This blog post has been republished from with permission from the author. Melissa Sariffodeen is a course ambassador with University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program.

Create products that people love by validating your idea first; then, keep validating.

The focus of our third class was on validating your idea and establishing your value proposition. For me, validating an idea never ends, and it’s something I feel really strongly about spending time and energy on at Ladies Learning Code.

Validating your idea just makes sense.

When you’re starting a business you don’t have the luxury (nor should you, in my opinion) to spend hundreds of thousands of thousands of dollars (hard-earned dollars) and time to build a product or solution that doesn’t have a market. Validating your idea early can save you time and money, and helps you create a better product or solution for the customer you do serve. It helps you create products that people love, and for no other reason than that, you should constantly be validating your ideas.

As we learned in class, there’s a customer discovery process that exists to help validate your ideas. We follow something very similar at Ladies Learning Code.

  • State your hypothesis
  • Test problem hypothesis
  • Test product concept
  • Verify

(Or: launch fast, fail fast, iterate faster)

Our initial brainstorming session at Ladies Learning Code was a perfect example of this customer discovery process [state hypothesis]. We got together a group of more than 80 people who had our problem and talked with them. We asked them what they wanted—what “learning to code” looked like for them—and shared our ideas [test hypothesis]. Then, very quickly, we planned our first solution—a full-day workshop on JavaScript [test product concept]. We ran the workshop, collected feedback and quickly made changes and launched the next—quickly iterating each time for a few months until we had what we were really happy with [iterate and verify]. But the validation doesn’t end there.

Always be validating.

My background in accounting (I spent about a year at Deloitte as an auditor) has taught me to be very data- and support-driven, which is why I like primary research as a key way of validating my ideas. At Ladies Learning Code, we use a combination of primary research techniques continuously to make sure our products are still loved by and relevant to our learners.

After every workshop (one of our main products) we do feedback surveys. I look at every single one of these—that’s more than 100 a year. I know it might sound crazy, but getting feedback—especially negative feedback—is a gift, an opportunity to create something better. It’s really important to me review all of that feedback and follow up on it. We also do in-person focus groups and we’re hoping to do some digital ones soon, too. These in-person sessions are a great way to communicate face-to-face with learners and really get to understand the fabric of our community better.

Even if you can’t do feedback surveys or focus groups, every customer interaction is also an opportunity. I try to never lose sight of that. I’ll take any chance I can I try to solicit feedback and validate our existing ideas. It allows me to focus on creating something people really, truly love and want to share with others. And that will help you build a business that you can be proud of.

Follow me here as I continue on this five-week journey, or via Twitter: @melsariffodeen.

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Melissa Sariffodeen

Melissa is an entrepreneur who loves to build things that create opportunity, impact and redefine traditional success in business. She’s a yoga teacher, a developer-in-progress and one part of the amazing founding team at Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou – organizations promoting digital literacy across Canada. See more…