EHL Success Stories: Start-Up Edition is a new series to show support to our EHL Family and, more specifically, our hard-working AEHL entrepreneurs. This project aims to showcase EHL's entrepreneur mindsets, support new and upcoming ideas and businesses. While overcoming a challenging time for all companies, these start-ups prove that resilience and hard work can overcome any problem.
For this feature, we present SicNote: born from a master's degree project; this innovative start-up seeks to provide all entrepreneurs with the perfect tool to transform their dream into reality. Their structured notebooks provide clarity to your ideas. Discover more about who is behind the company and how it all started.
Can you present yourself in a couple of words?
My name is Tom Hooijmaaijer, I'm half-French/half-Dutch (sure you guessed it by looking at my surname), but I lived most of my life in Belgium. I graduated from EHL back in February 2020, over a year ago by now.
Hi, I'm Pol Aviñó Chen; I'm half-Spanish /half-Chinese but lived most of my life in Germany. I studied International Business Administration with a focus and marketing and entrepreneurship in Germany and China. We are currently living in Barcelona, completing our Master's degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Esade, where we met.
Can you tell us about SicNote?
Our start-up is called SicNote. A structured notebook to help and inspire entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality. The name was created as a play on words: [Sic] comes from the Latin language and is used to signal parts of texts that are a quotation. When pronouncing the name Sic in English, you relate to it as « sick » and describe something as excellent. Our main goal is to empower entrepreneurs, ideators, and creators to create and accompany them with SicNote as a funnel for their ideas.
We wanted to create a notebook that provides structure, clarity and accompanies the Entrepreneur from ideation to validation. Our users are highly motivated, entrepreneurial-minded people who use SicNote to reach their full potential. With a carefully designed structure, frameworks, tools such as the Business Model Canvas and tips, SicNote helps you unleash your creativity, analyze and validate your ideas, and develop them further.
The problem that many young entrepreneurs like ourselves face is that we have a lot of ideas and usually write them down on a piece of paper or on our phones in the note app. But we saw that people rarely take these ideas a step further or deepen their thoughts. That's why SicNote is a great tool to keep track of the ideas and incentivizes you to work further on them or at least give it deeper thought.
Can you tell us the story of how it all started?
It all started back in November 2020 when we were given the 200 euros challenge" by one of our teachers here at Esade. The goal of the 200 euros challenge was to create an opportunity or viable business concept with a maximum investment of 200 euros. Pol, being a big enthusiast of writing ideas down on paper, quickly identified a gap in the market for 'structured notebooks.' After some time brainstorming, we decided to go with the idea of creating a notebook that is dedicated to entrepreneurs, and SicNote was born.
How did EHL play a role in developing your ideas?
EHL has genuinely opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial scene. From the early beginnings of the Bachelor's, we acquire a set of hard and soft skills that allow us to navigate in uncertain and competitive environments. In addition to that, I would strongly suggest current students reading this to follow the entrepreneurial elective offered in BOSC6.
I had the chance to have Professor Rosenkranz as a teacher for this elective, and she was able to persuade me in five weeks to pursue this career path. Lastly, EHL is a big family, the network that I created when I was there is invaluable and helped us grow SicNote significantly!
How did SicNote experience the pandemic?
It was surprisingly positive, keeping in mind that we were given a challenge in the midst of a pandemic; we had to find creative ways to work together, redefine the way to do business, and approach customers. During the pandemic, e-commerce has experienced a true boom, which played to our advantage since our main distribution and communication is via our online shop and social media. Overall, it has been a great learning experience, and we look forward to gaining more traction in the market and further scale the business quickly.
What was your biggest challenge faced during the past few months?
The biggest challenge when launching a project like this is not to forget to take time for yourself, even if you are super passionate about the idea and that it is your 'baby.' Especially in a pandemic context, where you have nothing better to do than being at home, it is super important to find that balance to keep going on in the long-term! In terms of productivity, many meetings with collaborators or even between us had to be made telematically, which is often convenient but often also more demanding in terms of communication and creativity.
What was the most significant adaptation your company had to face?
We had to quickly build up the company since we had a very tight deadline to show tangible results for the initial project. This meant that we had to break down the whole process into smaller blocks and iterate quickly along the way to be more agile and come up with a MVP (minimum viable product) that we could start to pre-sell. Now that the project is over, we have more time to really start establishing the company around the product and further improve the whole customer journey. Right now, we are remodeling our communication on our Instagram page and face lifting our online shop to communicate more clearly.
What is your favorite quote?
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Les Brown
SicNote is essentially about inspiring entrepreneurs and a tool to make the ideas real. We used this quote inside our notebook because we think it represents a crucial message that every entrepreneur should understand: make your ideas real and don't be afraid to fail.