Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Dingman enTERPreneur Launches Mega Kickstarter Campaign

Obidi Maryland in manhattan

Obidi Orakwusi, Founder of Gym Supreme

We’ve all heard stories of entrepreneurs whose businesses began on the backs of napkins. But how about the back of a job application?

For one Dingman enTERPreneur, what began as a sketch for an at-home, all-in-one fitness device on the back of a gym job application, has turned into a fully operational business. Today, Gym Supreme’s founder and Dingman enTERPreneur Academy graduate, Obidi Orakwusi, has a patented at-home gym device, Mega Bar, and is launching the company’s first kickstarter campaign.

In 2013, the Dingman Center blog caught up with Obidi. To learn about the genesis of his idea, check out that post here.

Since we’ve been uber-focused on the lean launchpad methodology and customer discovery around the Dingman Center lately, we asked Obidi to share some of those insights from his startup journey.

When Obidi initially gained the idea for Mega Bar, he was confident that it would sell. Mega Bar was not the first at-home gym on the market, but Obidi noticed that what was available at an affordable price point was not the best quality.  This validated his hypothesis and he saw an opportunity.

What was your path like toward customer discovery?

I did things a bit backwards. I did much of my customer discovery after the prototype had been developed. I walked around campus and stood outside of Eppley Recreation Center with a clipboard to take notes from discussions with potential customers, who were undergrad students ages 18-22. Through those interviews I found that although my product was an improvement from a quality and design standpoint — think the Nokia compared to an iPhone — it was too expensive for the demographic on campus. The needs matched but the price didn’t. From there, I segmented the target market and shifted focus to a more of a working class, young professional crowd that had money but limited time. Within this space I found my target customer and learned what I was really solving for them: saving people time. This customer spends a majority of his/her time at work, leaving minimal time — sometimes just a few hours at home or outside of the office. With that limited time, people may not always feel like working out, but Mega Bar can help.

What was the biggest challenge in developing and commercializing a new product?

From my experience, the biggest challenges in creating a new product and commercializing it, are marketing and pricing. Pricing will narrow your target market and really affects revenues. For example, if you try to force the price to fit a cheaper audience, you might be faced with a situation where your margins are just too low to keep the company growing. Once you have a set price, the hardest thing is figuring out how to reach the market with the highest willingness to pay when you have no budget for marketing, because marketing has to be continuous for it to be effective.

mega pyramid

How did you navigate the patent approval process?

Getting a patent so early on was a great boost of confidence, and the fact that it arrived at the door on my birthday last year was unbelievable. I knew how important it was to have a patent in the pipeline, but I didn’t have the resources to pay excessive legal fees, so I had to learn it all. I read all the rules very carefully, read articles, and called the USPTO anytime I had a question. With all the knowledge I gained, I was able to submit the patent application and receive the approval to grant the patent within nine months of applying, which is extremely rare. I applied for my second patent last summer.

Have you tried any unique marketing campaigns?

I’ve tested three different marketing strategies. The first two were great strategies, but they wouldn’t work with the minimal resources the company had to work with.

The first was a social media campaign. The second involved attempts to have influencers in the fitness industry promote the company, and then the 3rd strategy was to get a booth at a fitness convention. The social media strategy was put on hold because it felt like the posts were getting nowhere without paying for ads; it was taking too long. The fitness influencers marketing strategy didn’t work because we couldn’t afford to send in free gear so early on or pay them to promote to their fan base. I also tried to get the Mega Bar featured in major fitness publications, but the cold emails felt like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean of emails that those publications received everyday.

The entire time, I was trying to figure out a way to reach an audience that would also see the value in the product, but I realized that I had been searching for the marketing middleman that would help us reach the potential consumer, when I should have actually been the one reaching directly to the early adopters because middlemen are always more costly. I had to find a way to reach directly to consumers that would understand the value of the product just by seeing a 30 second video of what the product can do without further explanation, so I decided to get the company’s first booth at a personal training convention to gain exposure for the Mega Bar. That turned out to be the most effective strategy based on time and the little resources the company had.

What resources have you found to be most valuable to you as an entrepreneur?

The most valuable resources found throughout my journey, thanks to the Dingman Center, are the entrepreneurship classes. It started with the Entrepreneur Academy that eventually evolved to Fearless Founders. From that class, I learned so much about how to understand your target customer. Everything about the Dingman Center has been a great resource for me along the journey. From winning the first funding ever for the company, which went toward the issue fee for the first patent, to being able to talk to other successful entrepreneurs to get feedback. It’s all been a source of encouragement to keep progressing.

