Entrepreneurs typically have as much, if not more, need for intelligence as large corporations. Much of what new companies deal with is outside of their control while still being highly relevant to their eventual success or failure.

While the need for intel is there, the means for good intel often is not. Few intel firms cater to the needs of the very small start-up and it is often up to the entrepreneur to come up with answers about those “critical to my success or failure but outside my control” kinds of issues.

We experienced exactly this kind of question in a project I previously worked on for Mercyhurst’s Quickstarter program. Kathy Fling owns a small baking company called Delectabites and she was looking to find a flagship product that she can ship nationally.

After many months of research, experimentation and product testing (always the best part when working with a baker!), she settled on a square cake with the icing injected into the middle in 9 separate spots (9, count ’em! 9!). You get icing in every bite and it is easy to ship.

We taste tested it in offices, cafes, on the shop floor and in small businesses around Erie. We gave these cakes to road workers and sheet metal workers and nurses. Kathy is an amazing (and fully licensed) home baker. Everybody who tried this cake, loved it. We knew we were on to something.

But what to call it?

We went over a million different options. We wanted to send a signal that this was not your average piece of cake, that it was cake for real people who had real things to do with all the flavor of something lovingly made at home without any of the frills – a cake for the working man (or woman!).

Our first name, then, was “The Workingman’s Cupcake”. It was like a cupcake with cake and icing but better. You could pack it in a briefcase or express ship it across country. You got the joy of eating a homemade cupcake without the mess, the bother or the expense. It was revolutionary!

Then the feedback started rolling in. It wasn’t “really” a cupcake. Maybe people wouldn’t think the name was nearly as clever as we thought it was. We (= Kathy, me and the Project Manager, McKenna Schneider) needed to test this and, with our launch date (11 OCT) on Kickstarter quickly approaching, we needed to test it fast.

Fortunately, Google Forms provides exactly this kind of capability. Free with a Google account, it is a perfect way to do some quick comparison tests. We came up with what we thought were the best alternatives to The Workingman’s Cupcake and with a few clicks, we had a survey. With a few more, we had sent it out to our various networks. 161 responses (about 48 hours) later, we had our answer – The Workingman’s Cake in a landslide

I know that there are more complex ways to dissect this data. I know that by moving so quickly, I may have missed some opportunities to extract more meaning from the data I did get. I am a big believer, however, in Douglas Hubbard’s approach to data – any data is better than no data and you often need a lot less data than you think to substantially reduce uncertainty. While surveys certainly aren’t anything new, it is interesting to see that this approach can work and work well for entrepreneurs.