Valentin’s Reflective Essay

The aim of this essay is to describe my personal learning experience during the creation process of DANZZA and the Design Thinking for Start-ups module overall. I analyse how every situation changed my personality and the way I see things now.  Also, I explain how these skills will help me to achieve my ambition of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

At the beginning of the module I felt anxious since I did not know what to expect from this module. I did not finish my undergraduate studies so I was afraid that the topics that were going to apply were not of my knowledge. Before starting my Masters in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, I spent five years working on my family business, which is a BTL marketing agency based in Argentina. At the same time, I worked on several personal projects as the creation of a beach resort in the most popular area of my country. I believe the title of my first blog cannot better reflect what I felt at that time: @#$% is this??!. On this post, I express my fears at that time but also how I enjoy facing new challenges.

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Our first session included an activity called `The Gift Giving Project’. The aim of this task was to interview a classmate and solve in a creative way an issue related to making a present. I consider this point as the moment I realized what the module was about. After asking some questions to my partner, I came up with the idea of creating an intelligent box that would allow customer to add videos to their gift-boxes. In this activity, we learn about the term `Design Thinking’ for the first time. This concept refers to the non-linear process of finding an innovative solution to a specific problem through the analysis of the user´s mind and logic, challenging pre-concepts, redefining the problem, and delivering an original solution to it(Interaction Design Foundation, 2019).

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During the beginning of the first semester, Alice asked us to form groups to create our own product and work on it throughout the year. In order to have different backgrounds, we formed a team including Vivien, Sheng-Yi, and Kaja. Vivien did her undergraduate in a Brazilian fashion school, Sheng-Yi’s background includes business and video gaming development in Taiwan, and Kaja is a Polish professional dancer who did her business undergraduate in Scotland. Sheng-Yi and Kaja did not have any professional experience; Vivien and I had it. While it may be difficult for people with diverse personalities to work together to accomplish a mutual objective, the benefits of this type of team activities are very positive for the members (Belcher, 2019).

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During the next few weeks, we continued learning about the `Design Thinking’ tools and techniques. We did a wheelchair body-storming to put ourselves in the client’s place and thus understand their certain needs. Besides, Janja introduced us the Business Model Canvas, which is a strategic management tool to simply define and communicate a business idea(Bartlett, 2016). It was the first time I was in contact with this method and I was surprised on how this tool help us to think about a business idea without missing any element. The canvas is undoubtedly one of the most important tools I have learned throughout the module and I will make use of it when planning my future business projects. I even applied it successfully when I had to perform an analysis about different businesses as part of my projects in other modules.

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Once we assimilated the conceptual framework of the ´Design Thinking´ methodology, we started to think about the product we will create for this module. After several group meetings and brainstorming sessions, we came up with an array of different ideas, such as a guitar pick keychain, a portable ashtray, and a protective top for contemporary dancers, among others. At this stage, it was essential to choose the right product since we would delve our work into it during the next months. This was a critical moment since our innovations and decision-making skills were put into test. This phase in the developing process is deemed as fundamental due to the importance it acquires for the future success of the business (Stickdorn & Schneider, 2011). Afterworking on our business ideas, we presented them in class to receive feedback from Janja and our classmates and define our future steps. After a dynamic discussion with the entire class, we decided to focus on the protective top for contemporary dancers. At the same time, given that Kaja is a dancer, we considered it would be easier for us to learn beforehand about the customer’s unfulfilled needs and expectations.

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Having chosen the product we were going to create, it was time for us to investigate thoroughly about the problem we wanted to solve. We spent plenty of time researching about the injuries that occurs to dancers during their performances and how this affect them. Having gathered this information, we moved to the next step and started to design our business idea. We believed that a proper name for our brand would attract the right market. For this reason, we decided to name our brand DANZZA. `Danza’ is the Spanish translation of the word dance; and we added another `z’ to make it more eye-catching.

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Two weeks later, we experienced our first Dragons’ Den; an opportunity for all teams in the class to pitch our idea in 5 minutes in front of a panel of experienced entrepreneurs followed by constructive feedback and suggestions from them. I was comfortable with this kind of activities since I used to present business ideas in front of crowded audiences during my last job. However, I felt slightly nervous about this because it was my first academic presentation in English and in front of a panel of judges. It is said that the most interesting products are created by people with loads of conviction and passion(Belsky, 2018). Our team represented those characteristics and that gave me the confidence I needed to perform in front of the audience. I believe that this experience would be useful for me in the future when pitching a business idea in front of potential investors.

