When an amazing opportunity to build the future of used car sales came up, I packed up and moved my life from my small farm in northern California (<100 people per square mile) to New York City (27,000+ people per square mile). My dogs and I still run in the woods every morning, now it’s just in Prospect Park instead of the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Other than that, everything in my life is different and so far, it’s working pretty well.
When I took a trip to East Africa for a project with IDEO.org, I took a couple of extra days at the end to seek out local miners around Mt. Kilimanjaro to learn about how the precious gems from the region were mined. I hired a driver and a translator (an uncle & nephew team) and went around to four mines, meeting miners, brokers, dealers, land owners and all sorts of interesting characters on the way. I focused on gem tailings, the rubble left behind when the prize jewels are found, that is often sold in specialty crystal shops around California.
I was brought in by IDEO.org as a business designer to help a promising social venture, Kidogo, to turn their early childhood education model into a hub and spoke franchise for women in Nairobi’s slums to bring up the standards of their home babycare businesses. We used the user centered design process to interview stakeholders and come up with a business model that fit the communities needs, the organization’s capacities and the donor/investors’ expectations.
I began consulting independently so that I could help scientists, artists and musicians looking to make their work financially sustainable. This grew to include work with designers (namely IDEO), non-profits (IDEO.org, FarmsReach & Organic Seed Alliance) where I developed what I call market design: a type of business model prototyping that develops in tandem with the user-centered design process to more accurately assess economic viability of product and service designs.
One of my favorite projects with Vroom was to develop campaigns to increase customer retention. I focused on a VIP program and as I developed relationships with our past customers, I stumbled upon dozens of improvements in the operations of the marketing, sales and delivery teams. I implemented a handful of communication tools throughout the company: a taskforce for integrating external feedback, post-sales collateral left in each car with contact info, a direct line to account managers for existing customer questions, tracking for NPS and public reviews sites. On the marketing side, I created a VIP program with custom Visa cards for our best customers and launched an on-going email campaign to keep customer engaged post-sales. We’ve had over $1.3m in referrals in the first two months, reduced negative reviews by 10%, average over 50% email open rate, and resolved dozens customer issues before they went public.