NORI was never the plan. In fact, the “innovative wrinkle solution based on the technology of a hair straightener” was once a software created for grocery store navigation. The NORI Story, as we have come to call it, is one rooted in early failure, multiple pivots, sharp learning curves, and many many (albeit sometimes nervous) laughs.
The entrepreneurship minor at Wake Forest University was one that seemed a “solid accompaniment” to a general liberal arts major. For those that decided against the University’s very rigorous business school, entrepreneurship classes promised a focused glimpse into one aspect of business. At the very least, it promised a different perspective: a mindset of innovation and creativity that could be used by the English and Political Science majors alike.
For Alexis, Annabel, Courtney and Claire (that’s us, the current NORI Team), the minor provided the opportunity of failure. Our team had come up with the idea of “Nav&Grab,” a navigation software that would allow customers to navigate any grocery store to find their desired items via a displayed map on their mobile device or shopping cart. Sounds like a good idea...right? According to our very particular professor Daniel Cohen… WRONG.
In fairness, it was not the idea that was wrong. Professor Cohen explained it was the lack of validation that presented a problem. Here we were, a group of seniors at Wake Forest University (none of which have any experience in the grocery market) presenting an idea we had decided to validate based on the loose recommendation of 5 Trader Joes and Harris Teeter workers we had begged to speak with us.
NORI Story Chapter 1: Know your Market and Know your Pain Point
Professor Cohen had told us to sit down mid-presentation that day. With about 3 weeks left, until a 24 page business projection was due on our “mock startup,” we gathered in a tight study room in Wake Forest’s library to begin a very large, but lord knows very necessary, pivot.
On page 3 of an idea log we had kept all semester for Professor Cohen’s class, I found an idea titled “stand and straighten.” After working for a research firm in New York city the summer before, I had found repeated frustration in trying to remove wrinkles out of my many silk blouses and navy trousers. In my 9x9 urban apartment, I had no room for an ironing board and no time for the leakage repeatedly spilling from the steamer my mom bought me. With that said, I turned to my hair straightener to press out these wrinkles daily. “Stand and Straighten” was an enlarged hair straightener with fabric specific heat settings, elongated plates, and no need for water or board. On page 3 of that idea log, NORI was born.
Together we created a survey designed for feedback, a sample website, a 3D printed version of our envisioned designed, and a new name. NORI (Iron spelled backwards) was to turn the ironing Industry (and with any hope, our class grade) upside down.
In 48 hours, our website had 1200 unique visits, 45% of those individuals had clicked “I’m interested” and three people had gone ahead and entered their credit card information for purchase. Far from the aisles of Trader Joe’s, our project now had real validation and we began a final report that presented a deep dive into the ironing market, potential financials, manufacturing feasibility, etc. The report resulted in a passing grade and an invitation to Wake Forest’s entrepreneurial accelerator: Startup Lab.
NORI Story Chapter 2: After a Passing Grade, the Work Begins
The “mock start up” we created in order to pivot a project, has now become a real start up four of us (three in New York and one in Texas) are committed to making a success. While I could now go into the details of filing a patent or trademark, selecting a design firm, creating a website for e-commerce, researching manufacturers, deciding on a kickstarter, etc, I will save those chapters for another day, or rather, another blog.
In all honesty, we have just scratched the surface of the work that is to come! Perhaps even the saying NORI Story is misleading. After all, our pre-sales startup is perhaps more of a “NORI foreward” or a “NORI Chapter One.” And yet, the lessons we have learned, the many hours spent scratching our heads, pressing delete, and starting again, are enough to make for multiple pages and multiple chapters.
So thus begins the NORI Trilogy or the NORI series, a multi-part story that is far from over with a plot that is continually developing and an ending that we can promise (a word we don’t say often) will take multiple turns, present new characters and come as an unexpected conclusion to us all. With that said, more to come...