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During the first Dragons’ Den feedback, the judges suggested us that we should start creating our first prototype. For this purpose, we started to research about the materials that would be appropriate to manufacture our top sample. After some tests, we decided to produce the top with a dark blue breathable fabric and 1-inch foam for the protective areas. And with the help of Kaja´s flat mate, who owns a sewing machine to manufacture the t-shirt and sew the foam to it, we had our first DANZZA prototype.

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Two weeks later, we attended the trade fair at the Kingston Business School. At the same time, we took part of the Bright Ideas competition, which involved judges evaluating our fair stands, asking questions about our business ideas, and giving us feedback. On this phase, it was when I felt more comfortable about being evaluated. I consider myself a people person so I feel very comfortable when interacting with other individuals. Through my work experience, I attended many fairs and events where being extrovert is essential for attracting new clients. After the fair, the judges selected us as one of the teams who will attend the Bright Ideas Finals in February.

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The Bright Ideas Finals was a good opportunity to improve our business idea and presentation. The most interesting thing about this competition was the networking event after the presentations. This was our first time to speak freely with the judges about our business idea or even share personal concerns or ideas. In my case, I had a very interesting conversation with Craig Mills, the founder of an advertisement company focused in health and wellness space (LinkedIn, 2019). And after telling him about my experience on the field and the fact that I was looking for a job here in London, he asked for my LinkedIn profile. This was a unique opportunity for all of us to have a dialogue with the judges on a more relaxed environment.

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The next step of the process was to create a video advertisement for our company. I was truly enthusiastic about it since I spent much time with my company’s audiovisual team producing many video advertisements for brands’ campaigns. The modern customer prefers to see a product ´in action´, and towards this end, audiovisual content are one of the most important driving forces for engaging customers (Kallas, 2018). Hence, we decided to create a targeted advertisement in which we show our potential customers how DANZZA would solve their injuries problems letting them dance freely. During the next class, we had the “Oscars” and we won the first price for the best video advertisement. We were very excited about it since we spent various days filming the content and editing it.

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One week after the Oscars, we started working on our company’s business plan. It was my first time doing such a complete report. A good business plan channels entrepreneurs´ work towards specific preliminary steps necessary to succeed, helping them to set short and long-term objectives to secure a bright future (Messmer, 2016). We had a lot of work to do. We started the business report by including a brief introduction about what DANZZA is and defining specific objectives and explanatory information about our design thinking process (Bentley, 2003). Then, we detailed our marketing strategy that entails the competitive advantage of our business which is related to the main concept of the brand that will help us to positionate our product on the market (Baker, 2014). Afterwards, we developed a finance analysis. Finally, we exposed the lessons we learned and the future plans for the company. It was a tough process, but enriching at the same time. For the first time in the module, we compiled all our work in a single report. Also, based on Alice’s corrections, we learned which topics we needed to improve in order to create a better business plan.

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Our following event was the Eden Walk Trade Fair. This was the first opportunity to trial our idea with people who weren’t from the university. After some testing of the prototype, we decided to improved it by replacing the protective foam for a shock absorbent material, and using a better quality breathable fabric. Although creating a new prototype may seem a bit cumbersome, we believe that our product should meet our customers’ needs. Besides, we built our stand for a second time giving us more practice for the Final Dragons’ Den.

Unfortunately, we did not win any prize at this event. However, we decided not to give up and we set ourselves the goal of being selected as one of the best four teams during the final competition. This was an inflexion point for us where we all applied our team-working skills in order to not give up and encourage us to continue working in our project despite not having received any prize.

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The Final Dragons’ Den arrived. That day I woke up feeling a combination of nervousness and anxiety. It was our most important event of the module and we were expected to show how we improved the business idea during the entire process. Besides, during this event the judges would select two teams to represent the university at the Young Enterprise National Start-up Finals. That day was perfect in all senses; we felt confident, we did an impeccable presentation, and the judges were quite satisfied. We even qualified to the YE National Start-up Finals. At this moment, we realized as a group about the actual potential that we had. The problem was that we did not had much confidence on ourselves. After the competition, Janja told us something that would be etched on my memory for a long time: “Don’t you see what you can achieve if you trust yourselves?”. She was right. That day we were convinced that after so much effort and time invested on this project, we deserved to be selected as one of the best teams of the module. Even we did several changes during the process, isn’t life about adapting to the circumstances? I believe that this concept is essential to be acquired by anyone who wants to progress in any field of life.

