Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Value of Free Labor

When building a business on a very limited budget, free labor is absolutely invaluable. Why pay for something when you can get it for free, right? While most people think that a free version can’t possibly be as good as the $100 version which can’t be as good as the $1,000 version, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the free version is every bit as good, if not better.

A great example of this is unpaid interns. While there are plenty of students who intern solely to have a job to put on their résumés, there are also some really great ones that are eager to help and learn whatever they can. We recently had a great experience working with business students at Westfield State University.

For the past 18 months, we had been trying to come up with a really great name for our new adult tricycle. We held numerous brainstorming sessions in-house and didn’t come with up with anything we really liked. We came up with a few good options, but none that really “wowed” us. After several attempts involving different people connected to the company, we decided maybe it was time to bring in a professional. We looked into a variety of naming companies and the cheapest one we found was going to cost a minimum of $10,000; and they wouldn’t even guarantee our satisfaction. This was simply not an option with our limited budget. So we tried a few more brainstorming sessions and still came up short. After contemplating it for a while, we decided that we needed to bring in a fresh perspective; people who had no knowledge of the company or product and therefore had a completely unbiased opinion. We reached out to the marketing and business clubs at Westfield State University and they were eager to help. The professors thought it would be a great opportunity for the students to get some real world experience and the free labor fell perfectly within our budget.

Going to the school for the focus group, we were skeptical as to what the session might bring; we weren’t sure if we would get anything valuable out of it or if it was going to be a waste of time. The meeting started out slow and quiet but once they got going, several of the students got really into it. Not only were they throwing out tons of names, but they were eager to suggest add-ons, accessories, and future models too. Some of the ideas they were producing were inline with ours but they also came up with several new names that hadn’t occurred to us. While we didn’t find that one name that really stands out as THE name for our trike, we have a much more solid list of names we like and also a list of commercial ideas, slogans, and future products. Overall, it was a great experience that was well worth our time and the students were very grateful to be given an opportunity to work with a real company. We may have also found a couple future employees.

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Filed under Product Development, Small Business Start-up Tips