News & Events
Web Platform Sparks Opportunity for Texas Company
Ensemble Group maps a new business model, plan for growth.
August 22, 2013, Corpus Christi, TX
Taking your successful small business in a new direction is a little like entering unknown territory without a map or GPS – and that can be a very scary proposition for any leader. Ensemble Group CEO Gracie Martin had spent the last decade building a thriving consulting business creating custom websites and applications when the possibility of a new path came into view. Headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX, the firm had established a reputation for high-quality work with a roster of talented designers, coders and support staff to manage an ever-increasing portfolio of projects.
It was one of those projects – a health inspection application for a local municipality – that sparked the idea for a new product line. “We started to seriously talk about whether we could turn InspectHub into a customizable platform for other municipalities and sell it as a product,” says Gracie, who approached Incubator Manager David Fonseca at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center (CBBIC) for help in developing the idea. Already a client at the center, Gracie decided to explore the value proposition for the platform in a new pre-incubation program that David had launched for early stage ideas and their founders.
“Gracie’s idea was a perfect fit for the coaching model and the So what? who cares? why you? methodology and tools that we use in the program,” says David, who is a WKI Certified Coach. “She really listens and is very coachable – she has the ability to take input and work with it. We knew that the pre-incubation process could really accelerate the commercialization of this idea.”
InspectHub is a real-time web application that helps to standardize inspections with easy-to-use forms that capture issues, comments and follow-up steps, and can be printed onsite or emailed. The application also keeps a history of past inspections per site, can be used to schedule routine inspections and is fully customizable for specific compliance regulations.
“As a small business owner in your own little world, making decisions can be very lonely,” says Gracie, who shaped the InspectHub idea using the So what? who cares? why you? tools and worksheets in weekly coaching sessions over eight weeks. “It was great to step out of the operational focus to be part of a process designed for thinking and brainstorming possibilities. The CBBIC team was right there at every step, probing and asking the hard questions, but ultimately the decisions were ours to make. It really forced us to think about our mission and our market.”
Gracie and her team had the biggest breakthroughs while mapping different market segments that might have an application for their platform. “We were so focused on health inspections for restaurants and pools that we hadn’t even considered other industries where regulations and compliance are critical, like oil and gas pipeline companies,” recalls Gracie. “The Market Fishbone exercises were a big eye-opener. Then the challenge became, now that we know the world is our canvas, let’s narrow it down to the segments where we can have the best chance of success.”
Ensemble Group is busy now with investor meetings and exploring business development with oil and gas companies, where Gracie’s confidence and grasp of the opportunity is clear. Says David, “Gracie’s ability to articulate the idea in a way that potential investors and customers can understand is generating an amazing response.” In fact, the response has been so positive that they are moving into the CBBIC incubation program to finalize the business model for InspectHub and get it ready for market.
So what’s next on the ever-expanding horizon of opportunity for Ensemble Group? Gracie sees more web apps – including a database application called GangScope that makes it easier to document and monitor gang activity – and a company that can fuel economic growth and local employment.
Striving for impact on a local and national level, Gracie has a simple vision. “We want to generate jobs, wealth and opportunity.”
Learn more about Ensemble Group.
Read about the services and programs at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center at Texas A&M University.