Joseph Willet, a Director of Experience Design at Perficient and alumni of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), recently mentored a team of students that participated and won the Fan Favorite award at the 2021 STARTUP competition, the week-long yearly competition hosted by the Future Leaders of UX (FLUX) Club.
STARTUP is typically a one-track competition where teams create a viable start-up business with a design strategy, but this year’s competition included two tracks, the second track pairing teams with a small, minority-owned, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), or LGBTQIA+ business in Atlanta or Savannah, Georgia. With a focus on how COVID-19 has affected these small businesses, teams are tasked to formulate a design solution to increase activity and customer interest in that business amid the pandemic. The first and second place winners for the second track of the competition award the small businesses $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
Putting Together the Presentation
The 5Spice team, comprised of Gwen Krage, Guiga Peinado Kasabkojian, Daniela Cristina Torres Wong, Daniela Gomez-Quintero, and Andrea Guth, chose the second track and were paired with their first choice, Gregarious Art Statements: Uncommon Art Prints and Stationary (GAS-Art Gifts). GAS-ART Gifts is a small business that promotes creativity, literacy, and diversity through books, artwork, and stationary, and is run by owner and renowned illustrator, R. Gregory Christie.
The team said that the business was their first choice because of its mission to build empathy within children through multicultural storytelling. “That’s going to build better societies for adults if we have more empathetic adults in society. So again, it sounds a little bit poetic, but truthfully, this is something we see is extremely important,” explained Krage.
Getting to Know the Client
The team took part in a group interview with Christie, which helped them gain information on every need and interest the owner had for his business. Before making any significant changes, Torres stated that the first item they needed to address was the company’s biggest issue – awareness. “We needed to kind of strengthen the foundational issue that was preventing people from actually accessing GAS-Art Gifts, you know, amazing multicultural products,” Torres said. “Without customer awareness, any other mission or solution we came up with would fall flat.”
The team concluded that the business solution needed to be immediately actionable and realistic for GAS-Art Gifts. The team focused its pitch on creating and linking clear, tangible steps towards awareness and growth for the business, which laid the foundation of the presentation.
Conducting Customer Research
The team continued to build its presentation and incorporated customer research early by conducting 20-minute interviews with parents and educators to understand why they bought books, the type of books they bought for their children, and if the pandemic has affected the traditional style of storytelling that children experience. They also released a survey to the same audience to help gain insights that they couldn’t gather during their conversations. Kasabkojian believes that applying this information to the presentation is where things began to kick off. “So as a team, we’re like, okay, let’s do this, dove into it, and all of the connections we got started popping up, and then our presentation really started to get together and really concrete,” she said.
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By Wednesday, the mid-point check-in, partnerships between GAS-Art Gifts and other businesses like wizAR and TTEC had been created, and ultimately became the team’s “wow factor” for their presentation.
The Impact of the Mentorship
Willet began mentoring the team on Saturday, February 6, by starting with daily virtual meetings to help them address and solve the small details of the presentation by coaching them to identify Christie’s business challenges and the needs of his target audience and define the intersection between making an impact and run his business.
Willet advised them on different methods, concepts, and models to research on how to move forward successfully, and helped the team organize and set 24-hour goals to achieve by the next meeting, which the team found immensely helpful. “He would be a part of our daily meetings in the morning, and he was ready to see our presentations, analyze what we had that day, criticize it and give us feedback, and help us get ready for our goals,” mentioned Guth.
The team emphasized that it was Willet’s engaging attitude, willingness to work with them, and his role in helping to build and formulate partnerships for GAS-Art Gifts with companies such as Wendover Art Group and Anthropologie that set him apart from the other mentors. “What made Joseph stand out to me was really just his, it was his engaging attitude, this absolute, like, willingness to work with us to get down and dirty into the work,” said Krage. “That to me was really differentiating.”
Willet confirmed that working with the team came from a place of true interest in the project and wanting to see the team succeed. “Working with the 5Spice Girls was refreshing, I could tell that it wasn’t just about winning, there was genuine passion for creating meaningful solutions for GAS-ART Gifts that helped them better serve their target audience,” said Willet. “That passion was contagious and I wanted to do everything I could to help them, and that meant no sugar coating on feedback and really digging in with them to provide thoughtful guidance. They were all stellar, they demonstrated grit, they sweated the details, and worked as a team to rock it.”
The Final Countdown
The semi-finals and finals of the competition were held throughout the day on Friday, February 12, where 5Spice was announced as “Fan Favorite.” Each member of the team was awarded a prize of $1,000, a $60 Uber Eats gift card, and had their work featured on the Flux Clubs’ social media.
Although the team didn’t win a cash prize for GAS-Art Gifts, Gomez-Quintero stated that the partnerships with wizAR, T-Tech, and the Wendover Group would still play a big role for Christie for increasing the company’s awareness. “He emailed us back saying, ‘Okay, this is all awesome. Let’s meet up, let’s talk about this and how it can move forward.’ So even though we weren’t able to directly give him that money that would have helped…we still have those connections for him that are still on the table.”
Building a Better Tomorrow
Regardless of the timeline to plan a design strategy for a client, a hardworking team of individuals who come together to work towards a greater goal is how incredible work is accomplished. Learn more about how to support GAS-Art Gift’s mission, and contact our experience design experts today for more information on our services.
At Perficient, we continually look for ways to champion and challenge our talented workforce with interesting projects for high-profile clients, encourage personal and professional growth through training and mentoring, and celebrate our people-oriented culture and the innovative ways they serve Perficient and the community.