By Alina Wong C’16, Rachel Stewart C’16, and Roopa Shankar W’16, Co-founders of NOMsense Bakery
Founded in February of 2014 at the University of Pennsylvania by Alina Wong C’16, Rachel Stewart C’16, and Roopa Shankar W’16, NOMsense Bakery is a cookie business and catering service that has come to represent a passionate hobby turned for-profit business. It all started when, as best friends, we innovated with our own recipes in the kitchen. A friend who received samples mentioned that our desserts were so tasty that she would pay us for our creative bites of indulgence.
Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies, white chocolate cornflake crunch center, milky sugar drizzle, cornflake crunch topping.
By Marypatton S. Davis WG’16, Director of Marketing for the Business Plan Competition
On Wednesday, February 4, the Wharton Business Plan Competition announced this year’s twenty-five semifinalists. Roughly 300 judges sifted through 175 business plans in industries ranging from healthcare to technology to fitness, submitted by students from the undergraduate level to the Executive MBA level. These twenty-five business plans set out to solve a variety of problems: finding affordable renter’s insurance, optimizing businesses’ in-store operations, or even ordering a drink quickly at a bar. Check out the Semifinalists’ elevator pitches below to see the cool and innovative companies that could be coming out of UPenn soon!
My career journey has gotten off to an interesting start: from an analyst program in investment banking to running a startup out of a trailer park across from Google Headquarters. Like so many other entrepreneurs, I’m learning that my journey is going to have a lot of twists and turns.
Most startup enthusiasts and experts agree that there is no single magic formula or a steady path for building a successful startup. However, my experience across being part of a large venture-funded startup and launching 2 bootstrapped ventures has made few things clear to me.
Editor’s Note: Recent VIP company VenturePact has released a free ebook, Outsourcing 101. In this blog post, they share some of their outsourcing insights from the book. You can download the complete book here.
The advent of technology has made outsourcing accessible to businesses across all levels. More small and medium-size businesses are outsourcing their tasks to talented professionals across the globe. However, some companies struggle to answer the question: Why do companies outsource?
Watch Allison Berliner pitch her startup at DreamIt Venture’s demo day, which took place in December at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live. In the pitch, she tells the story of her company’s pivot – how the team realized their first marketplace wasn’t working, and what they did about it.
My startup was accepted into the DreamIt Ventures accelerator program on a Thursday afternoon and my Co-founder and I had 48 hours to decide whether or not to participate. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly, since the accelerator takes 6% equity. We asked ourselves, ‘was $25K and access to the DreamIt community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors worth it?’
Flash forward five months and one pivot later, and the answer is clear. Yes.
When we started DreamIt, our company’s main product was an online marketplace serving small and medium sized retailers. Within the first 4 weeks of the program, we released substantial updates to our platform. These updates had been planned before we got into DreamIt – but, because we were suddenly in an environment with weekly mentor meetings and group presentations, we were forced to change the way we worked. Updates became “tests”, and we had to articulate exactly what we hoped each update would achieve and whether or not it was successful. This exercise became baked into our internal processes and ultimately forced us to acknowledge that our marketplace wasn’t working.
This realization could have been crushing, but we were surrounded by 11 other startups that were hustling all day, every day. The environment wasn’t conducive to quitting or taking a pass. It was conducive to making difficult decisions and working harder than we had ever worked before. So, that’s what we did.
We talked to hundreds of customers, brainstormed concepts for a new product, and tested our ideas with surveys, landing pages, and one-on-one conversations with target users. We also bugged our DreamIt classmates – the founders of those other 11 companies – to no end, asking their feedback on everything from web design to naming our new product, which is now called Spot It Buy It. Although these people had their own companies to run, they were always willing to take the time to help.
Today, we have a great team, a great product, and we’re on track to start generating revenues in February. It’s hard to know where we’d be if we hadn’t participated in DreamIt, but I think we’re better off for having done it.
People always say that being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster – high highs and low lows, sometimes in the span of a single day. When the track does start to head down, and you feel yourself speeding towards something that feels inevitable, it’s helpful to have a community to remind you that entrepreneurs make their own momentum.
Bio: Allison Berliner is the Co-founder and CEO of Spot It Buy It, a DreamIt Ventures backed startup that helps retailers and brands create mobile optimized shopping experiences and sell more through social media. She got her MBA from The Wharton School of Business, where she was an Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow and the recipient of an Innovation Grant. Over the last decade, Allison has worked on marketing and business development for a number of entrepreneurial organizations and startups including Wanderly, which was acquired by TripAdvisor, and Endeavor, an international group that sources and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets. She currently resides in Philadelphia and is a Fellow with the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs.
Fever Smart is a smart thermometerthat allows parents to monitor their child’s temperature continuously and remotely. It’s already FDA approved, and their Indiegogo campaign this fall reached its goal in just 4 days, and ultimately raised $62,986—157% of their $40,000 goal. The great press that Fever Smart got in CNET,Business Insider, VentureBeat, and more undoubtedly helped.