This summer, while most of my classmates pursued internships, I decided to work full-time on my start-up ‘smoodi’, which I recently incorporated. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m grateful for the support I received as a Harvard Rock Summer Fellow.

Pursuing my dream to become an entrepreneur

Throughout my entire career, I’ve always been tempted by the entrepreneurial journey but have never had the courage to quit an existing opportunity and work on my own start-up. Coming to HBS, one of my main goals was to launch a venture. During my first MBA year, I explored various ideas from solving last mile delivery to cryptocurrencies, but finally decided to make employees happier and healthier by creating the first fully-automated, free-standing smoothie machine for offices. It combines my passion with my skillset.

Recruiting a team and putting the Lean Start-Up approach into practice

Initially aiming to recruit 1-2 summer interns to support me in my endeavor, I ended up hiring an amazing and diverse team of six interns who are as excited about the idea as I am. Given my background in mechanical engineering, I was eager to build a smoothie machine as soon as possible. However, an HBS professor advised me to begin my project by asking companies to pay smoodi to come to their offices and prepare customized smoothies for the employees. The idea was that if I couldn’t gain money this way, a machine would never work. In retrospect, this was the cheapest and easiest minimum viable product (MVP) one could imagine, and I’m very grateful for the advice.

Our extensive MVP testing at corporate offices allowed us to validate key assumptions of our business model and value proposition, e.g. more than 70% of our users customize their smoothies. In addition, we found that drinking a smoothie increases happiness and is also a great socializing experience: more than 40% of our users stated to have met someone new or interacted with a colleague they had not talked to for a long time. The highlight so far was certainly a weeklong trial at The Boston Consulting Group, where we tested at different times of the day and observed customization and turnout patterns on a longer time-frame. Users are excited to try out new ingredients and we even served a user who has never had a smoothie before in his entire life! (He loved it and came back for more the next day.)

Getting early traction

So far, we were able to acquire a handful of paying customers and have several exciting testing days ahead. Additionally, we ramped up our social media presence (follow us on Instagram @getsmoodi) and are signing letters of intent to prove actual demand in the market. I’m thrilled to further grow smoodi during my second year at HBS. During fall, our goal will be to raise funds and build a first machine prototype allowing for further testing. Several companies have already signed up for our beta-test.

Having the best learning experience I could have ever imagined

In addition to the great data and insights gained, this summer has been an amazing learning experience: I recruited an extraordinary and diverse team despite only being able offer them an idea and vision, I’ve learned how to be a better manager (including having difficult conversations), I’ve gotten my hands dirty putting into practice the Lean Start-Up methodology, I went through the incorporation process, wrote my first invoices, and so much more. I’m certainly working much more than I expected, but with the sole difference that I do not perceive it as work. Even when I’m awake in my kitchen at midnight chopping ginger and freezing bananas for our next day of testing, I’m sure that pursuing my business dream was the best decision I’ve ever made. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your own idea coming to fruition and your team growing along the way while staying in complete control of your time and direction.

This summer confirmed what I’ve thought my entire life: I want to be an entrepreneur!