The Journey of AuraLights
An early October morning we, three students of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program, were given a challenge of gaining a profit of $500 by “selling something”. Quickly thereafter, we went over to the ZIP Idea Lab to start working on our idea. Thus, when we first started working with the Idea Lab, we simply defined our problem statement as “How do we create a product that can make $500 in profit?” In order to reach that, we developed a Project Plan.
During our work in Empathy, we learned that there were different personas (types of people) to solve problems for, and our initial idea revolved around solving college dorm habitants’ issues of being unable to make holes on the walls which prevented them from decorating their living space.
Later, we developed 3 personas of the people we were trying to solve for:
- First persona; female 13-30, interested in design, colors, something that’s easy to assemble, likes to express themselves, cares of aesthetically pleasing things.
- Second persona; males 18-25, want product already assembled, functionality, likes to express themselves, easy removal from wall to save on deposit, more space.
- Third persona; student male & female, 18-25, like comfortability, wants organization, more space, takes recommendations, wants life to be easier, care for personal space.
Through those personas, we conducted interviews. We learned after surveying college dorm students and apartment residents outside of campus that most of the people’s problems were not fixable, and that our initial idea, an adhesive product, was not the most demanded product since there are other easy ways of solving the problem. Digging deeper, we found their needs were in the field of lighting and decoration. We needed to develop a prototype of a product that solved their lighting problems while still filling their decor needs.
Going into the Define section of the process, we started out with synthesize in which we tried to define our needs more clearly. As mentioned, we decided in the dig deeper section that we wanted to be in the lighting and decoration category, so ultimately we needed to find the perfect product in that category, with the lowest production cost and greatest demand.
Accordingly, we reframed the problem multiple times to find the best problem statement that we wanted and came up with “How might we help students living on campus create a relaxing living environment through soothing and decorating lightning?” in the end. Hence, still having the other idea of “lowest cost and highest demand” in the back of our head.
We learned very much during this time of the process as our idea switched everyday and we were probably stuck in this section the longest. Thus, a piece of advice to other student entrepreneurs is to research and make sure that you develop a good product, but to be productive and not get stuck while doing so because it slows down the process and affects your motivation.
To continue the process, we went into divergent sketching, where we learned how to generate ideas from the feedback gained from our interviews with people and forming the three personas, shown in the left picture. Through using empathy and facilitated brainstorming we were able to choose ideas that were different from our original idea of the hook and focused more on lighting.
Furthermore, during the convergent sketching, we learned how to get the ideas we thought of after brainstorming through empathy and consolidate them into one solution which is shown in the right picture. By doing that, we were able to learn to take the problems from our multiple personas and converge onto one solution.
After our sketching it was time to start prototyping, a section of the process where we changed a lot of our product depending on what materials were actually accessible and appropriate. We learned it was more difficult to spray paint plastic than it is to do glass. Also, we found that the water made the painting more difficult and uneven. However, we also found out that using a sponge to create patterns made all the candles unique and created fun images on the walls. Finally, we learned to find cheaper solutions for our problem because some of the materials for the prototype were more expensive and not as profitable. That is when we decided to change to our glass led candle.
Finally we had a product in our hand! Now, we were able move on to testing.
The first thing we did was approaching students at campus, asking them about their thoughts regarding its looks and also how much they would pay for it. Unfortunately, we realized that the product was not as appealing during the bright day as it was inside, so we decided to ask faculty in their offices about their opinions instead and the result was very good. Ultimately, we learned how to make a price point, the common selling points of the LED candles, and who our early adopters would be. We were also able to gain contact information of people to spread the word of our product, which helped us a lot when we actually started to sell the product at the SDSU farmers market.
Through the help of Rosemary and Kevin, we were able to create a strong foundation to grow a business with our product. We learned how to create a product that solves a problem and how to get other people invested in our product. Without the support of Rose, Kevin, and the rest of the Idea Lab, we would not have been able to have grown as much as we did or successfully complete the challenge.
Advice to other student entrepreneurs: Find someone who will push you out of your comfort zone and support you in the challenges you face. – Katie Whitmore, Anabel Han and Louise Persson