At the Dingman Center, I attended Pitch Dingman on Fridays where I could talk about creative ideas and strategies freely without being looked at like a crazy person because I was so young. You run into a lot of doubters when you first start your idea because no one believes you, but at Dingman, they believe you and are always there to help you succeed even if you are trying to turn water into wine. I had the chance to go on a trip to New York this past spring to show off the cool ideas that are coming out of UMD to Terps who now live in Manhattan. That would have never happened if the Dingman Center didn’t hook us up with a booth at Cupid’s Cup earlier this year where I connected with the UMD Alumni Association.

Loh MegaBaring

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh with the Mega Bar

What advice do you have for student entrepreneurs? 

The biggest advice I would have for student entrepreneurs is to be confident, but don’t think you already know everything about your idea on day one. Be confident about your idea, but don’t be arrogant because it is just an idea until you can start selling it or acquiring users. You will need help to keep your idea progressing, but watch out for anyone who starts wasting your time because you can not replace time. Learn from the good things that happen along the journey, and also learn from the bad. Every experience will help you understand what to do the next time.

What’s one of the biggest lessons learned in starting Gym Supreme?

I’ve learned so much through building a product and launching a brand to push the product, but the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you should always test out your theories, never rush into decisions. Starting a company with no money after product development will force you to find new solutions to overcome marketing barriers.

You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign. What do you hope to achieve through Kickstarter?

My main goal with the Kickstarter campaign is to launch the first sales of the Mega Bar and to introduce Gym Supreme’s story to the world. The goal is to raise $12,000 through sales so that the company can finally generate revenue.

Do you have any bootstrapping tips for our readers?

Start saving your money now! Before senior year, I had a work-study job on campus and saved every paycheck. By the time graduation rolled around, I had enough money to develop a prototype.

Never jump into decisions without thinking twice about it. When you receive that first offer, don’t just take it. Be cautious of investors who are just opportunistic and don’t genuinely believe in your product.

Also, be resourceful. For example, I taught myself to code, which saved a lot of expense and was something I could figure out through studying.

What’s your long-term vision for Gym Supreme?

The long term goal for Gym Supreme is to become a fitness lifestyle brand that creates excellent products, which help us all stay consistent with our health goals. I want this company to help anyone that has a desire to Lift Good, Live good, and Look Good®.  Gym Supreme Logo

To learn more about Gym Supreme and to place your order for the Mega Bar, visit their Kickstarter Page to support the $12,000 goal.

And, be sure to connect with Gym Supreme on social media:


Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

UMD Startup Launches Indiegogo Campaign

It has been two weeks since the last time I sat down with student entrepreneur Brooks Gabel and talk about his startup justlikeyou.org. We discussed his journey starting a nonprofit social networking platform as a student to now having a team of more than 20. This time, we discussed his upcoming Indiegogo campaign that will launch this Saturday, February 1.

Danielle Bennings (DB): Hi Brooks, welcome back! I’m glad we get to sit down and talk again.
Brooks Gabel (BG): Hi, thanks for having me back.

DB: So, when does your Indiegogo campaign launch?
BG: Our Indiegogo campaign is launching February 1 which is this Saturday!

DB: Kickstarter has become popular among startups and many campaigns hosted on the platform have been successful. The example we talk about a lot at the Dingman Center is another UMD student, Chase Kaczmarek, who raised a over $30K on Kickstarter for his startup Wheel Shields. Why did you choose Indiegogo?
BG: We had to look at many different online fundraising platforms. One drawback of Kickstarter is when you have a company with a social networking component you’re actually not allowed to fund raise there. So, we started looking at other options and Indiegogo kept popping up. They’re more cause related. As a nonprofit organization with tax exemption status you can get even better deals on the percentages you have to pay, so Indiegogo seemed like a good fit for us. The justlikeyou team has been divided into five groups. We have a business development sector, a volunteer and training experience team, a marketing team, a legal and insurance team and the Indiegogo team.

DB: Do you call them staff or team members? And how many do you have?photo (4)
BG: We call them team members and there are 21 total.

DB: Wow. Are they all based in Maryland?
BG: They are not. We have 16 from the United States and five international. We all operate remotely and everything is done through Skype and conference calls. Working in different time zones is definitely a challenge but everyone has been great about it.

DB: Do you remember any Indiegogo campaigns that stood out to you and served as inspiration?
BG: We looked at who was fully funded, the kind of messages they were sending, how long it was, and what they were communicating through the video versus in the description. You want a video that entices people to get involved. The people that are really interested in your mission, are going to read more.

DB: So it sounds like you did a significant amount of research which I think is really impressive.
BG: Yea, we made sure to look at campaigns that were similar to what we’re trying to do and mimic their success from creating perks that made sense to our constituency to creating content that is able to be read by anyone.

