, the work fell heavily on me and another girl. It ended up that we made all the cookies and sold approximately 110 cookies while the other three people in the group sold a total of around 50 cookies. In fact, two teammates were gone for the weekend, and Sunday night—Monday was the deadline--one had to work till 11pm, another was stuck outside California and didn’t contact the group at all, and the last sold cookies for an hour before commuting back home.
In the end, I learned the importance of communication among group members and the need for a group committed to the same goals. Additionally, I learned that it’s important not to get stuck trying to think of a “great idea,” especially when an easy source of revenue was already available—selling cookies to stressed out students. During the process, I saw that pitching played an important aspect in successful sales: long pitches are less likely to succeed. People want to know what you have to offer without listening to a 30 second pitch. Tell the customer what you have to offer and how they benefit.
This was definitely one crazy weekend of 164 cookies. So much baking, so much stress, but ultimately many lessons learned.