(Our Founder Chad Williams and students of the Bengal Entrepreneurship Program at Buffalo State University)
Our Founder and CEO Chad Williams recently returned to Buffalo State University to speak to the upcoming cohort of students participating in the New York Business Plan Competition.
Words from Chad:
"Excited to be back at Buffalo State College and share our experience with the next generation of entrepreneurs! I was honored to speak to the students participating in the New York Business Plan Competition and share my journey. Winning the competition my senior year was a defining moment for the company and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story and offer advice to the future participants.
I was inspired by the passion and drive of the students and it was amazing to see how the competition has evolved since our participation. The competition not only provided me with valuable experience in the business world, but it also helped me to network and connect with like-minded individuals who are now a valuable part of my professional network.
I would like to thank Buffalo State College for giving us the opportunity to give back and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. It was a humbling experience and I look forward to seeing the amazing ideas and businesses that will come out of this year's competition."
Transcribed version of Chad's talk at Buffalo State University:
Good evening, my name is Chad Williams and I from Brooklyn, New York, but now call Buffalo my home. After graduating from Buffalo State with a degree in Economics in 2020, I was presented with an opportunity to join Launch NY, a non-profit Venture Capital company, as a Project Manager.
Just like many of you, I too was once in your shoes, trying to figure out how to win the business plan competition and secure funding for my business idea. I was definitely naive at first as I did not have any experience with Business Plan Competition, but I was determined and believed in the potential of my idea. That idea was dooProcess, a streetwear clothing brand that advocates for social justice through its designs and mission. We donate 15% of every purchase to organizations that fight for justice, inspired by my own experiences with the injustices of the legal system.
To give you guys some background, my business was/is called dooProcess. dooProcess is a streetwear clothing brand that advocates for social justice not only though the designs but by the mission as well. We have a mission of donating 15% of every purchase to different organizations that advocate for social justice. The name is a spin off of the legal term, which refers to “fair treatment through the judicial system, especially as a citizens entitlement.” Something that I did not receive, and many others do not receive.
I started the brand in 2019 during my senior year of college. I started it because during my junior year of college I was wrongfully arrested. I was wrongfully arrested and had to fight for almost a year to clear my name. Throughout that year I like to say I witnessed all of the injustices in the justice system. From a judge who looked at me as guilty before innocent to a public defender who did not want to give me the time of day. After I was able to clear my name that is when I started dooProcess. I started it to help share my story and the stories of other who have been wronged by the justice system.
I started by ordering bulk blank apparel from wholesale websites and getting my logo printed on them at a local screen printing shop. I would make sales by word of mouth and selling from the trunk of my car, I didn’t have a website or anything, just a dream.
Going into my second semester of my senior year I only needed elective courses to graduate. So, I thought it be a great idea to ask one of my favorite professors, Eugene Chaas, to do an independent study with me for my business. I thought it would be a great idea because instead of taking a random class that I did not need; I could instead work on my business to figure out how to take it to the next level. Professor Chaas agreed to do the independent study with me.
It is now the second semester of my senior year and I go to his office to see what we would work on first for the independent study. He then slams this bright orange paper in front of me that says in big bold letters win $10,000 dollars. It was a flier for the New York Business Plan Competition. He says to me “Chad this is your independent study.” I was excited from the start as I love money and I knew that dooProcess was a great idea and had the potential to win. Again, I was very naïve to think so as I didn’t know what I was getting into as I never competed in a competition of the sorts before.
No worries though, I was in good hands. As a part of the independent study Professor Chaas said I had to go to the sessions that the Small Business Development Center would host for students that were interested in joining the competition. Best thing I could have done as the sessions helped me figure out what exactly I wanted dooProcess to be, the problem I would be solving, the solution I provide, figuring out who exactly my customer is, what was my competitive edge, ETC. I went to every session that I could attend. I knew my business was a good idea, but the sessions gave me the other part I needed to win which was the business plan side of it.
The competition is set up into two parts, the regional competition and then the state competition. For the regional competition you compete against schools in your area, and they select the tops two teams from each category to advance to the state part of the competition.
This is when Covid-19 had first started so instead of a live pitch we had to submit a recorded video pitch. I remember submitting my pitch for the regional competition and not feeling the best about it. It was rushed and I did not put my best effort into it. Luckily, it was good enough and I was able to take 2nd and advance to the state part of the competition. Taking 2nd in the regional competition was maybe the best thing to happen to me as I knew my idea was good enough and it made me work that much harder so that I can get 1st in the State tournament. The competition this time was much fiercer as I would be competing against schools from all across the state including Ivy Leagues like Cornell and Colombia.
So, this time I really put my best foot forward and with the help of the advisors from the SBDC I was able to create the perfect pitch deck. Now, it was on me to record my pitch and create a video to submit. Remember Covid had just hit us, and everyone was in quarantine so I had nothing but time to perfect my video submission. I already had a good deck, I just needed to perfect the pitch and video now. So, I thought what are some ways that I can make my video stand out from the others. I then saw a whiteboard animation video and thought to myself that I should incorporate that effect into my video. I then watched YouTube video and learned how to edit vides using the whiteboard animation effect and I created a somewhat interactive video that I can now submit to the judges of the competition. So not only did I have a great business plan for the judges to review, but I also now had a great way of presenting it to them as well.
So, I submit my video submission in the beginning of June, but they don’t select the winner until the end of June. So throughout that time the host of the competition set up a virtual networking event for participants of the competition to meet with other entrepreneurs, professionals, and investors. Usually, the networking would be donate in person at the finals event in Albany but because of Covid we had to do it virtually. I did not let this stop me though as I knew how important networking is. I thought, even if I don’t end up winning the competition, I can potentially meet someone through here that can offer me a job, mentor me, or invest in my business. So, they had a list of people that you can meet with, and I set up time with almost everyone on that list to meet with.
It paid off in the end as I met the CEO of the current company I work for and she offered me a job straight out of college and the opportunity to still work on my business, it was a dream come true. This is why networking is so important, you never know who you can meet. My older brother once told me “Connect with as many people as possible. The worst you can get is a no. As an entrepreneur you have to be used to it and like it. You appreciate the no and rejection because it means you are closer to a yes, the law of big numbers.”
He was right. Because was I not only able to secure a career right out of college but I was also able to connect with mentors who I now call friends till this day. For example I met a guy named Hugh, he was inspired by me and my drive to grow dooProcess. At no charge he helped me get my logo trademarked for dooProcess which could have cost me upwards of $1,000 dollars. Networking is key.
So, to get back to the story now and the results of the competition. Coming from a background of no official entrepreneurial experience I was able to take 1st place in the consumer products and services track with nothing more than determination, grit and the assistance of the advisors from the Small Business Development Center.
I hope my story inspires you to pursue your passions and turn your ideas into realities. With determination, hard work, and a little bit of creativity, anything is possible.