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To conclude, after this enriching process, I consider that my way of thinking changed radically. Besides, the fact that we acquired considerable knowledge through practice made the module much enjoyable. I will explain it in the following terms: after the module, I generated a Post-DesignThinking personality which defers drastically from the Pre-DesignThinking one. If the Post-DT Valentin had a conversation with the Pre-DT, he would suggest him not to be afraid of facing new challenges, enjoy the process, never give up even in the discouraging scenes, and do not stress, since on the worst experiences is when we grow up and learn something new. Now, this more confident Post-DesignThinking Valentin feels that he already acquired all the required tools in order to continue his way to achieve his ambition of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

 

 

 

References:

Baker, M.J., 2014. Marketing strategy and management. Macmillan International Higher Education.

 

Bartlett, C.(2016). How To: Business Model Canvas Explained.Available: https://medium.com/seed-digital/how-to-business-model-canvas-explained-ad3676b6fe4aLast accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

Belcher, L.M. (2019). The Advantages of Group Work & Teamwork.Available: https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-group-work-teamwork-24031.htmlLast accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

Belsky, S.(2018).Your Best Ideas Are the Ones No One Else Believes in.Available:https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/319107Last accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

Bentley, T., 2003. Report writing in business. Elsevier.

 

Interaction Design Foundation (2019). Design Thinking.Available: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/design-thinkingLast accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

Kallas, P.(2018).8 Powerful Reasons You Need to Use Video Marketing [TRENDS].Available:https://www.dreamgrow.com/8-reasons-why-your-business-should-use-video-marketing/Last accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

LinkedIn(2019).Craig Mills Frontera Group MD.Available: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/cpmillsLast accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

Messmer, R.(2016).4 reasons why a business plan is important.Available: https://www.iafrikan.com/2016/06/15/4-reasons-why-a-business-plan-is-important/Last accessed 22th Apr 2019.

 

Stickdorn, M. &Jakob, S. (2010). This is Service Design Thinking, Amsterdam: BIS.

 

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Final Dragons’ Den

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Last Friday we attended the last competition of the course. The Final Dragons’ Den. This competition consisted on every group from the module pitching their ideas to a group of experienced judges. We had to prepare our own stand on tables provided by the university and pitch our idea in 6 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges. We also had to make a presentation, and give a copy of our business report to each judge. At the end of the event, the judges choosed two teams to represent the university at the Young Enterprise National Start-up Finals! Now that you know everything about the competition, I will share with you our experience.

After many fairs and competitions, we already felt comfortable pitching in public. But, this time was different, it was our last and most important opportunity to prove all the work we did during the entire module. So, we felt a little nervous.

We started by finishing our business report, which had to be submitted the day before the competition. On this report, we included an introduction about what DANZZA is, our marketing strategy, an explanation of the concept and brand, finances, lessons learned, and our future plans. After finishing it, Sheng-Yi printed it at the library on a good quaity paper in order to hand it in a professional way. Here you can see how it looked…

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At the same time, we prepared the presentation for our pitch. We only included images and some text so the judges don’t get distracted reading and they can focus on what we were actually saying. We also included our advertisement video during the presentation so the judges know more in deep about our marketing strategy and how we present our product online.

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Finally, we had our last group meeting to prepare our pitch. For this competition we were supposed to speak also about all the topics covered in the business report. For this reason, we rewrite the pitch adding this information. It was hard; but after many hours of work, we had our final pitch.

The Final Dragon’s Den arrived. According to the schedule, we had to pitch on the second place after the team ODYSSEY. Even the rest of my group were stressed about this, I told them that this was better for us because we didn’t have much time to wait until it was our turn. So, we won’t be stressed for so long. Before the competition, we went to an empty room at the Business School building to get organized and practice the pitch for the last time. After this, we put on our DANZZA shirts and we went to the presentations room. Five minutes after we arrived, ODYSSEY finished. It was our turn. We entered to the room, prepared our stand and presentation, gave the judges business cards, stickers and the business report, and started pitching. After 20 minutes, we finished. The presentation was excellent; we didn’t have any mistake and we answered every single question that the judges asked us. We were so exited!! Now, it was time to relax, have lunch, and wait until the rest of the groups present to know which teams would represent the university at the national finals.

Two hours later, all the groups were called to a bigger room. Here, the judges would give as all a general feedback about our presentations and the entire process. Also, they would select the best four teams to pitch again in order to select the two winning teams. And guess what? We were selected among the four teams! Actually, we weren’t expected to be chosen as one of the best teams. But, as Janja told us: “You should have more confidence in yourselves”. So, we went to the front and we pitched again with more confidence than before. After all the teams presented, the judges went outside the room to discuss which two teams would represent the university at the Young Enterprise National Start-up Finals. They came back and announced the winners: “The two teams that will represent Kingston University at the Young Enterprise National Start-up Finals in May are FIT ME and… (drums)… DANZZA!!!!” Woohoo!! We did it! We couldn’t be more excited about this. All the effort we put on this project gave us an enormous satisfaction. It was such an amazing experience! We were so proud of our selves.

