Startup Corner: Jami McConnell and Ally Walsh, Ride417

Published by: Springfield Business Journal
Author: Eric Olson, Editor
Date: April 4, 2016

106974MINIMALLY VIABLE PRODUCT …
Ride417, a nonprofit organization, offers free, confidential, nonjudgmental rides home to college and university students who are intoxicated or in an otherwise unsafe situation. Operations are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 p.m.–3 a.m. We aim to provide college students with a safe alternative to risky behavior.

PROBLEM SOLVING …
In a Ride417 interest survey sent out to students at Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College, 43 percent of the respondents said they have driven while intoxicated. Transportation options for students during the weekends can be scarce, and driving while intoxicated is unfortunately a problem in Springfield.

SEED MONEY …
My business partner and I won $1,000 from participating in the Venture Creation Challenge, a competition for entrepreneurs at University of Missouri-Kansas City last year. We also received a $5,000 grant for promotional materials from Missouri Partners in Prevention and two personal donations of $1,000 each.

NEXT PHASE …
We are growing from an idea phase into implementation. We are seeking corporate sponsors to financially partner with us so that we can get operations up and running. We also are looking for other students with an entrepreneurial spirit who would want to intern.

PIVOT …
We tried to reach out to every person, business or organization that we could think of, some of which was way too early in the process. We have learned how to set implementation goals and follow through with them so that we can always assess how we are progressing.

BIGGEST MISTAKE …
Becoming discouraged at our lack of concrete progress and forgetting that not all progress can be measured in dollars. We spent the better part of a year growing contacts for this nonprofit, meeting with administration on the various campuses, becoming members of the DWI task force, and growing a presence on social media. I had initially hoped for a much sooner launch date, but I have come to realize starting something well takes time.

WORST ADVICE …
Someone told me that there was no way we could raise enough money for this organization and that it was impossible because my business partner [Jami McConnell] and I were both college students. Being an entrepreneur does not have an age requirement, and while it has been difficult to manage my academic responsibilities with my business schedule, it has been well worth it. I have gained a knowledge and skill set that a college class could not teach.

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