Design and Education with Marc McHardy

I first connected with Marc through a friend who encouraged him to come to an 'Entrepreneurs Dinner' I occasionally organise in Wellington when I pass through. We had some great chats around dinner and it was great connecting him to some other entrepreneur friends at the dinner. I have always enjoyed hanging out with designers over the years and Marc was no exception! Marc also shared my interest and passion for Startup Weekend and I was stoked to hear he now has a side business launched after one!

I really enjoyed interviewing Marc as he has a really unique outlook of business as a designer. He also gave some great tips and tools for people thinking about starting a business - enjoy the read!

 

1) WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m an interactive designer. This covers a lot of things, but think of it as being graphic designer that works with anything digital that you can interact with such as websites, mobile apps, touch-screens, projections etc. I studied computer graphic design at Waikato Uni which covered graphic and communication design, multimedia, website design and programming. It is all about solving problems.

I work full time at Click Suite as an interactive designer and work with a wide range of interesting clients. My job is a mix of communicating, design aesthetic, UX and front end coding. I also get involved in problem solving and usability of websites and other media.

In my spare time I work on Banqer, a financial literacy app used in classrooms. Kendall Flutey is our team lead: we met at Startup Weekend. I liked the idea she pitched and I joined her team. We created Banqer and 4 of us from the original group are still with the company. The teacher is the bank and controls the money. Each student has their own set of bank accounts and the teacher gives them weekly income. They also get paid for doing things such as completing their homework and being good. It helps motivate them but also teaches them about savings, rent, mortgages, insurance etc. For example they can apply for a mortgage, buy a house and choose if they want insurance. There is even a disaster module so they can understand how this will affect their house. The platform lets teachers use it how they see fit. One example is a teacher used it to get the children to create a ‘classroom company’ where they run the chair stacking after class and employ other students. Currently we are in growth phase. We have 500+ classrooms on the books and are adding more all the time.
 

2) WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT AND WHY?

I really love unlocking value in people. I want to help friends be a better version of themselves by helping them see their own potential and sticking to their goals. I hate seeing unutilized potential. Design is a big part of my life and I love to create things and solve problems. That’s what I see as fun. Being a minimalist to me means ‘just make things functional’. Things don't need to be overly flowery just for the sake of it.

 

3) WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST BARRIERS TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

You've got to have a great team. The right people really make a difference.

Sometimes people get too close to their company and idea. They need external feedback which may actually be quite simple but hard to see for them.

The business that you're creating, you should really have a clear idea of what problem it's solving and how it provides value. If it doesn't provide value, there's no real reason to have it in your life. You've got to really evaluate that the problem is not just a problem you're having. A target market of one is not a business!

Although often if you are having a problem, it probably means other people are experiencing the same thing and you're solving it for them. You need to go out and talk to as many people as possible and make sure they feel your pain. A lot of people think it can be a good idea to launch a new idea, app or web product for free to gauge interest. That is a valid option as a launch strategy, but if you can get people to pay for your product from the get-go, no matter how minimal it is, you're proving your business has real value. If you're giving it away for free, you're not really proving anything other than the fact that people like free stuff.

Envision what you want to achieve. Write it down, sketch it, plan it out, start actioning it and try your best to not take on anything else on until you've proven that it will either fly or die. Stay focused.

Avoid self doubt where you start thinking, "are my ideas really good enough?"  Once you think you have a good idea and you start creating something and showing people, you have to sell yourself. You've really got to just stand up for what you're doing and be confident because people vibe off that confidence. Without confidence, the greatest idea wouldn't go anywhere. The product doesn't sell itself.
 

4) WHAT ARE THE MOST EXCITING THINGS ABOUT STARTING A BUSINESS?

I work full-time in a day job and work on many projects for various companies. So when the budget runs out or the client stops coming back, we don't get to work on their products anymore. The great thing for me, working on a product like this, I can keep continually improving the product and my ideas. I am one of the stakeholders so I can have an idea about what the product should be and I can directly influence the way that it grows. It's really exciting to see us gain new users and make a difference. We love it. People value what we have made. This is something I've made as a co-founder and I'm part of the creating process.

 

5) WHERE WILL YOU BE IN FIVE YEARS?

Hopefully in a similar  position to you, Logan: self-employed or contracting and having something else on the cards, whether it's another startup or more travel!

 

6) RESOURCES YOU RECOMMEND?

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I read that before I went to my first startup weekend. It really drives home the ideas of proving and validating that a product will sell before you launch it or invest too much of your time and money. The only “gotcha” with that book is that you should keep in mind that at any level a minimum viable product should be presented with care and polish. It may be a test run for you but customers will appreciate the attention to detail.

Trello is pretty invaluable for our business. We split it up into design, development and business. It’s really great at keeping track of what needs to be done which is important because we've got so many different things happening at any one time.

Google Keep is great note taking app and worth checking out.

 

7) HOW DID YOU ‘KNOW’ ABOUT BUSINESS WHEN YOU STARTED OUT?

I've always been a bit of a creator and I've always liked creating physical products. When I got into design and programming properly after high school I started having all these ideas and was like, "I can build something." I ended up going to Startup Weekend with my own idea. It got shut down, so I joined another team, started a business with some people and then it failed. I then went to another startup weekend a few years later and the latest one Banqer has been going really well.

There's so many unknowns, but until you dive in you will not see that it's not actually that daunting. It costs like $200 to register a company and you don't even need a company to start a website and start selling stuff. You like making tacos? Find out what the regulations are and go make tacos to sell them at the local market!

- Marc McHardy, Banqer

 

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