The TRAP House team just wrapped up our final boot camp class for the summer, and you’re probably wondering how it went.
Well, we learned a lot. As did our clients. The curriculum seemed to work well for the goals we were trying to achieve, and boot camp complemented the incubation services we were providing to our TRAP Stars. However, as with any pilot program, there were many ups and downs, and there were lessons learned in every moment along the way.
Here are just a few of the things that we learned from hosting a summer entrepreneurial boot camp:
We made the decision early on to invite everyone who participated in Startup Day to our boot camp. We did not restrict this service to only those with the most-promising business ventures. This allowed us to expand our impact and helped establish boot camp as a group effort.
2. Proximity is key.
A central part of our curriculum was Design Thinking. We’ve been teaching it, and we’ve been doing it. The team is constantly reassessing and perfecting our work styles in response to feedback from our clients and from simply getting to know the North End better. TRAP House’s work is people-centered, and place-centered. Therefore, we need to be on-the-ground as much as possible. We need to be proximate.
3. Sometimes it makes sense to put the horse before the cart.
It’s common in the productivity world to encourage doers to treat a project like it is in stage 2 from the beginning. The logic there is that the stage 1 work can only come if we pretend like we’re already in stage 2. While we recognize the value in this idea of “putting the cart before the horse,” we find that, when working with our clients, some are just at completely different life and entrepreneurial stages than others. We have to be real in recognizing what stage our clients are at in order to best meet their needs.
4. Technological access needs to be a priority in Hartford.
Several of our clients did not have a laptop. While we were able to secure laptops for our clients, it is just absolutely startling how sparse internet access is in Hartford. In this day and age, business founders need to have access to technology. In Hartford, the rate of internet access is 31% lower than the national average. If entrepreneurship is the pathway to transforming the community, then access to technology needs to be made a priority.
After almost every boot camp session, our clients would say things like “Wow, it feels like we’ve been doing this every day. Y’all are just giving us the words to describe it.” Design thinking’s people-centered approach isn’t any different from the deep community knowledge that our TRAP stars had acquired for years. Working with our TRAP Stars confirmed our hunch that the entrepreneurial spirit is present in our clients.
6. Individual mentoring is highly effective.
At the outset of the summer, we adopted a cohort model. We gave group lessons to all who attended boot camp. We brought all of our clients into the fold on the same day: Startup Day. While these decisions definitely had their benefits, we found that it is just so much more effective to work with clients individually. This is grounded in the fact that our clients tend to be at such a great diversity of business and life stages.
7. This was a pilot.
This was the first real test of the TRAP House model. While we are happy with what we were able to accomplish over the summer, we are so incredibly far from our vision.