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Incubator Club for Credit Union Members [Update 1/ 21/2017: Final key insights, 3rd iteration and next steps]

We propose an “incubator” for credit union members, where they can pursue their small business dreams & connect with their community.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it support the dreams and obligations of those 50 and older?

The Incubator Club provides those 50 and older with resources (community, networking, mentoring, finance, technical skills, e.g.) and support to remain active, develop a project they always wanted to develop but did not have the time to, help someone by providing expertise or join a team. It supports the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and also create potential extra resources to help them fulfill their obligations.

2/14/17 Update

The past few weeks, we have been working on completing our "Next Steps" outlined below (in the 1/21/17 Update):

Co-creation Workshop

On April 8th, we are planning to run a workshop and prototype our programming ideas. We will be working in the coming weeks to reach out to people in our target demographic who could possibly attend our event.

Connecting with Credit Unions

We are working on connecting with people who work at credit unions, including an employee from Boulder Elevation Credit Union who does community outreach.

Additionally, Kathleen joined a credit union and has been interviewing other members

Continuing Our Research Deep Dive

We are continuing our efforts to interview and connect with our target users. We're having (and planning more) lots of conversations with 50+ people who are interested in or have already started their own businesses. 

Kathleen and Adhish are attending an AARP workshop this week. More notes on this to come! 

Flora supplied us with a study on the history and original intentions of credit unions. Credit unions have always had the intention of building business roots in local communities. We feel like our project aligns very well with this mission!

We have set up a meeting with our business mentor, Professor Rajesh Bilimoria. More notes on this to come.

Lillian spoke with Chris Shaw, the director of BunkerLabs NYC -- an incubator for veterans with entrepreneurial goals. Chris gave us great feedback on both the structure of incubators, and how that could apply to our project, as well as inspiration for programming for our workshop. 

What We Are Thinking About

As our idea develops, we are considering the structure of the Incubator Club -- Chris Shaw suggested we consider a more traditional "Incubator" approach--i.e. instead of requiring successful business ideas to give back a portion of their profits to the credit union, Chris suggested we partner with a sponsor (an outside organization) who can provide/donate some capital. He thinks this will increase the incentive of Club members to launch successful small businesses.

1/21/17 update/summary

Incubator Club’s Mission

The Incubator Club provides those 50 and older with resources (community, networking, mentoring, finance, technical skills, etc.) and support to remain professionally active and to develop a project they are passionate about. Joining the club offers people the chance to apply their expertise in a new way, and to connect with people in their community by helping other projects and organizations. The Incubator Club supports the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and also creates the potential for extra resources to help them fulfill their obligations.

Incubator Club Value Proposition

For people 50+: Gain access to resources to fulfill obligations they might have and / or enact their dreams  into a possible new venture and  earn an extra income by leveraging years of professional experience, engage in  professional development, network and connect with a community of like-minded people.

For the Credit Union: Increased credit union membership, more small business loans taken out, sharing 5-7% of the profits if a new business is supported by the credit union, and positive PR.

How does the Incubator Club work?

  • Monthly networking events and talks (free, anyone can join) created and managed by Credit Union employees or volunteers.
  • Members of the Incubator Club pay a small monthly fee (between $25 and $65 month). Credit union members and non-credit union members alike can join.
  • When someone joins the Incubator Club, they agree that if they end up starting a small business, a portion (5-7%) of their profits go back to the credit union

What does Membership Include?

There are 2 types of PAID memberships

  • Aspiring Membership
    • $25 a month
    • Free coworking space
    • Attend various professional skill building events
    • Access to our training/workshop sessions at a discounted rate
    • Book 1 appointment a month with our coaches (industry experts)
  • Regular Membership
    • $65 a month
    • Includes everything in Aspiring membership
    • Attend all trainings/workshops for free
    • Book up to 3 appointments a month with our coaches (industry experts)

Additional possible benefits with membership:

  • Low interest micro-loans
  • If idea takes form, assistance with web design and advertising

Monthly networking events are low-cost for the credit union and provide community members interested in entrepreneurship & professional development the opportunity to meet each other.

Workshops are for people who have decided to join the Incubator Club to work on their small business ideas. Workshops could be run by experts, specialists, or community members. They can be tailored to each community's needs and wants. Non-Members can sign up to these workshops for a fee.

Here are some potential workshop ideas:

  • Business idea refinement/most viable product
  • How to finance your small business
  • Preparing to take out a small business loan
  • How to become an independent consultant
  • Finding a consumer market for your skills/product
  • Tax help & legal resources

Coaching / Mentorship: Industry experts, finance experts (from Credit Union) and entrepreneurship experts will volunteer to provide coaching and mentorship to the Incubator club members.

What did we learn during refinement?

Key Learnings

We did a light prototyping presenting 3 users (55-60) with a brochure with main offerings (co-working space, networking, talk, community support, coaching, training and micro-loans) and 3 main modes of engagements (free for basic services and others for a fee; “aspiring membership” and membership +). All users found the idea interesting.

