Tehila Gabai-Doitch, a Master’s student at Tel Aviv University, is an entrepreneur in an unusual field. Three years ago, she founded ‘Auto’lle’- car maintenance workshops targeted to women. Since its founding, thousands of women have participated in Auto’lle workshops all over the country, learning to replace wheels and deal with common vehicle maintenance. Government institutions, municipalities, and large organizations have partnered with Tehila to create workshops for their female employees, and her venture arouses the curiosity of both the automotive and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
It all began when Tehila drove her new car and got stuck by the side of the road. She didn’t know what to do and asked for help from a guy who was driving by. “I didn’t like feeling that I didn’t know anything about my car and that I could not fix a simple maintenance problem by myself. I also realized I’m probably not the only woman who feels this way. That day, the idea to create something which would give women practical knowledge about their cars came to my mind.”
The journey Tehila experienced when she turned her idea into a business which answered an unmet need, can teach an important lesson on how to work according to the Lean Startup Methodology. The Lean Startup is a bestseller by Eric Ries, an experienced Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and its principles have become the leading guidelines for successful startup strategy.
One of its most important techniques is called the MVP-minimum viable product: “that version of a new product, which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers, with the least effort.” In other words, the MVP aims to ‘probe’ the market with a product that is not perfect, but will allow you to learn about your customers’ needs instead of developing a perfect product that nobody wants.
This concept was also discussed at the Coller Ignite opening event, where Nimrod Kramer, co-founder of the Elegant Monkeys, spoke about the correct way to create a MVP as illustrated in this slide-
Back to Auto’lle, Tehila felt there was a need in the market, she assumed there were a lot of women who lacked basic knowledge about their cars and did not know how to fix simple maintenance problems by themselves. However, before starting a new startup of car maintenance courses for women, Thehila wanted to check the market and validate her assumptions.
First, she created a blog called Auto’lle and wrote a few posts teaching basic knowledge on car maintenance. She didn’t pay for a domain or for Facebook ads. It was her starting point for understanding her customers’ needs.
The blog created interest and even got exposure on ‘Haaretz’. “Many people commented on the blog and I also received a lot of partnership offers, one of them from a garage owner in Tel Aviv. He also felt that there was a need to teach women about their cars and help them feel comfortable when coming to the garage.” Following this positive feedback from the market, Tehila decided to partner with him and create a practical car maintenance workshop for women in the garage.
Before creating the content for the workshop, deciding on a marketing strategy and pricing, Tehila created a very simple Google form to check if there were women who actually want to come to a garage and participate in such a workshop. “I wanted to study the market so I asked women what kind of car issues they encounter, what they would like to learn about cars, and if they would come to a hands-on workshop in a garage.”
Of the 150 women who filled out the form 70% of them were interested in coming to a workshop.
Only then, Tehila and her partner decided to open their first workshop. “We performed a pilot with family and friends and after getting their feedback I posted on Facebook that I was starting a new car workshop for women. We started very small, only 5 women, in a garage in Tel Aviv. Today I have partnerships with garages all over Israel and this is my full-time job”.
Tehila recommends to everyone who has an idea to start lean. “Don’t immediately quit your job and put a lot of money and efforts in what you imagine the market wants. You need to start with something very basic and simple. Learn about your customers, see what they want, and then improve, add more value, and continue to develop based on the market needs and not on the idea in your head. This way, if you fail, you don’t fail to hard.”
Tehila didn’t learn this lean approach from the famous Silicon Valley entrepreneur and his bestseller, but from the Schnitzel store in Pardas Katz where she grew. “There is a lot of shawarma, falafel and other fast food places on the main street, and one scenario that always repeated itself - someone came, invested a lot of money, renovated an entire shop, put a up a big sign and opened a new store. It usually was opened for 6 months and then closed. One day, I saw someone open a new schnitzel place, but unlike the other places, he rented a tiny room, didn’t have employees and didn’t even put up a sign. He started with the minimum needed to sell schnitzel for 10 shekels. After a month, he bought chairs, next, he bought some tables. Each time he improved the place a bit more. Today he is still there, opened for more than 7 years; a life-time compare to the other shops in this environment . I saw his method which I call “The Schnitzel Method” and I knew I had to work the same way on my own venture".