Trenton Broughton danger: high entropy

5x5 Night: Firing Up Local Entrepreneurship

In case you haven’t heard of it yet, 5x5 Night is a monthly event in Grand Rapids, Michigan that encourages anyone to come up with an idea for a chance to win a $5,000 prize. The ideas can be anything, but must include a plan that outlines the next step that will be taken if it is chosen.


I am very excited about tomorrow’s event, and would like to give my own analysis of the five ideas that will be presented.

1. Daredevil Circus Outreach Program http://5x5night.com/ljbab

Synopsis
This idea aims to bring safe and fun circus instruction to classrooms around the Grand Rapids area. They would use the $5,000 on marketing and equipment.

It looks like the Grand Rapids Circus company is already offering arial silk classes, so it seems that they are hoping to expand their offering (it is not clear from their description). I definitely like the idea of getting kids off the couch and into a more active lifestyle, but I would like to see more information on how this idea will be brought to fruition, specifically if they have any plans to make this accessible to under privileged schools.

Pros
Experienced instructors, established company, gets kids active

Cons
Needs more information!

2. SkateFirst Skate Co. http://5x5night.com/ydbab

Synopsis
SkateFirst is a new skateboarding brand developed by a local teen.

The thing I like most about this idea is that a teenager is getting involved in entrepreneurship. While I am not sure how large the market is for branded merchandise, I still believe that he has the potential to build a successful local business. More importantly, though, opportunities like 5x5 will help him grow as an entrepreneur and a producer. What I would really like to see is a collaboration between SkateFirst and Thompson Board Co below.

Pros
Focused market segment, some established brand awareness

Cons
Lots of competition from big name labels

3. Thompson Board Co http://5x5night.com/Jjbab

Synopsis
This idea would create a workshop and classes for building custom skate boards.

I absolutely love this idea. While I am mainly involved in the tech industry and would like to see a large high-tech presence in West Michigan, I also know that a local economy can not be sustained by one industry alone. I also think that this idea could be expanded to include other projects that use similar materials and equipment which would spread out the up front costs and allow this idea to make an even greater impact. I will probably write another complete article on why we need an idea like this here in West Michigan.

Pros
Encourages industry diversity, could help spur growth of similar projects

Cons
Getting people involved, insurance / equipment / space rental costs

4. The Spoke Folks  http://5x5night.com/Hgbab

Synopsis
This would provide a mobile bike mechanic to local neighborhoods

I really thought I would like this idea when I first started reading it. I think that the dependence on cars is a real handicap today, and is going to grow into a larger problem in the future. I certainly like the goals they have (“reduced traffic congestion, increased personal health, and decreased sick and missed days at work [due to more people riding bikes instead of driving]”), however I just don’t see how viable a mobile mechanic is right now (it may be; I just don’t have the data). I think that a better first step would be to work with local businesses, commuters, and government to create an environment better suited to bicycling. For me, it is not bike repairs that prevents me from biking more, but rather the danger involved in riding to the places I travel to everyday.

Pros
Encourages more biking, little competition

Cons
Is there a market now?

5. FundScholars.org http://5x5night.com/Thbab

Synopsis
Create a crowd funding model for college scholarships

This is another idea that really needs to happen. College costs are out of control, and borrowing tens of thousands if dollars to pay for school only starts a debt cycle that I believe causes a majority of the problems involving indebtedness and fiscal irresponsibility in America. The only thing I would add would be to require something back from the students who participate. I have seen first hand that people treasure things a lot more when they are made responsible for part of what they are receiving.

Pros
Huge impact, little overhead

Cons
Marketing, connecting with donors, possible fraud

My Pick

This was a tough one for me. I am pretty evenly split between the Thompson Board Co and FundScholars. Both are ideas that I would really like to see happen, but I would pick Thompson Board Co. I think that FundScholars is going to have a much easier time getting exposure (and that’s really what they need), while the Thompson Board Co needs physical equipment and space to get started.

Summary

I love the number if diverse ideas that are showing up every month. I would love to see every idea succeed, but some things are more viable than others. To all those out there who do not make the final cut, keep trying, and don’t let the setbacks that you face stop you from dreaming and building your ideas.