From a paperclip to a boat!

13 January 2022
student with boat
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We welcomed our new cohort this week, where on day two they had to put their entrepreneurship skills to the test in the paperclip challenge. Launchpad candidate Hameed Adigun gives us the lowdown...

The idea is you begin with a paper clip and continuously trade up until you end up with something of much more value - a house or a car for example!

There were a few differences for our challenge though, we were given both a paperclip and a pen to begin and only had four hours to complete our trading. Our rules were:

  • Start at 10am, be back by 3.30pm
  • Complete at least three trades
  • Bonus points for every minute you're early
  • Penalty points for every minute you're late

We split into two groups and set out to complete the challenge.

My team immediately proceeded to negotiate a sharpie out of our fellow Launchpad colleagues for the pen and paperclip combo. From there we somehow managed to trade the sharpie for a computer mouse only to then struggle to trade up from there.

Meanwhile our opposition strategised for a bit before getting stuck in. First, they traded the paper clip for a box of thumbtack pins, then traded the pen for a notebook, before trading the box of thumbtacks for an even bigger container of pins. The race was on...

My team member, Stuart remembered the Institute of Photography which we had passed during a campus tour the day before. He mentioned that they would be more likely to be able to trade something of a higher value for our mouse and I agreed. We visited them and secured two brand new Boohoo MANN hoodies still in their wrapping in exchange for the mouse. Did we just win? Not quite, because almost simultaneously, the other team made yet another trade, trading in their big box of pins for two pens.

To make things more interesting we took the challenge into Falmouth town centre. While in town the other team proceeded to trade their goods for lunch at Balti Curries, which we all enjoyed together as a group. After lunch, my team attempted multiple times to trade the two new hoodies. Trading the hoodies was easy but trading up - not so much. We realised we could no longer just trade for the sake of it anymore, we needed a plan, something to aim for.

Stuart mentioned the possibility of trading at Falmouth Marine School for a boat and as audacious as that sounded, we decided to aim for that goal. After all, if the others could get a meal from a notebook and two pens, surely, we can do something great with a pair of hoodies!

We decided to approach the Marine School for a boat. The expectation was that we would offer the hoodies, be rejected, and hopefully find out what they would want in order to give us a boat. Then we could work our way backwards to trade until we get that item before coming to pick up our prize. I thought it was a pretty genius plan and even if we didn't succeed, trying to achieve it would be great fun.

Unexpectedly however, the Marine School was more than happy to give away one of the boats they were no longer using for the hoodies, it was one of the biggest shocks of the day and we'd already had some big ones!

The day had been pretty eye opening and the lessons we took from this exercise included getting out of your comfort zone, not being afraid to ask or dream big, not being afraid of rejection, and realising that even if you do get rejected, it doesn't necessarily mean a complete no! Sometimes if you persevere you can turn the no into a yes down the road - it's the way of the entrepreneur.

However, the most important lesson I believe we gained from this experience is understanding the importance of one's story. The few times either team got a total no was when we simply asked for a trade without telling them the 'why'. Whenever we told them the story of how we ended up with that particular item e.g., a mouse, from just a paperclip and a pen, they became more invested in our journey and were much more likely to want to help us succeed.

Hameed Adigun is a creative and a storyteller at heart as well as the founder of an award-winning animation company. Originally from Nigeria, he grew up in south-west London, graduated with a Master's degree in engineering and spent 10 years in the software tech industry before joining Launchpad.

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