DB: I’m really interested in hearing about the video. How did you come up with the concept and how did you create it? I saw you recording it here in the Dingman Center. 1555465_340630939407921_1269829022_n
BG: We created the video in partnership with another UMD student, Jeff Hilnbrand. He’s done some freelance projects for other units within the business school — I know he did some work for the Center for Social Value Creation and a lot of other freelance work around campus. I was actually introduced to him by you, so its great that we were able to connect. We did our first shoot a few weeks ago here at the Dingman Center. I felt that since this is where we spend the most of our time it was an important place for us to shoot. People will be able to see the video for the first time this Saturday.

DB: What do you hope people take away from the video?
BG: I want people to get a full understanding of what it means to be a social network for people coming out. That really is the only thing that we have put out there – we are the social networking platform for people going through the coming out process. Defining that through the video is going to help people to relate to their own experience or the experience of a sibling, a friend, or maybe even a parent whose been through the coming out process, and really see the value in the resource we’re creating. We also want to show a global perspective. This isn’t just coming from two or three students at the University of Maryland who ended up in the Dingman Center together. This is a collaborative effort from people all around the world.

DB: How much money are you raising? Are you willing to reveal that?
BG: Sure, it will be completely visible on the campaign. Our goal is to raise $50K and we’ve structured incentives in order to get us there. Also, the people we’re targeting for the network itself are not going to be the ones donating to our campaign.

DB: So you’re expecting donations from people who believe in what you’re doing but might not be using the site themselves?
BG: Right. With justlikeyou, the top three people that we’re looking at are: the free and anonymous user; the volunteer who wants to give back, and the donor who probably sees this is the resource they, or a loved-one, never had.

DB: Right, many donors may think “I wish my mom or my brother or my best friend could have used this”.
BG: Yes, because it’s personally linked to you in some way.

DB: What are some of the incentives? 2b92662744c5f71d26b9bc5fd884dcd1_g4
BG: We have custom justlikeyou apparel, early site access, and tickets to our red carpet launch party in Washington D.C. in April. We also have ways to sponsor the organization to support a mobile extension.

DB: I’d like to get one of those justlikeyou t-shirts, they look great. Are they available online right now?
BG: Yes, we have to get you one! As soon as the Indiegogo campaign goes live they will be available just on Indiegogo. We did a pre-sale for the month of January where they were all $29.99.

DB: How did that go?
BG: It went well. The biggest takeaway for us was that we needed the shirts beforehand. One of our greatest strengths has been using the team to reach their networks. We have really been able to showcase the team on our social media sites over the last couple months.1002359_347923908678624_1105782082_n

DB: I’ve been noticing that, especially on Facebook.
BG: The use of social media has been growing the network because people like pictures of the team members. One of the latest things that we’re doing is having everyone take selfies of themselves in the shirt. That’s how we highlight our team members from week to week. It has a dual purpose; showing the #LoveisLove shirt and introducing our greatest asset which is our people.

DB: In a perfect world, your Indiegogo campaign launches February 1, it ends April 1, and you reach your $50K goal. What is your next step from there?
BG: Our immediate next step is to make sure that we have our education and training program complete. That’s our priority. The program is fully developed so we’re going to be doing all our trainings in March, but we’re looking to make that a more sustainable model. On the network, minors can only talk to volunteers. Volunteers aren’t people that we employ, but they are trained and in our team member system and we want to make that experience accessible to anyone regardless of if they live in the DMV area or not. Learning how to put the trainings online is definitely a priority for us. Going forward we’re going to need to scale in order for the training to be accessed from anywhere in the world.

DB: If there are people who can’t buy a t-shirt or contribute to your Indiegogo campaign, what are other ways that people can support justlikeyou.org?
BG: The best way is to share the network. You never know who may be looking for this resource. Regardless of whether you can personally identify with it or not, I can guarantee there is someone within your circle that you have no idea is going through this. By supporting the network or sharing a picture of the t-shirt, they’ll know that you’re a great person to come to when they’re ready.

DB: What’s the best way to connect online? Do you want people using #loveislove, like on the t-shirt, or do you want people to mention @justlikeyouorg on Twitter?
BG: I would always go back to the justlikeyou Facebook or Twitter pages. It’s justlikeyou.org for Facebook and @justlikeyouorg for Twitter and Instagram. #loveislove is fine, but we’ll also be coming out with branded hashtags when the Indiegogo campaign launches this Saturday.

DB: We’ll be sure to look out for those when the Indiegogo campaign launches. Thanks so much for sitting down with me again, Brooks.
BG: Thank you, Danielle. We appreciate the support.

Tagged , , , , , ,