Tell us about your business/concept.
Quinn: Our original idea was a peer-to-peer marketplace for men’s high-end fashion, clothing, and shoes: products that are sold in low quantities but have a high demand behind them, therefore driving up the resale value behind it. For instance, a retail pair of shoes for $220 can resell up to $1200. We wanted to facilitate a marketplace that filled a hole with customer service and had lower fees. As Scott’s going to tell you, though, that wasn’t the concern for most of the people that we ran past, so we pivoted a lot thanks to INKUBATOR.
Scott: We did a lot of research, went out and talked to local businesses, brick and mortar stores that facilitated the same service we were interested in doing but in person. They’d also used a lot of existing marketplaces and could talk about what they liked and they didn’t like and what they would like to see in a new one, concerns they would have. We found out that most of them weren’t really concerned with the fees, they were more concerned with the legitimacy of the products and about the ability to build a reputation. So we pivoted, and in the back of our minds was the expense and the difficulty of building this website and running it. Through this process we decided it made more sense financially and in implementing, and based off of what we found out, to create a platform for these boutique shops to sell their products but also have a national website. We wanted to create a one-stop site where users across the nation and across the world can browse these individual markets and purchase products from them, which allows these small shops to sell nationally and internationally without having to run their own website and also build their own ramp. At the end of the day we started this because we are both passionate about it and we share that with these small business owners.
What attracted you to The INKUBATOR? Why is it a good fit for you/your idea?
Quinn: It was Dr. Hughes, actually, in one of the management courses I was taking. Working with her and another company we were doing a project on kind of brought up the idea for me to think about a business idea I wanted to do and see if I could run myself. Seeing these successful entrepreneurs, and Dr. Hughes is wildly successful, kind of instilled a passion for me. This was something I had been doing, buying and selling shoes and clothes myself, so I knew the marketplaces and knew what was good and bad about them, at least personally, and Scott had also been buying shoes and was in the marketplace too. We would constantly text each other “what did you get this time?”, “oh, I got a Zippo lighter,” or “I got a hoodie this time,” so I think he was the best partner to bring on, especially on the side of marketing. It was Dr. Hughes, though, who was telling us to go for the INKUBATOR and get the resources that we need since we had never started a business ourselves.
How did The INKUBATOR help you bring your idea to life?
Scott: It made it realistic and taught us what steps we needed to take to not only implement it, but first learn about our target market and learn where opportunities were, and make sure what we were putting time and resources into was the correct final product. At the end of the day, if we were still pursuing our original idea, it wouldn’t have gotten very far.
Quinn: It would not be great, no.
Scott: It would cost millions and millions of dollars to implement. They put us on a realistic path and showed us the best practices to ensure that what we were working towards actually became a reality.
Quinn: I think they provided us with a lot of different resources, whether that was with mentors like Gary Darna, or having conversations one-on-one, talking about the idea itself but they also had ideas behind it. Zac originally had no idea what any of the stuff I was talking about was, but he knew how to start a business and run a business. It changed my mindset from the beginning to actually question everything with the end goal in mind. I think it’s changed my thought process a lot with everything that I do to be very questioning and to verify everything before, like Scott said, it gets too late and you’re already down this path and it’s too late to change anything.
Scott: I think what’s also important is that it gives us the ability to have confidence in what we’re doing. We’re both very positive, confident people, but if that isn’t grounded in facts and research and actual knowledge, that can get you in trouble a lot. If we didn’t know what we were doing, we wouldn’t know where to focus that energy. I think that’s huge.
Quinn: We’re both glass-half-full people anyway, so we think that if we like it, everyone else will. But I think this helped us stay grounded, get focused, and realize that just because this is something that we like and we want to see happen doesn’t mean that it’s something that everyone wants.
What is the most important lesson you learned during this process?
Scott: I think it goes back to the overall mindset on how to approach everything. If there’s any one specific, they taught us how to think about everything. At the end of the day, everything we learned we learned how to process and what to do with that information through the speakers and the lessons that we had here. What they taught us would’ve been useless if they hadn’t taught us what to do with it. For me personally, that was the most important thing.
Quinn: Yes, like what I said earlier, it’s the whole change of my thought process in the day-to-day. It’s changed from going in headstrong and being a stubborn person like I normally am to actually taking a step back and look at the information you are getting from people, information that you get from anywhere, from people right in front of you. This is stuff you do in everyday life, it’s not just for business, it’s taking a step back and actually listening for once and taking that information and processing it can change a conversation drastically, like the outcome of starting a business.
How has The INKUBATOR changed your outlook on entrepreneurship?
Quinn: I think it made it seem more realistic. When you look at entrepreneurs you only look at the ones who are wildly successful, ones who have made millions and millions of dollars and have all this success, but you can be an entrepreneur and make a living off of something you create and are passionate about. I think that’s important to see, that you can do something you are passionate about, do something that you want to for the rest of your life and still be successful, but you don’t have to make millions and millions of dollars.
Scott: I have a lot more respect and understanding for it, and I see it everywhere now. When you would say the word entrepreneurship I would think of Mark Cuban, then I would say that “oh, that’s the bottom tier”. But now I’ll go to a small restaurant and think about how that’s an entrepreneur. It’s everywhere. For me, entrepreneurship is just the manifestation of passion and business, and that makes it a lot more exciting to me.
How has The INKUBATOR impacted your life?
Quinn: Other than changing my thought process, I think I’ve made a lot of connections both within Northern and outside of Northern. I feel like there are people I can reach out to with questions even if I haven’t talked to them in a while. I also feel like it has made it seem like, some people get those post-graduation blues and don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their life, or they have no idea what’s happening in the future, but with INKUBATOR at least we have, even if it fails, that passion and that runway to takeoff. Maybe that one fails, but you can always jump into another plane and takeoff with something else you’re passionate about. There’s not a dead end at the end of the runway, there’s no wall as long as you get off the ground. It’s something that’s given me a positive outlook on life, because once you graduate everyone wants to go into that 9-5 scene and there’s no outlook for it, but going through INKUBATOR shows that everyone can start a business, so long as they have the right tools, have the right network, and have the right understanding that I think INKUBATOR provides well.
Scott: The biggest thing for me, we were both pretty confident people, but it gave me some confidence in the professional world. It gave me a lot of experience in professionalism, a lot of experience in taking something from nothing and being there for every step of the way. And even if, as Quinn said, at the end of the day it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, I think the skills we learned and the confidence we’ve built and the network we’ve built by doing it is something that is invaluable and will continue to be a resource.