NOMBA: Business skills for creatives

During the summer of 2013 I was part of a two week intensive in human centered design called Breaker. Based in NYC, this program brings together young professionals and engages them in untraditional learning sessions focused a specific topic. Breaker then challenges these individuals to create solutions to the problem presented in unique ways. 

Role: Team Lead, Head Researcher || Tags: HCD, User Research, Business Modelling

 
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The Challenge

Each Breaker session is designated a theme. During my stint we were focused on "The Future of Stuff," or the rise of makers and small, local manufacturing in the United States. Our goal was to identify their pain points and figure out how to address the needs of these makers. 

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Empathy & USER Research

Split into small groups, we visited and interviewed local NYC businesses and makers to figure out what problems they were encountering as the city's new makers. Focusing on listening and empathy, we heard from multiple sources about what it's like to be working in an industry of rebirth, including the challenges and struggles they face everyday. We interviewed NYC businesses, most notably Maker's Row, Makerbot Org, Story, Manufacture New York, and Kingsland Printing, among others. 

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Ideating & Prototypes

I enlisted three others from the larger Breaker group and we began to ideate on services and systems that would help our users and stakeholders. Our first ideas centered around open source databases but quickly evolved into an online service.  We realized the complexities of the problem we were trying to address and continued focusing on our users, continuing field research with small, local NYC makers as well as extending our reach by researching online.

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The Need

Through our research, we learned that there are more skilled makers than there are jobs. As such, many creatives turn to creating their own businesses. This led us to an overarching point: all users needed access to business information to further their ability to increase sales and hire additional workers. From there the "how might we" statement to address the problem was easy: How might we educate makers as they prepare to create or expand their own business? 

The Result

At the end, we came up with NOMBA, an online service that allows makers  to have access to all the business documents and trainings they would need to learn and execute quickly and efficiently. It was a "No MBA" solution for those who had never seen themselves as business owners but now needed those skills to advance their art. We mocked up sample pages and created the entire flow for the service, using a pay as you grow model for projected revenue. 

PItch NIght

To culminate our two week session, the team pitched our final product to investors, Breaker collaborators, mentors, and friends. A highlight: one of our interviewees came up after our pitch and asked us to let her know when the site was built so she could use it for her business. 

Mock ups and powerpoint designs by Aviva Oskow and Laura Wilming, respectively. Video courtesy of breaker.org.