By establishing the first registered distillery in the country, Jack Daniel built his success on two fundamental ingredients: identifying a need in the community and crafting a quality process to satisfy that need. Today, Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey honors the makers who follow this time-honored success model of finding the sweet spot of where demand and innovation intersect.
Reda Hicks has been a staple in Houston’s law community since 2005. Over the past 13 years that she’s lived and worked in the city, Hicks has organized advocacy groups for military vets and active service members, kick-started voting initiatives for the city’s chapter of League of Women Voters, and started her own consulting company focused on public policy issues like community development, transportation and environmental protection.
But when she took the stage at the Pitch Distilled Houston competition in April, she took the stage not as an attorney, but as an entrepreneur.
“Advocating someone else’s case is very different from trying to sell yourself,” she says.
But she won over her “ jury” in the end. Hicks took home the top prize after selling the Pitch Distilled audience on her idea for GotSpot, a company which pairs local entrepreneurs with business owners to better utilize the city’s surplus of unused space, including restaurants and office buildings.
A Storm of Inspiration
GotSpot’s roots trace back years in Hicks’ mind, but nothing truly materialized until 2017, when Hurricane Harvey came ashore. Hicks has spent nearly four years as an in-house attorney in the Houston office of a global shipping and logistics company, and after the storm, she found herself fielding a swarm of phone calls from Houstonites looking for help and, more specifically, space.
“Where do we put people? Where do we put relief goods? Where can we stage emergency response?” Hicks remembers people asking. “It struck me because it was all here, it all exists in Houston and no one could find what they needed. And that’s when it hit me that it wasn’t just a need – it was an urgent need.”
Hicks had kicked around the idea of creating a hub for space-seekers before, but she had been too afraid to take the first steps. The technology, in particular, was daunting to someone without a background of building user-friendly and reliable websites. But the city’s call for help pushed her past the point of fear and into action. Hicks quickly called on her local connections to see if the idea was viable, and found that it was.
Who Needs Space?
Even after the immediate need generated by the hurricane, business owners were still looking to better utilize their space and make a profit from downtime during slower hours. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs otherwise working from home needed public spaces to better advance their businesses. GoSpot was starting to take shape.
Hicks connected with some of her friends in tech, and the group cooked up a prototype for a public-facing site that Hicks hopes will resemble the functionality and friendly approach of AirBnb. She plans to launch the site in the fall.
Although Hicks hopes GotSpot will ultimately help people in Houston looking for space for any need, her current focus is on the B2B market. Can the burgeoning pastry chef book an unused kitchen at the local culinary institute? Can a yoga teacher take his classes out of the garage and into an unused studio? Can a work-at-home lawyer offer a seminar to her clients in a community college classroom?
Business owners have been more than receptive to the idea, because there is no charge to list an unused space on GotSpot. And entrepreneurs are constantly looking for ways to expand their business out of the home, but they often aren’t familiar with the resources available just down the block.
“The community response has been very positive,” Hicks says. “So positive, in fact, that I’ve received calls from about a dozen other big and small cities about doing something similar to our project.”
She adds that she’ll use the prize money earned at Pitch Distilled to hire the best Houston-based developers and designers she can. She’s hopeful the final site will offer space-holders and space-seekers the opportunity to easily connect, review experiences, schedule appointments and make business transactions.
Hicks’ long-standing connections in the Houston area have already yielded a wealth of commercial spaces she wanted; now, she just has to give her customers the best experience possible.
Visit Pitch Distilled to read more inspiring entrepreneurial stories and learn how distilling your business model can lead to success.
This article was produced by WIRED Brand Lab in partnership with Gentleman Jack.