When we set out 13 weeks ago to start a new business every week for a year, I had no idea what we were in for. What has started as a fun and exciting project, has become perhaps the most incredible journey of my life. We’ve started and helped start some great businesses and non-profits. We’ve learned a ton along the way. What we have not done a great job at is telling our story. It’s been easy to get caught up in what we are doing each week and not take the time to document things. I think now is a good time to take a break and give a brief recap of what we’ve been up to.
Week 1 – 52businesses (itself)
We’d been planning 52businesses for a while, but had not really done anything real. During Week 1, we got BOB (our Business Operations Bus and mobile office) all fixed up and outfitted with a rooftop deck, a bedroom, bathroom, and an awesome lounge / office area. This week we also got our website done, our social profiles launched and populated, and our LLC formed. Press and partnerships picked up pretty quick, so we (perhaps foolishly) decided we’d end week 1 early, and jump right into week 2.
Week 2 – Touracle: An app to revolutionize the tourism industry
Week 2 was insane. We thought week 1 was going better than expected, so we excited to take part in the Destination Hackathon put on by CODEMKRS starting on Friday. It was great fun, very productive, and we met a lot of awesome people. Honestly, this was a great example of a 52business. We aim to show people how to responsibly test their business ideas with out quitting their job or risking their life savings. What better way than a hackathon? You give up just one weekend, pitch your idea and either bring people on board to work with you or join a team that has more promise. After just 2 days, you have a good prototype, a team to continue working, and feedback from dozens of people including judges who really know their stuff.
We signed up for the hackathon without a business idea. Luckily, Jason came up with a killer concept in the shower (that’s about the only time any of us had to stop and think during those days) and we refined it to something we were really excited about. Right after we pitched, Gant Laborde, a local developer, pitched a very similar idea that sounded a little better than ours. At first we panicked, but then we talked to Gant and decided to join forces rather than competing–and it was incredible!
Touracle is an app for both locals and tourists. Locals develop tours that showcase the best parts of their cities, and tourists can then go on curated tours that allow them to get a real sense of the city. Touracle came in second place at the hackathon despite the projector breaking during our presentation. We are still working with the team at Space Chicken to develop a beta version, and we already have a lot of locals ready to start making tours.
Week 3 – What You Give Will Grow, with Thomas Morstead
During week 3, we were extremely lucky to work with New Orleans Saints player, Thomas Morstead. After our first 1hr-meeting we realized that Thomas was one of the most truly humble, authentic and passionate people we’d ever met. He has been raising money for a few years through the New Orleans Foundation, but was interested in starting his own 501(c)(3) called What You Give Will Grow so that he could do more creative and innovative fundraising events. The name, What You Give Will Grow, comes from an inspiring story about Thomas’s college school football coach who prepared Thomas for the NFL, but unfortunately passed away the day after he was drafted. WYGWG is all about giving back to the community in as many ways possible.
Thomas originally didn’t believe that he had the recognition or community support to sustain his own non-profit, so our job was to show him that the support existed and then set up meetings with great sponsors who taught him (and us) more about starting a nonprofit than any of us could have ever imagined. Thomas feels very strongly that 100% of money donated to WYGWG should go to the causes. To that end, we sought to find Lawyers, Accountants, etc to partner who would be willing pledge a year worth of work for free. Thomas puts up his own money to cover the rest. By the end of the week, we’d secured all of the necessary partnerships and raised a little money. Thomas was ready to pull the trigger. We hosted a launch event at the Freret Street Festival. We and Thomas spent much of the day teaching kids how to kick or throw a football. At the end of the event, Thomas spoke on stage and we surprised him with a show of support from friends, family, and people whose lives he had affected. It was a real tear-jerker. WYGWG is currently focusing on childrens’ issues and cancer initiatives, and the organization has raised a significant amount of money in the past two months. This week was a truly humbling experience.
Week 4 – Our Social Tribune and Story Block Media
In week 4, we helped to start two businesses because these entrepreneurs already completed a lot of planning. We helped Megan Hargroder launch Our Social Tribune – an online based community for social media managers. We created a beautiful and functional site and completed the branding and launch strategy. Our Social Tribune is still in the beta stage, but it’s looking very promising.
During week 4, we also worked with Dennis Lomonaco and Reed Wendorf to create Story Block Media – a PR company that focuses on emotional marketing and telling stories as a means to communicate a brand’s message. Similarly, they built a beautiful site and completed their branding and infrastructure. Now, business is booming for Story Block Media. Reed was able to leave his full-time job to spend more time on Story Block Media.
Week 5 – Children’s Book
Jason and Colin joined Bob the bus in NYC to be on Fox and Friends, so there were a lot of logistical issues–but, we learned a lot about conference call software. Haha. We decided to create a childrens’ book with an entrepreneurial focus. 52businesses partnered with Alex McConduit of FundDat and “The Little WhoDat Who Didn’t.” He wrote an excellent book with us called “Bob Builds a Business” Max developed a key partnership to get the book illustrated and printed. Now, we’re just waiting on the completed artwork.
Week 6 – Benjy’s
We learned a valuable lesson in week 6 – you can’t start an apparel brand in a week. It’s just not possible. Benjy’s is a patriotic-themed apparel brand and we worked non-stop just to come up with several prototypes by the end of the week. We focused on producing everything in the US, which is much more difficult than sourcing apparel from China–but, we still think it is worth it. We managed to produce all of the concept prototypes with the help of our friends at Campus Connection. We also got a good start on the website and branding and had a really fun photoshoot to create social media fodder. Now we’re waiting on final prototypes and the final website. We hope to launch fully in time for the Fourth of July.
Tune in next week for info on weeks 7-13.