Inside Tucson Business: Startup Tucson announces classes for entrepreneurs to navigate COVID

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As the end of the global pandemic continues to lag into the distant future, local businesses are game-planning on how to reach customers effectively yet safely. Startup Tucson, a nonprofit broadly focused on enhancing the Southern Arizona economy through increasing entrepreneur quality, quantity and diversity, has established digital programming to mentor experienced entrepreneurs as well as first-time founders. Startup Tucson’s classes cover online commerce, and help entrepreneurs to navigate through the first steps and risks associated with starting a business.

A new five-part Startup Tucson series starting on Oct. 13, Startup Fundamentals, encompasses these key points. From the start of the program, participants will learn the difference between what it means to an “intentional entrepreneur” and “accidental entrepreneur” according to Liz Pocock, CEO of Startup Tucson.

“A lot of things are changing in terms of customer behavior, you’re seeing people interact differently with products online, you’re seeing people interact differently with products in person, so I think now more than ever, it is really important to understand who your customer is and what problem you’re solving for them,” Pocock said.

Pocock explained that entrepreneurs will also learn about the “Lean Business Model Canvas,” which consists of developing a detailed but concise one-page business plan. The business plan is meant to help entrepreneurs understand what risks may arise in launching their business, who their target customers are and what issues they are looking to solve for those customers. Then, modifications can be made to the one-page business plan as the entrepreneur engages in more market research and analysis of competitors.

Additionally, Pocock said that entrepreneurs will learn about customer discovery, such as customer communication skills, figure out the needs of customers and choose the most cost-effective ways to provide the most suitable products.

A customer discovery tool that will be integrated into the lessons is a process Pocock simply calls, “experimentation.” This process is meant to help entrepreneurs find the least expensive and least resource-intensive tool possible to reach customers and validate that a product is of interest to them. For example, a business may post a webpage about a product and attach a poll asking what customers think about it, which would be a cheap way to quickly discover how much of a need there is for the product.

“One of the things we try to help founders understand is that sometimes you can validate your market before you spend all of this funding into it,” Pocock said. 

Lastly, Startup Fundamentals will cover some entrepreneurial finance basics as well as business basics such as an overview of possible registrations needed, deciding between being a corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship and dealing with business law and accounting.

At the end, entrepreneurs will compose short presentations to give to the Startup Tucson team and other mentors, to help develop a solid pitch of what their business is.

This program is open to any type of business. Pocock explained that even though it will be especially beneficial to first-time founders, it is also meant to assist entrepreneurs who may have had to start their businesses quickly in the past without having all of the foundational knowledge needed. Another type of entrepreneur Pocock referred to, is the type that has been in operation for a while but is now looking to pivot. This could be for example, somebody who has only sold products in-person, and now must shift to fully online.

Pocock believes that this program is especially beneficial during times of COVID-19 because of the rate that the business world is changing. She also explained that despite some of the negative effects of COVID on the economy and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, now actually is a great time to start a business and propel it into the local economy.

 “Entrepreneurs are very very important to our local economy,” Pocock said. “I think we’re going to see a return to localism and we’re going to see a return to wanting to shop in our community, so if you’ve ever thought about launching a business for Tucsonans, now is the time to explore that.”

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