There might not be any drill sergeants or mandatory pushups, but the results from Savannah Start-Up Bootcamp are still poised to be life-changing for a group of 10 Savannah entrepreneurs who have been enrolled in the program since February.
Designed to teach entrepreneurs everything from financial literacy and investor readiness to sales, the boot camp is an intense 12-week course, sponsored by the Advanced Technology Development Center, that takes entrepreneurs and their ideas from concepts to company launch.
“It’s figuring out who your target audience is, building a prototype that’s small enough so you can easily prove your hypothesis that you’re solving a problem and people are willing to pay for it. Before you go big and spend a lot of money on marketing, we take them through that process,” said Yvonne Jouffrault, who serves as the ATDC Savannah Entrepreneur in Residence, mentoring and connecting startups to various resources.
At the end of the course, the students will make a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges, and one winner will move on to present in May at the ATDC showcase in Atlanta. The Atlanta showcase will offer exposure to hundreds of investors, corporate partners and other entrepreneurs.
During the most recent workshop on Tuesday, students focused on crafting an executive summary and short elevator pitches to draw in potential investors and customers.
“We’ve gone through who our target customer is, why they want the product and we’ve looked at all of the components of the business model canvas, which is the customer side, revenue side, different channels to reach those customers... and the next two weeks we’re focusing on explaining all of that to other people,” Jouffrault said.
“The pitch and summary are very much about concisely explaining the value composition of your product and what you’re trying to do.”
Ideas range from the On the Rocks mobile app, which helps users locate the best happy hour drink specials, to Faux Show, a line of table covers that fit over folding tables to give the illusion of real furniture.
After each student pitched their idea, the group broke down the information, deciding what needed to stay and what needed to go. The biggest challenge for the group was length.
“It’s not easy getting your pitch down to three or four sentences,” said Nate Washington, creator of On The Rocks mobile app. Washington also pitched his app last month at Creative Coast’s FastPitch event, where he took the runner-up spot for product-based entrepreneurs. He said being able to get real-time feedback from his peers and having people to bounce ideas off of had been most beneficial during the boot camp, but he’s also learned to speak out and voice his own ideas.
“Just having people be honest with me and telling me when my idea sucked and when I was on the right track is definitely what’s valuable,” he said.
“I’m a bit of an introvert at times, and it’s been hard communicating certain things that are in my head that don’t always come out the right way, so it’s been great to get help with that.”
Next week the group will focus on investor readiness and pitch before moving on to the main event on April 12, which is open to the public.
“It’s really meant to showcase what we’re doing here and what the ATDC program is,” Jouffrault said. “Hopefully there will be people in the audience that are potential customers or have connections for them.”
If you go
What: Savannah Start-Up Day
When: 5 to 7 p.m. April 12
Where: The Chromatic Dragon courtyard, 514 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.