IFE Welcomes Stephanie Mitchell, Founder of Gymbag
On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, the Institute for Entrepreneurship welcomed Stephanie Mitchell, founder of Gymbag, to Prof. Pulino’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class. Mitchell talked about her professional experience and presented the two startups she participated in, Blacksumac and Gymbag.
A graduate in Communications, right after college Mitchell started working as Marketing Manager. Through that position, she met the colleagues with whom she founded Blacksumac, her first experience in the startup world. As Marketing Director for Blacksumac, she helped create Piper, a fully integrated smart home device. After the acquisition of the company by Icontrol Networks, Mitchell founded Gymbag, an e-commerce platform for personal trainers.
A big challenge came from the company’s decision to use crowdfunding for the development of the later stages of Piper. In crowdfunding, a company or an individual create a page on a website such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter. On the page, they describe the product they are trying to create, its features, the estimate cost to complete the project (the goal). People are then free to back up the project, in exchange for rewards (such as early access, etc.) according to the amount donated. The Blacksumac team turned to Indiegogo to fund Piper. This changed everything, according to Mitchell. “We went from building a product in the dark to doing so in the light. It’s totally different,” she said. While challenging, crowdfunding also had upsides, such as plentiful and continuous feedback from prospective buyers. The campaign turned out to be a success, reaching 300% of the set goal. Shortly after the release of Piper to the public, Blacksumac was purchased from Icontrol Networks. Mitchell decided to leave the company and create a new startup: Gymbag.
Gymbag is a service that lets personal trainers set up an online store without the need for a physical one, as the stock is maintained by Gymbag. Mitchell developed a new business model to satisfy an existing need (personal trainers need more income), for a specific target audience. Many startups start monetizing once they establish a large enough audience, which can take years. Therefore, part of creating a viable business model, Mitchell continued, is developing a MVP (minimum viable product). Doing so allows the startup to start operating with its first customers, and, therefore, monetizing. The next step involves joining an accelerator, a company which gives a first investment in the startup coupled with a mentoring and support structure. Finally, once the acceleration stage is complete, any startup needs to receive a more significant investment. This part is “do or die for 99% of startups,” said Mitchell. For Gymbag, Mitchell joined the accelerator H-Farm, in the Veneto region of Italy. However, after the acceleration phase, she decided to keep Gymbag as a self-supporting side business, rather than a main one.
Mitchell concluded the lecture by presenting her new business venture: SunnyStorm, an all-around service meant to establish an online presence for small businesses. Stephanie Mitchell will be a mentor for Startup Weekend Rome, which takes place at John Cabot University February 17-18-19.