Campus hustle to corporate: Balcostics helping big business with intelligence
LUWAYNE Thomas and Abi Gaye White started out helping fellow students with data entry and analysis for surveys on the University of West Indies campus at Mona.
Friendly gesture soon turned into "campus hustle", according to Thomas.
"We helped a lot of persons and from that we developed demand from more and more persons," Thomas said. "And they started paying for the service."
Thomas and White formed the perfect team. Thomas, who majored in economics and social statistics, was responsible for the technical analysis while White, who studied communications, handled the marketing.
The pair graduated in 2009 and both decided to further their studies -- Thomas did his Master's while White went to law school, but they couldn't shake off the entrepreneurial itch from school days.
Balcostics Limited was hence formed in 2011, targeting companies, organisations, consultants and individuals who require research solutions and are looking to outsource services, including surveys, data collection, data analysis, data entry and data visualisation.
"We saw the need and decided to expand and start a formal business," said White from the company's office at the Technology Innovation Centre inside the University of Technology.
But the transformation from campus to 'real world' did not come easy, as Balcostics found it difficult to gain corporate clientele.
"In 2011, when we started the company, we didn't have any business that entire year because we were thinking corporate, and it was so difficult to get into the corporate sector," White said.
"For that year we didn't have any business at all. It was just about marketing," added White, the marketing manager.
Thomas, the chief operating officer, interjected: "It was really about building the foundation, putting things in place to approach that different market because, on campus, it was mostly indidivuals."
They started a website, made cold calls and presented their value proposition.
"Why should persons choose Balcostics for their research? We offer a new way for outsouricing data analysis, data entry and surveys," Thomas noted. "We outsource different elements of the entire research process. You can have ownership of your research but pass on the technical elements to Balcostics."
The sales pitch has been bearing fruit for the company, evidenced by its growing clientele, including Jamaica Money Market Brokers and USAID Jamaica. The biggest projects are from non-profit orginisations.
Thomas and White are Balcostics' only two full-time workers but they employ up to twenty persons -- mostly students -- on a part-time basis for each project.
Among the projects they have done in the past is a research on the willingness of tourists to pay additional fees to help maintain and sustain Jamaica's natural and cultural enviromnment. And, currently, the company is working on a project with the USAID to assess knowledge and attitude towards energy conservation.