Starting from Scratch
Participating in The eFactory’s accelerator is a whirlwind process. In just 12 weeks, entrepreneurs create business plans, develop products and soak up as much insight as they possibly can from local experts. Hector Cruz, founder of Let’s Do Lunch and participant in the program’s second cohort, shares his experience of starting a business from the ground up.
Hector Cruz used the accelerator program to launch his app Let’s Do Lunch in less than eight weeks. The app makes it easier to fulfill all those “let’s do lunch” promises people make while networking.
“I work full-time in Evangel University’s alumni and fundraising office. The whole point is to build meaningful relationships. The genesis of the idea for Let’s Do Lunch was the need to follow up with people, both professionally and socially.
“A friend of mine had been through the accelerator in the first cohort and urged me to apply. My wife’s and my third child was born on November 16, 2016; I finished the application for the accelerator in the hospital room, with my newborn daughter lying on my chest and my laptop on my lap. A couple of weeks later, Rachel Anderson emailed me.
“My typical day during the accelerator started at 5 a.m. I’d be at Evangel from 7 to 9 a.m. or so. We’d often have two or three people presenting at the accelerator, so I’d often pop over to The eFactory three times a day. I tried to keep 5 to 8 p.m. for family time. Once the kids were in bed, it was back on the laptop to work until midnight.
“There was certainly some pressure and stress. In the startup world, most of the pressure is self-imposed. I think a great feature of the accelerator is the weekly presentations each business had to give to leadership and the rest of the cohort. Those kept us accountable for how we were progressing and led to effective Demo Day presentations. There’s also a lot of group learning and bonding; you also can share takeaways and frustrations. It doesn’t feel like you’re on an island.
Hector Cruz launched the Let’s Do Lunch app in the App Store at the end of his accelerator experience. An Android version is now also available for download.
“We built an app from a concept with hand drawings on paper wireframes into a full, functional app that was live and ready for download in less than eight weeks. That was thanks in large part to my development team at SOLA Digital. Other companies I’ve talked to have had apps in development for two years. We were hustling pretty hard.
“Since it’s ended, things have slowed down quite a bit. That’s intentional. I’m continuing to grow Let’s Do Lunch at a pace I’m comfortable with. Without the accelerator I doubt we’d have a live app that people can download. It would be easy to stay in development and make excuses for why you’re not putting something out there.
“Evangel was absolutely phenomenal in letting me have this experience and remain fully employed. We have a strong culture of professional development. They’re supportive of me and also know I’m building a product they can use at Evangel.”—By Hector Cruz, as told to Matt Lemmon
What I Learned
Business founders comment in their own words on the accelerator experience and what it taught them.
“We have had so many meetings that I have truly lost count. We were afforded the opportunity to meet with multiple investors, business leaders and some of the most respected leaders in the Springfield community. Above all else, the accelerator program helped my business partner and me develop some great relationships.”—Tim Dygon, co-founder of The Daily Scholar
“I learned my strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur. In startups you have to be everything for the business. You don’t have the funds to hire a sales force, an accountant and an assistant. You have to cover everything. Learning my weaknesses helped me determine where I need to hire or establish contact first.”—Amy Blansit, founder of Solely Jolie
“The mentorship that we received from the program was invaluable; working with our mentor was a fantastic partnership. He was invaluable in assisting us in some key areas.”—Michael Onaolapo, Founder of ShopZeely
“Through meeting many mentors, I became better at handling advice and criticism, and choosing which to accept. Through balancing the business’ timeline and priorities with the Accelerator program’s, I became better at prioritization and time management. I also learned from the other founders by observing their journey—the questions they asked mentors, what worked for them and what didn’t.”—Chad Boschert, founder and CEO of Apt Crowd
“During the accelerator, you are bombarded nonstop with interesting advice from smart and experienced executives, much of which will contradict the piece of advice you got an hour earlier. Every company is different, and great advice isn’t necessarily the right advice for your business. You need to listen to everyone, consider every option, take those ideas to a new level and in the end do what makes sense for your own company.” —Jason Arend, co-founder and CEO of Eagle Speak