Listen to the ImpactX Podcast interview with Matthew Erdner, Madeline Nelson and Jonathan Brakefield discuss their startup venture called PlayItForward in the ImpactX Accelerator Program at the College of Charleston. You can also read the transcript below.
Henrik: This is the ImpactX Podcast. I’m Henrik de Gyor, Technical Entrepreneur [In Residence] at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. This series of podcasts, I’m going to be interviewing students and professors from the ImpactX accelerator inside the Business School at the College of Charleston. You’ll hear from the professors who run the program as well as all the students in each team participating in the accelerator. Each team comprises of a business student, a liberal arts student, and often a computer science student for a purposeful friction with different perspectives on the same problem that they’re trying to solve as a business. One of the unique aspects of the ImpactX accelerator program is the use of the UN sustainable development goals that are required for every venture by the ImpactX program so that you can make a profit while making an impact. Each team was interviewed a number of times as there are venture progresses, and now onto the interview.
Henrik: Who are you and what do you do?
Matthew: I’m Matthew Erdner. ImpactX Student. Major is Data Science. I have a concentration in Business Analytics with a minor in Economics.
Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Brakefield. I’m a senior Marketing major and a member of the ImpactX program. I’m mostly focusing on digital marketing, but really excited about ads.
Mads: And I’m Mads Nelson I’m also a senior and I’m a finance major with a minor in accounting and I have a concentration in leadership and I’m also a member of the ImpactX Scholars Program.
Henrik: How are you involved with ImpactX?
Matthew: We’re involved with the SDG goal number 13. So that’s climate action. And what we do at this to climate action is look for tire pits just sitting there that are able to catch fire pretty easily. So we try and take those tires and our goal right now is to break those down, get the rubber from that and kind of put it in a sports ball. So playing with that is to make a sports bladder out of the tires and then eventually transitioned that into a new sports ball and then go into a one for one program. So for every one sold, one would be donated around the world to third world country to less fortunate children. They will then have the ability to play with the sports ball that they may not have ever had the ability to play with and it kind of spreads around the world
Jonathan: It’s really cool thing that we’re going to implement with it is for every time you purchased one of our sports balls, then you can go online to our website aroundtheglobesports.com and you can actually track where the rubber came from that ball and then you can track it as, you know, the one that we ship out to another country or to less fortunate and you can see that the type of impact you’re making and meet the people that we’re sending it to.
Henrik: What are the successes and challenges with your ImpactX venture to date?
Mads: Our success right now is just our market research and analysis of our actual company. We’ve had so many surveys come back into us and see what we’re doing is there and the market is there for a company to really disrupt the market and come into it full force and people are totally on board of, you know, once we come up with our product and have it out there, people definitely be there to buy it. And so that’s really awesome. Our challenge though right now is just trying to figure out, you know, engineers to help us build our balls and figuring out what if we’re going to use 100 percent recycled repurpose rubber or if we are going to use latex inside the bladder. I’m just trying to get the logistics and the cost of our actual ball, seeing what our profit margin and that sort of thing will be.
Jonathan: Good thing to know. For college students, it’s a little bit harder for us to break into a market like this. Even if we have it all planned out, you know. So this is why we’re in this program for.
Mads: Here is another success. It’s getting people on board with us, which is really awesome. I have contact with Lockheed Martin and so they’re gonna try to help us out with the engineering side and hopefully have partnerships with other nonprofits and those kinds of companies.
Jonathan: People are really excited about the one for one idea. While a lot of people like to say that they spend more money on things that are recycled, some people just can’t afford to, but the whole one for one thing, people are really behind that.
Matthew: With our over 200 surveyed, at least 80 percent of the people said that they would be willing to pay a little bit extra because of the one for one program. So it was really good reinforcement from the market research that we were able to get.
Henrik: Excellent. Yeah. Especially modeling after, I guess Tom’s shoes was one of the first to do that. That was obviously a popular model, so congratulations on that. And what advice would you like to share with future entrepreneurs that you’ve learned so far in the process?
Jonathan: Don’t be, especially in the beginning of when we started ImpactX, we started with an idea and we got really great feedback with it. It was a, think Fitbit for horse carriage [in Charleston], you know, horses to help monitor their health and things like that. But it was… we thought it was a really great idea to run with, you know, they were going to be some complications along the way, but we were willing to take those on and we got great feedback from. No one really thought that we should have pivoted, but we realized as we worked on it, we weren’t really passionate about this, you know, idea. It made whenever we hit a roadblock, we were less excited about, you know, getting past that roadblock. So we ended up pivoting and I think was surprising people with it, but it was something that we jumped into something that we’re more passionate about. So definitely do what you’re passionate about and don’t be scared to pivot if you know, you find that you’re not really feeling what you’re doing now, even if it’s successful.
Matthew: I’m going to add on to Jonathan there like what you said about being passionate about it. You know, you’re not passionate about it, it’s hard to find that motivation. And when you’re passionate about it, you’re always motivated to take that extra step and do exactly what you need to do to become successful.
Mads: Definitely our passion there all three of us are definitely sportspeople. Playing or watching sports in general. It’s just always been passionate since a young age. So I think pivoting from a successful venture idea to something that we’re passionate has definitely just been something that we’re definitely grateful for doing.
Henrik: Great. Did you see any interest level changing as far as more interest in one venture over the other?
Mads: Yeah, definitely. I definitely would say we definitely have more interest now. Our Fitbit idea was a really cool idea. It definitely would have provided a lot of challenges for us and this one will too, but we definitely see with our mentors and our class saying people that we’ve talked to outside that this is definitely more doable for us and just the feedback that we’ve gotten the interest is just there. We can definitely disrupt this market.
Matthew: And something to add to that is because you’re kind of tying yourself in with the horses to only certain markets in certain locations, but was sports, there’s soccer played in over 200 countries worldwide. Everybody knows about it. Everybody’s involved in it one way or another. Like I’ve been saying, the only thing that brings people together more than an extreme tragedy is sports. Might as well just run with that.
Henrik: We hope you enjoyed listening to the ImpactX Podcast. For more about the ImpactX program, visit impactx.cofc.edu. Don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe to hear about future episodes. Thanks for listening.