Lesson Learned #4: Market Survey

Third Space is a co-working + childcare concept in Omaha, NE, the brainchild of yours truly, Kate White, who is new to all things business, spreadsheets and pro formas. This blog is a documentation of my journey to entrepreneurship. 

As a user experience designer, my bread and butter is about designing a thing according to user input. I have been trained to get feedback from people at various stages of a project and to iterate based on that feedback, so I knew the value of finding the Third Space "user base" for input. I also had a revelation that Third Space was not just a me problem but a we problem, and I was interested in finding out more about the we I was a part of, i.e. parents who are frustrated about leaving their newborns too soon to return to work and/or who are frustrated with existing childcare options.  

My primary platform for finding my fellow parents was Facebook. I found several Omaha-based groups about parenting, natural parenting, breastfeeding, pregnancy, working parents, startups, etc., which I joined and still keep an eye on to this day. I compiled a 25-question survey in which I asked various questions about part-time, full-time and self-employment, work-life balance, breastfeeding duration, childcare and similar working parent-type questions. I wrapped up the survey with a brief description of a coworking and childcare space and gauged general interest in the use of the space as well as what aspects seemed the most valuable, which was extremely helpful in shaping what was going to be the Third Space "minimum viable product" (technology speak for "the most basic thing you can make that people will still buy"). I was expecting maybe 50 responses to the survey and it ended up getting over 200 responses in about 4 days I couldnt believe it! I used the responses as confirmation that there was at least a nugget of interest in the Third Space concept, and it fueled me to move forward. Oh, and at the end of the that survey I gave respondents the ability to sign up for Third Space email updates, which got me an initial list of about 50 subscribers and was also quite validating that people were ACTUALLY interested  even enough to hand over precious space in their inboxes. 

A few months later, after getting financial projections and a business model to a viable point, I surveyed the same audience on the specific pricing on which my model was dependent as well as the locations in the city I was interested in for the first space. I received over 60 responses to this survey, and the feedback continued to endorse my ideas: parents were willing to pay within my projected range for a full-time membership, they were hungry for flexibility in childcare scheduling, and they saw the value of working in close proximity to their baby(ies) throughout the day.

Note: One risk to the social media method to disperse surveys is getting hurray, we love you! feedback from your friends and family. I posted the first survey from my personal Facebook account and got several positive survey responses from people in my social circle; this was of course encouraging on a personal level, but if they werent going to turn into my customer base, the input was not truly that valuable. With this in mind, I formatted the second Pricing & Location survey in a way that weeded out people who were unlikely to be actual customers. The survey started with a Third Space description and immediately asked How likely would you be to use a coworking and childcare space as described? People who were not parents of young children specifically in Omaha, NE, would be forced to respond Not Likely which bumped them from the survey with a thank you and a smile ;) And thus I got more accurate data to support or refute my financial and location hypotheses. 

If youre in the early-ish stages of a project or business venture, you should give surveying a try! The practice of identifying and seeking out your target market is hugely valuable, as is having your assumptions validated or refuted before you sink real money into making a thing. The data collected is also valuable when you pen a formal business plan or need to present your findings in various methods. I used Google Forms to create my surveys because of its flexibility and spreadsheet export option, but Ive used Survey Monkey and Typeform before as well, which are also easy-to-use and free. 

Happy surveying, friends!