By Molly Farison '14
My business partner Amos Meeks (Olin '14) came up with the idea for a home wheelchair scale with a team of students through the User-Oriented Collaborative Design Class at Olin in Spring of 2012. They were working with people who use wheelchairs, asking questions to better understand their lives, when one day a person mentioned that he wanted to join Weight Watchers to lose some weight, but he couldn't participate because he had no way to weigh himself. The team asked several other wheelchair users if they too had this problem and there was a resounding "yes." I heard about this idea from my good friend Amos, and during his presentation at Expo I told him I'd like to start a business with him around this idea. Since taking The Entrepreneurial Initiative, I was an entrepreneur looking for a good idea and a co-founder, ready to start a company when that moment hit.
We started working on the business in January 2013 (when Amos had returned from studying away in Singapore), and we applied to several accelerator programs in Spring 2013. Both of us worked on the business full-time over the summer as part of the amazing MassChallenge accelerator program. Now that Olin is in session, I am working 30 hours per week on the business and taking just one class to finish up, and Amos is working about 6 hours per week on the business and taking a full course load. In the past few months, we have incorporated as Lilypad Scales, LLC, filed a provisional patent for the weight scale technology we have developed, consulted many different advisors to develop a viable business strategy, and started to raise a "Friends and Family" funding round. We plan to finish product development within the next couple months, then run a pilot test with 20-30 of our scales to test them over the course of several months. While pilot testing, we will start to pre-sell our scales to distributors who already sell other products to a similar audience.
I will definitely be working on this business full-time when I graduate in December. While still in school, I was able to flesh out the business idea and test whether it was really something I wanted to pursue after graduation, but we've come to the point where we have tested our big assumptions and we believe we have a good chance of creating a viable business. I plan to reassess this every few months, to make sure we don't go down a path destined for failure, but for now I'm excited to work on the business for as long as it takes to be successful.
As an Olin student with significant internship experience, I could go get a job at a big company or a later-stage startup, but for now I have free housing available to me for the next several months and I'm excited to give this a shot. The amount I'm learning from trying to build a business from scratch is absolutely amazing, and this knowledge and perspective will make me all the more hireable if at some point I do want to work for someone else.
Hear more from Molly, Co-founder and CEO of Lilypad Scales, about how she and Amos learned how to tackle the business challenges of starting their company.