Leading Aspiring Entrepreneurs from Idea Towards MVP

Do you have a business idea you’re excited about, but need help figuring out if you’re ready to invest your time and money to bring it to life?

idea factory icon

Stop thinking and start testing at the Idea Factory, a fast-paced, 6-week virtual program where you’ll learn how to test, improve, and validate your business idea.

Spring applications are due Monday, March 8th


The Idea Factory exists to:


Lead aspiring founders through the process of testing, refining, and validating their ideas


Provide new opportunities for those who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19


Enhance our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and economy by building a more diverse and equitable founder community

What You Need to Know

Who’s it for?

Anyone in the Central Virginia area with a technology-driven or manufacturing-based business idea is welcome to apply. The Idea Factory will provide the training, resources, and support to test your idea and help you decide whether you are ready to take the next steps towards becoming an entrepreneur.

What is the investment?

The program fee is $500, with need-based scholarships available (we don't want cost to be a barrier for any aspiring entrepreneur). Additionally, participants who successfully complete the program, validate their idea, and plan to commit a substantial amount of time to pursuing a new business will be considered for continued support and free resources to help them keep going.

What is the time commitment?

  • 10 hours per week for 6 weeks
  • Participation in a virtual workshop 1 evening per week
  • Attend a weekly office hour with a mentor or experts
  • Willingness to talk about your idea with others, including interviewing strangers

Am I ready?

All you need is an idea and a willingness to explore starting something new to apply to the Idea Factory. You don't need business experience, specific training or educational background, or to quit your day job. So yes, you're ready!

Spring applications are due Monday, March 8th

How It Works

6-Week Virtual Program

The Idea Factory program begins with an onboarding meeting, followed by a 5-week product discovery process, and ends with a customized plan moving forward and an opportunity to apply for grant funding to create an MVP. The Idea Factory will be offered several times a year. Each session will accept 6-8 participants with a technology-driven or manufacturing-based business idea.


Winter Session:
Applications Close – January 11th
Program Orientation – Week of February 8th
Program Begins – February 15th

Spring Session:
Applications Close – March 8th
Program Orientation – Week of April 12th
Program Begins – April 19th

What to Expect

Facilitated virtually, the program consists of live workshops and discussions led by experts in their field, individual meetings, and weekly assignments. Each Monday evening, you will learn practical and tangible lessons on how to build core interviewing skills and work on your idea.

  • 6-week process to validate your idea in a group of 6-8 participants
  • 1 live workshop each week with our team to build core skills and work on your idea
  • 1 office hour each week to collaborate with mentors and experts
  • The rest of the week you will be tasked with activities to test and refine your idea, like interviewing target customers (which we'll teach you how to do)
  • Through the process, we will produce:
    • Detailed testing plan so you'll know exactly what to do and why
    • Target customer list with insight on how to find your target customer
    • Interview script to collect valuable data from your target customer conversations
    • Survey questions to turn qualitative data into quantitative data
    • Market opportunity map to see if you should revise or further refine your idea
    • Value proposition statement to clearly articulate why your product/service should exist
    • Customer experiment strategy* to move your idea forward or a clear understanding of why your idea does not support MVP development

* Participants who successfully complete the program, validate their idea, and plan to commit a substantial amount of time to pursue a new business will be considered for continued support and free resources to help them keep going.

Spring applications are due Monday, March 8th


Tom Illmensee headshot

Tom Illmensee
Co-founder and CEO, Orbital Music Park

April Palmer headshot

April Palmer
Senior Vice President of Sales at Social Auto Transport and Failure Consultant



Luke Rabin
Product Lead & Co-founder, BLDR


Brandon Lewis
Design Lead & Co-founder, BLDR

Have questions about the Idea Factory?



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