So, you will hear from us in May!!!

See you soon!!!

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The Rookie Blogger

Eden Walk Trade Fair​

After the first trade fair at the Business School, it was time to experience an external fair. For this reason, last weekend we participated on the Eden Walk trade fair. It was an opportunity to test our idea with people who weren’t from the university. This time, the judges will visit every stand evaluating the stand and making many questions about the business idea. Also, they will assign prizes for the best trade stand, best sales team, best product, and the best company overall. So, we should be very prepared for this event.

Taking into consideration the feedback we received on the previous fair, we decided to do may changes. First, we realized that we should have business cards to give to potential customers. So, I went to a printing place in my area and printed 200 business cards. Also, I saw some stickers that looked cool so I also ordered 100 round stickers with our logo. This is how the cards and stickers looked like:

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We also decided that we should make a new and better quality prototype. Therefore, we build our second prototype, which consisted of using a new shock absorbent material and a better-quality fabric. We got all the materials and Vivien took them to a professional manufacturer to sew it. Two days later, we had our second prototype. What do you think?

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Besides, it was time to print a better logo so anyone can notice our brand from a long distance. For this reason, Sheng-Yi and I printed on an A1 paper size our logo next to our contact email and social media account. To keep it stand, we bought a cork board and stuck the paper to it.

3Lastly, we downloaded our advertisement video to Kaja’s laptop and then played during the trade fair in order to draw people’s attention. Also, we pasted the poster of Kaja dancing to the so people would realize as soon as they see the stand that our company is related to this type of art. Now that everything was explained, do you want to see how our stand looked?

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The judges where very happy with our stand. They even told us that they were surprised by how we clearly exposed what our company does. They asked so many questions, and we had answers to all of them. Also, they made us some suggestions for the future dynamic of our business.

Finally, the time for the prices arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t win any prize. But this whole experience was enough reward for us. We learned a lot, we experienced something completely new, and we had fun. What else can we ask? For the next stage, which is the final Dragons’ Den, we will prepare our selves to show the judges that we deserve more! Let’s go DANZZA!!

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DANZZA Advertisement/Oscars

After the Bright Ideas finals, we started working on our next task for the module: creating a video advertisement for DANZZA. Isn’t this cool? I was really excited about it since on my family business I spent much time whit the audiovisual team working on videos for many brands’ campaigns. So, I was used to it and I enjoyed it.

The brief was clear: the maximum length of the advert was 1 minute, it should connect with our customers on emotional, physical and cognitive levels, and we must provide our contact details. The deadline was the 8th of February, and we were supposed to post it on YouTube/Vimeo, on the company website, and on our blogs.

For this new task, we had a group meeting to decide what we should do. We started by doing some brainstorming in order to come up to some ideas for the script. Also, we did research of adverts from dancers clothing. We found two videos that we liked; and taking some ideas from them, we created our own script.

The video started with a guy training without our product. You can notice that he was suffering due to the brasseries on his body caused by the advance movements he performed. Next, we explain how our product works and their main characteristics using animation images. Then, Kaja enters to the room wearing the DANZZA top, and she starts doing advance dance movements without any pain next to the first male dancer. Later, Kaja gives him a DANZZA top and both of them smile. Finally, our logo and contact details appear in the video.

But to film this advert, we would need help. We didn’t have any filming skills or equipment. So, we asked Jo, a video-producer friend of mine, if he could help us to record the advert. In exchange for some beers, he agreed to help us. Also, Kaja asked a friend of her from the dancing school if he would agree to be the guy who appears at the beginning of the video, and he said yes. Last but not least, we needed a location to record. So, we booked a room at The Place Dancing Centre; but the closest date we could get was four days before the deadline! Here you have some pics of the filming day.

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After the filming day, it was time to edit the video. For this reason, I got help from my audiovisual team from my company back home. We worked on the video for two days in a row to meet the deadline. After many trials, here it is: The DANZZA video advertisement!

Once he had the final video, Sheng-Yi posted it on our YouTube account, our social media, and our new website that he created. Also, we posted it in our blogs.

The next day it was the Oscars! A class where each group showed their advert, and the winner team gets a prize. The evaluation was divided on different topics, and the rest of the teams should score the videos according to their perspective. So, guess which team won the Oscar? WE DID!! Can you believe it? We were so exited!!

