Inside the Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Bootcamp
Thank You to Erik Gillespie for this first-hand account of the Great Lansing Entrepreneurial Bootcamp.
The Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Boot Camp is a tour de force learning program hosted by LEAP and Spartan Innovations that teaches business model development, finances, marketing, legal, venture capital, and more in three intense days of immersive training.
Last week I took three days off work, paid ninety bucks, and took the plunge. It was challenging. I learned a lot. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone. The whole experience was awesome.
Here are my favorite parts of the three-day boot camp.
Lesson 1: Business Model Development
I saw my first Business Model Canvas earlier this year at Startup Weekend. It looked like a tool to help organize a company’s business strategy. There were nine boxes to be filled in and it looked simple enough.
During boot camp, those nine boxes were explained. Twice. I also learned that the canvas isn’t intended to cover my whole business model nor should its simplicity be used as an excuse to oversimplify any part of my business. It’s a powerful tool for creating a business, but a business, like most things, cannot be created using only one tool.
When the discussion finished, we created canvases for our own businesses and were discouraged from skimping on details.
Lesson 2: Brain Melting, By the Numbers
Have you ever exercised so hard that two days later you could barely move? On day two, that happened to my brain.
We were learning about business finance, that money is the lifeblood of any business, and in order to run a successful business it is vital to have a solid grasp on how your business makes and spends money.
Guest speakers went over a battery of topics that entrepreneurs should consider when starting a business: accounting, business types, forms, taxes, how to pick an accountant (because you need one!), where to go for more help, and so on.
Trying to absorb all of this information was brutal. I almost blacked out. At some point though, one thing became clear: this was the best overview of accounting I had ever received.
Lesson 3: Meta Marketing 101
Maybe I was still under the influence of the finance topics, but Tiffany Dowling’s intro to marketing got meta really fast. I found myself making parallels of what she said to operating a business as a whole. Consider these suggestions:
- Be open to new ways of doing things.
- Set goals. Make a plan. Write it down.
- Your business is not too small to do X.
- Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
- Educate whenever you can.
Totally applicable to business in general. Heck, I think I could even apply this advice to my own life! Mind. Blown.
Tiffany went into a lot more detail but overall the point was this: mindful marketing is integral to the success of a business.
Lesson 4: Five Dollar Hustle
On day three we were given a five dollar bill and told we had ninety minutes to make as much money as possible!
Each group had to sell a service or product using only the fiver we were given as funding. Some people sold donuts, others sold compliments. Massages were given and so were French lessons.
My partner and I sold origami flowers. We made a profit and lots of smiles. We even won the “Most Creative” category. But, unfortunately we didn’t make the most money.
Valuable lessons were learned. We saw assumptions about our customers fall apart, we realized the importance of adjusting our strategy, and we refined our business by getting out there and running it. These lessons can’t be fully understood by reading a book.
Lesson 5: This Is Just the Beginning
The Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Boot Camp was a wonderful experience for me. I learned how different aspects of a business work together and that starting a business requires planning in a tangible sense, not just thinking about an idea. I learned that I have to start doing.
Fortunately, I have many new tools in my belt and am ready to start. I may not have walked away with a business, but I did walk away with the knowledge and confidence to start one.
This has easily been the most valuable education I have received about starting a business.
Erik Gillespie is a software engineer who spends his time developing for both Vertafore
and his own business, Technical Rex, in Lansing, Michigan. He’s a software geek, business
geek, board game geek… basically, he’s just a geek and you can find him sharing his