Getting Started...

We know that it can be intimidating to get started, so we have created a walkthrough that will hopefully help you wade into the waters of making your idea come to life. Over the course of the Challenge, the team from South Bend Code School will be in place as mentors to help you when things seem a little ambiguous or unknown. Take a look through the following walkthrough to understand some basic concepts that will help you get your idea going.

Mission Statement & MVP

So you have an idea. An INNOVATIVE idea. In order to have a better understanding of what you are trying to build toward, you need a mission statement. The mission statement is one sentence about your business that tells people what the core mission of your business is and helps you to remind yourself of the goal of your business.

For example, if I had an idea for a dog walking business, my mission statement might be: "We help busy pet owners by taking their dogs for walks." This sets an expectation for what my business does. Note that it isn't an elevator pitch. It is only one sentence long. When starting up a new idea, you have to keep things simple and to the point. Don't try to hash out all of the details, just know the mission.

This brings up the next thing we need to be aware of, MVP. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Minimum Viable Product is the lowest functioning version of your product that you need in order to be successfully taking customers, turning profit, or lifting your business off the ground. When starting something new, it is easy to go idea crazy and create a bunch of extra features for your product that won't actually help you take steps forward toward bringing this idea to life. MVP helps to steer you clear of some of those added features that might not be important right now.

Having a mission statement helps us to stick to a minimum viable product. You know that you aren't going to take cats for walks because your mission is only to take dogs for walks, not cats. You know that you are not going to dog sit over weekends because your mission is to take dogs for walks, not watch them over the weekend. You know you aren't going to pick up food for people's pets because your mission is to take dogs for walks, not keep their food stock full.

Now we know what the true mission of our business or idea is...

Customer Identification and Validation

Now that we have a mission statement and a clear idea of what our goal is we need to check and make sure that there is actually a need for our idea. It is easy to get scared by this part of the process. A lot of folks don't want to go share their idea with anyone because they think that people will shoot it down and say that it isn't a good idea at all. It is completely reasonable to be scared by this. You are putting yourself out there by sharing your idea with others. Rejection is hard! Don't have high school prom flashbacks just yet.

This situation is very different:

Prom: Guy asks girl to prom - she says no - guy goes home sad and dejected and eats three tubs of double chocolate fudge ice cream because he feels like his life is over.

Customer Validation: Girl goes and asks someone if they think they would use her business or innovation - potential customer says no - girl asks more questions about why that customer wouldn't use the idea - customer provides more feedback - girl does one of two things: 1) Goes home and tweaks the idea so that the potential customer does find it valuable. 2) Realizes the person she is talking to is not actually her ideal customer and finds a different customer demographic to ask about her idea. - After adjusting, girl goes on to launch a very successful business and lives happily ever after.

You need to be okay with putting your idea out there, have an understanding that not everyone is going to respond positively to your idea. THAT IS OKAY. Keep moving forward, keep collecting feedback, keep adjusting. In the end, you'll find something that you think people will use or buy.

Using the dog walking example from earlier:

There is no right number of people to ask about your product. It is helpful if you have more than 10, but you don't necessarily need 50 or 100. You want to check in and make sure there is potential, but at some point you need to stop pounding pavement and actually need to bring your idea to life.

Business Process

Understanding the process of your business or the process of how your idea is used or consumed by users is critical to bringing it to life. It helps to make a drawing or write out the process by which your "thing" is consumed.

Continuing on with the dog service we spoke of earlier:

If I can map all of this out, it is extremely helpful to anyone I hire to do any work for my company. It is also extremely helpful to help me to understand how my business is going to operate and what unique challenges might present themselves. I might conclude that a unique challenge from the process above is going to be scheduling. The number of dogs I can walk is going to be critical to my business. How can I plan accordingly?

Understanding the process helps you to know more about your business.


If your idea is one that consists of an application, website, or some sort of digital interface, it is best to wireframe out what the interface will look like. Wireframing is a process where you actually draw an outline of how each screen of your application looks. It is immensely helpful to do this not only for you, but for any developers who might be working on your application. Think of it like making blueprints for a construction project

There are many online tools to help you wireframe out your application, but this can be done very simply with paper and pencil.