Zippity Car Care was an entrepreneurial First Year Project (FYP) that examined the viability of a subscription car-care service at one’s place of work. Zippity came to be when co-founders Russell Walker T’17 and Ed Warren T’17 realized they had the exact same idea: a subscription care-care service. Ultimately the two were put in touch, realized they were working on very similar projects, and decided to combine forces.
The main goal of the FYP was to determine if there is a consumer need for this type of service and what this business could be. The first null hypothesis was whether car maintenance is an issue that people are frustrated by. The team found that the answer was overwhelmingly, yes! Car maintenance is one of the biggest issues people have when owning a car. The second null hypothesis was to determine what the exact pain points were: convenience, trust, the cost? After those pain points were identified, the team was able to determine what kind of car services to offer.
Ema Reid T'17, who worked on Zippity as part of her FYP says, "I purposefully chose an entrepreneurial FYP. My internship is in internal strategy at New Balance within a new division; I knew this would be an entrepreneurial venture within a larger company, so it was important for me to test what I learned—to make sure I was comfortable before setting out on this new project. Because of this FYP experience, I started my internship with more confidence and excitement about the skills that I’ve been nurturing at Tuck all along."
Brad DeMay T’13 was one of the five FYP team members assigned a daunting task: help Merck & Co. identify the critical factors that will drive the future of the global prescription-drug market. DeMay had a degree in biochemistry and biophysics from RPI and a Ph.D. from Dartmouth in molecular biology. Two other members had extensive experience consulting in the life-sciences industry.
The team attacked the problem along two main work streams: one, from the top down, analyzed demographics, patterns, and trends in the major markets of Europe, China, India, North America, and South America. Where were the opportunities for growth? What changes in government and regulations were imminent? How was the health care landscape shifting? The other took a bottom-up approach—a disease-oriented view the students analyzed after interviews with doctors and insurers.
DeMay focused much of his work on the interviews in the bottom-up work stream. One of his goals in the project was to fill out his strong technical background with soft-skill development. “The realities of the timing involved in pulling off this project made it a fundamentally different experience from the classroom,” says DeMay. “Beyond that— and this is something I didn’t fully appreciate—in the real world, when you’re looking for answers, you need people to talk to you.”
During his first term at Tuck, Jay Beckstoffer T’13 met classmate Nishant Daruka, whose passion for cooking intersected with Beckstoffer’s extensive background in the restaurant industry. The two of them became obsessed with a question: Could an Indian-inspired restaurant become a part of America’s fast-casual food landscape?
They brought the concept into Tuck’s Entrepreneurship elective, where they tested their assumptions and sketched the beginnings of a business plan. Encouraged, they turned the question into a First-Year Project, gaining the expertise of three teammates—one interning in marketing at Colgate, one who had worked at JP Morgan in leveraged finance, and one who had worked in risk assessment at Morgan Stanley—and tapping into the broad range of Tuck resources, including faculty and alumni support. Beckstoffer also met with bankers and real estate developers throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and was hired to serve their food at a venture capital case competition.
“We spent three semesters preparing cases and attending lectures, building all these core skills to become general managers,” Beckstoffer says, “and then this course unleashed us to put all of that to work.” At the end of the project, the team pitched its business plan in front of four investors and received real-world feedback. All four gave high marks. And two of them were interested in investing.
Merritt Patridge T’13 came to Tuck having traveled in Bosnia and studying the impact of war on young people, and after working for five years managing hedge-fund investment portfolios. She read about Global Grassroots, a nonprofit working to improve the lives of vulnerable women and girls in post-conflict countries, and reached out to its founder, Gretchen Wallace T’01. Wallace was designing a web-based platform for the group’s Academy for Conscious Change, an 18-month training program providing seed grants and high-engagement support to grassroots social entrepreneurs worldwide.
After meeting with Wallace, Patridge assembled a diverse FYP team—students with direct experience in Africa, India, and the Middle East, with backgrounds in consulting, education, and technology. The team evaluated the eAcademy pilot and developed a strategy for its global rollout. Tuck’s Center for Business & Society supported Patridge and another team member’s travel to Guatemala to conduct field research, including interviews with potential eAcademy users. The team analyzed usability, explored potential partnerships, and outlined marketing and publicity plans, offering increased depth in research and an accelerated pace to the development of the new platform. For the team’s final FYP presentation, Wallace convened not only her staff but her entire board of directors.
“Gretchen is such a visionary leader,” says Patridge. “Working with her gave me a picture of the kind of leader I want to work for—or the kind of leader I hope to become.”