  • These 3 users provided a lot of interesting insights highlighting the importance of community, talks and trainings.
  • Financial resources is important for people at a later stage. It would not be the main trigger.
  • The different levels of engagement / membership seems a good option. 

These learnings confirm some of our insights from user feedback during the ideation phase: the appetite for such a service, the importance of community and the willingness to pay for such a service.

Potential for Growth

  • Possibly charge at different levels for various services
    • Ex. Charge for workshops/classes a la carte, monthly, or yearly
    • Ex. Charge for professional coaching
    • Microloans
  • If the credit unions already have community outreach programs we can build from the existing initiatives to target this specific age group.
    • Ex. Boulder Credit Union a successful community outreach program.
  • Crowdfunding: Peer-funded loans for New Ventures. Community members can fund others’ project (just like crowdfunding ( but on a smaller scale and with community trust).

Next Steps

We want to create a support community for people who have time, have an idea, want to connect with others.

We want to reinforce the relationship to Credit Union as a learning relationship rather than a transactional one (as often with banks): Credit Unions offer opportunities for learning about entrepreneurship, provide resources (possibly micro-loans but most importantly coaching and finance expertise).

Refine Personas, Ideate, Prototype, Test, Iterate (by doing the following):

    • Off-Campus Activities
      • Walk-in to Credit Union to interview customers onsite  
      • Attend and/or contact people in meetup groups (i.e. Baby Boomers Financial Meetup, Young Seniors, and etc.) to test our prototypes and interview potentials for more insights
      • Visit New York Public Library's entrepreneurship workshops to see if there are people from 50+ age group attending and interview them
    • On-Campus Resources
      • Interview Director of Veterans Future Lab to learn about the skill-based workshops they offer
      • Meet with our professional mentor Rajesh Bilimoria (expert in innovation strategy)
    • Refine the cost of the services
      • Look at the cost implied by different offerings (location, training, etc.).
      • Compare with other similar services, programs and spaces
      • Get more user feedback
      •  Explore different business models that will allow to make this program / service sustainable. For example, explore an equity model as used by incubators: if members start a business with the help of the incubator club then they give 3 to 5 percent equity to the credit union.


Two Key Research Insights Formed this Idea

First Key Research Insight: people 50+ are still pursuing their dreams and aspirations

  • People 50+ are often retired and have discretionary income to spend
  • People 50+ often have flexible schedules and are looking for opportunities to connect with people in person

Second Key Research Insight: There is a lot of potential for financial services to improve the in-person experience for customers

  • Credit unions, with their community focus, are the perfect institutions to step in and meet this need

To know more:

Our report on our process developing this idea, from start to finish

Our slideshow pitching our idea

Original Proposal, second iteration of the idea (Dec. 2016) and learnings from light prototyping during refinement: see attached documents

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Our group has a connection to a CEO of a credit union, and we are hoping to reach out to her and see what she thinks of our idea. We would also like to create a survey to gauge customer interest--perhaps we could ask users at this specific credit union to participate in this survey. Our survey would ask if customers were interested in participating in this program. It would also ask about how likely they would be to participate in real life at a branch (e.g. events held at the credit union bra

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We are open to all feedback! We want to hear everyone’s thoughts on our idea. We would especially love to talk to anyone who has started a small side business--what challenges he or she faced, the scale of their side business, and if our idea would have been useful to them at any point.

Tell us about your work experience:

We are pursuing M.S. degrees at NYU Tandon.

Please check all that apply:

  • I'm not currently involved in a credit union, but am curious to learn more!

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

The Incubator Club is a membership-based club for credit union members and non-credit union members to start their own small businesses. The club provides support, resources and networking opportunities to its members.

How might your idea be transferable to a large number of people?

This idea will be implemented locally by different local credit unions, but that it is scalable because replicable in all credit unions. It is also scalable because we could also imagine an online component where members from different local clubs could connect.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

1. Participation to the program. For the first pilot, number of people attending the events, and then numbers of members, types of memberships. Also how many micro-loans? 2. "Outputs": how many collaborations emerge? how many ideas turn into start ups?

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Collect more feedback. Connect with different groups and organizations in that space to understand their offerings. Connect with Credit Unions to understand better what would be appealing to them and how micro-loans could work. From there design a more refined programming a brochure and plan a workshop to invite potential users / customers and do a co-creation workshop with them.
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Attachments (8)

Incubator club original proposal.docx

Original proposal posted on the platform

Incubator club idea – 2nd iteration.docx

Description of the second iteration of our idea based on our user feedback during ideation. 12.05.2016

Refinement updates - Jan 2017.docx

Updates and summary of the activities and learnings during refinement (Jan 2017)

20170109174322521 (1).pdf

Experience journey map (Jan 2017). The persona was created based on our research.

image (2).png

Updated user flow 1/10/17

Incubator Club General Flyer.pdf

General flyer to present the club. Used during first user testing.

incubator club microloan.pdf

Flyer presenting micro-loans opportunity.

incubator club brochure v1.pdf

Light prototype of a brochure to present offerings and modes of engagement (free /2 types of memberships). Was tested with 3 users (55 to 60).


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