For Troy University alumna Avalon Dudinsky Meacham, returning to Troy on Thursday for the IDEA Bank’s Entrepreneurship Pop-Up Workshop was exciting – not only for the valuable information she gained, but also for the opportunity to see the growth of the center that had its origins when she was a student at TROY.
Troy University partnered with Auburn University’s Government and Economics Development Institute to provide the opportunity for entrepreneurs to improve their odds of success. Dr. LaKami Baker, Russell Foundation Associate Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business, led the workshop for about 20 participants, representing both students and small business owners from the community.
Meacham was a key inspiration for the IDEA Bank, when, as a marketing major, she successfully launched a business selling the all-purpose seasoning “Stan’s Stuff.” She utilized various University resources in the process, but at the time, finding and bringing together those resources was not easy.
TROY launched the IDEA Bank, which stands for Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Accelerator, to streamline the process for students, and the surrounding community, with the development and execution of business ventures.
“It is very exciting to see the IDEA Bank go from the idea and the concept to the execution,” Meacham said. “It is very exciting to see the space actually used for the greater community, as well as for Troy University students.”
For Meacham, Thursday’s workshop was filled with key concepts that she believes will benefit her business efforts moving forward.
“We are learning about how you can find your customers and start your entrepreneurship journey,” she said. “I like that she addressed that a business plan might not be the best place to start because it can be extremely overwhelming, as I can tell you from my experience of being a student. Her acknowledgement that we should start with questions like where are the customers, what are the products and how this is going to really play out in practice is a better place to start so that people don’t encounter these big roadblocks and end up failing.”
Thursday’s event provided TROY student Austin Shufflebarger with his first experience with the resources and services available through the IDEA Bank, but he says it won’t be his last visit.
“I’ve really enjoyed this presentation and I’m very interested to look into other events the IDEA Bank holds. I’ve had a lot of ideas of things that I would like to do and I think entrepreneurship is something we learn a lot about in the program but we don’t learn how to start businesses,” he said. “So, I thought this would be a really interesting thing where I would get to learn a lot about how to start and entrepreneurial business, the steps that I needed to take and the things I needed to look for.”
For Shufflebarger, a big take-away from Thursday’s workshop was the importance of focusing on the customer base.
“The big thing that came to my mind that I hadn’t thought of was knowing your customers,” he said. “Everyone, when they start a business, has an idea of a product that they want to sell and they have an idea of who is going to buy that product but they don’t think in-depth about their market segment and their customers specifically. That is something that I’ve learned – to think much more in-depth about the customers.”
Thursday’s workshop also marked TROY student Juston Caldwell’s first experience with the IDEA Bank.
“This is my first experience here at the IDEA Bank, and I want to do more workshops here during my remaining time at TROY,” Caldwell said. “For me personally, I have a business that I will be taking the helm of in a few years, and some of the things I was looking to learn from it were being a better organizer, understanding my customer base a little better, and different techniques I could use to make myself a little more well-rounded. Additionally, I wanted to use this as an opportunity to be more outgoing because I am pretty introverted despite being someone who is in sales. I just wanted to network with like-minded people.”
Caldwell also pointed to the emphasis the workshop placed on knowing and understanding customers as an important take-away from the event.
“Even though I’ve been in sales for five years now, I’ve never taken the time to truly understand the customer. I’ve more so been fixated on what I’m trying to do as opposed to be focused on what my customer needs. Learning about knowing and understanding my customers has been an important thing I’ve learned about today.”
Lynne George, the IDEA Bank’s Director, said partnership with the Government and Economic Development Institute was a wonderful way to serve students and the community.
“The entrepreneurship workshop was a great opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and current small business owners to think about some key aspects of their business that may typically get put on the back burner,” George said. “We did a deep dive on understanding customers and creating value while mapping out business models. Entrepreneurs have a lot to juggle, but it’s important to take a step back and assess what’s working. This was a chance to do that with the help of an expert and with like-minded peers. It was the perfect way to execute the mission of the IDEA Bank, which involves providing both educational content and a place for collaboration.”