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Bright Ideas Competition Finals

After the Bright Ideas competition, it was time to focus on the finals. We needed to improve a lot. Mostly because this time we should pitch our business idea in front of specialized judges. This event is an annual Kingston University competition created to give students from any discipline the opportunity to develop an idea in front of judges, have feedbacks, and even win prices. There were eight categories in which ideas could be categorized: Engineering 1; Engineering 2; Online Tech; Products; Science, health and wellbeing; Services; Social enterprise; and Virtual panel. Our company was categorized as Science, health and wellbeing, and we competed against other six projects.

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Some days before the competition, we had a meeting to discuss the feedback the judges gave us at the trade fair. We did many improvements, and we re-write the pitch according to these changes. While we were practising the new pitch, we realized that for our next presentation it would be cool if all of us uses the same t-shirt. So, we came up with the idea to create branded t-shirts with our logo. We started researching on the internet for companies who do print clothing in London. But unfortunately, there was no company who could do it on time, and the ones who could, the price was very high. Before giving up, we started looking for alternatives, and we found on Amazon a transfer paper for clothing. Just in case you don’t know how this works: it is a transparent paper where you can print any images, cut it, and iron it to any type of clothing; after one minute, your clothing is printed! We ordered it and arrived the day before the competition. We printed the logos at night, and minutes before the competition, we all brought a white plain t-shirt. And, whit an iron that a friend lent us, we printed our t-shirts at the university canteen!! You don’t believe me?? Look…

GIF-2019-04-20-20-25-32

When we finished printing the t-shirts, we started practising the pitch for the last couple of times. As soon as we felt confident, we went to the meeting point; where all the teams were supposed to meet. After receiving all the explanations about how the event was going to work, the teams were divided according to the categories. We and the teams from our category went to another building, and the first group entered a room to pitch in front of the judges. Five minutes later, it was our turn. We did a very good pitch, the judges were friendly, and their feedbacks very constructive. We left the room, and someone who works for the university social media department asked us if we could explain in less than one minute what DANZZA was about. So, without doubting, we did it.

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After the video, we went to the Business School building to attend the Bright Ideas competition’s networking event, where we had the chance to speak with other teams and also the judges. We took advantage of this opportunity to ask all the judges their deep feedback, which was very useful. Finally, all the people who took part of the event went to a room where they were going to announce the winners. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but it was such an interesting experience that I don’t regret having been part of it. Thanks to this competition we improved a lot as a team, we gain confidence, and we developed even more our business idea. So, at the end of the day, we were really happy. Look at our faces!!

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Kingston Business School trade fair / Bright Ideas competition

Today we attended the trade fair at the Kingston Business School building. At the same time, we took part of the Bright Ideas competition, which involved several judges evaluating our stands at the fair, asking many questions about our projects, and giving us some pieces of advice and feedback. The objective of this competition was to be selected as one of the teams who was going to attend the finals two weeks later, having the chance to win money to finance part of the project. For this reason, we put so much effort to prepare a decent stand for DANZZA. Are you wondering why our company name has two “Z” instead of one? I will explain it to you: Our last group meeting started by deciding which of the logos that Sheng-Yi had created we were going to use for the company. After some discussion, we realized that to represent the values of the company, we should have created a more artistic logo. For this reason, we added a “Z” to make it more attractive for the customers and we started over the sketches of the design. Three hours later, with the help of an artist friend of Vivien, we had several options to decide:

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It was a tough decision. This logo will remain as the most visible symbol to represent our company. We ended deciding to use the dark blue one, which was hand-painted. But something was missing… AHA! Let’s add hair to the two dancers. Finally, our logo was done, and we are really happy with it!

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After finishing the logo, we still needed to plan how we would build our stand for the fair. The only thing that we already had was the table that the uni provided us to be the structure. But we felt that it didn’t look good enough for a fair, so I went to a textile shop and bought a black tablecloth to cover it.

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Now, it was time to decide what to put on the table. First, I printed our new logo on an A4 page and put it on a plastic support to keep it standing. Also, I printed a big picture of Kaja dancing on an A1 page. So, the attendees could realize, as soon as they approach the stand, which was the main topic of the company. Also, we wanted to show our first prototype. Therefore, Vivien got from her job a woman’s torso manikin! Isn’t that great? Besides, Sheng-Yi created a Google survey to be completed by people who were interested in the product so we were able to contact them when we start selling it. Finally, we added a paper board so people could write suggestions for us! Do you want to see how the stand looked?

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We had a really nice time! We experienced something new, we learned, and we received interesting feedback from the judges. Now, is time to take all these comments and improve our brand for the next stages. Oh, and before I forget, we made it to the finals!!!