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Wednesday, 16 July 2014 21:41

Q&A: Justin Herd, Entrepreneur

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Q&A: Justin Herd, Entrepreneur COURTESY PHOTO

Like most students living on a limited budget, Justin Herd ate a lot of noodles in college. And that means he washed a lot of bowls, which he hated doing. So Herd came up with the “OneBowl” that you can use to cook, strain, eat and then store the leftover pasta. An April graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in marketing, the 23-year-old Herd won more than $14,000 in a series of business plan competitions that he used to refine his initial design and develop a prototype with Tiger Studios in Zeeland.

He now seeks to raise $50,000 in a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to develop a plastic-injection mold to produce the microwave-safe OneBowl. As of last week, he had netted $46,699 as of July 17 in pledges from more than 933 people in more than 30 countries. The Kickstarter campaign runs through July 21, and Herd hopes to begin selling OneBowl by October. He spoke with MiBiz about his idea.

[Editor’s note: Herd was successful in his campaign, raising $53,463 from 1,276 backers as of the morning of July 21.]

How did you come up the idea for OneBowl?

I just looked at the pile of dishes to make myself one serving of noodles and said, ‘Hey, there’s got to be a better way,’ and those were the magic words. I went to Grand Valley to study and learn about entrepreneurship, so I was always in it to learn how to be an entrepreneur. I had a few service businesses I tried to get up and running in my early years as a freshman, sophomore and junior. In my senior year, I decided I really wanted to try and invent an actual product, a hard good, so I took an entrepreneurship class … where I took my idea for the OneBowl as a napkin sketch. The professors helped me to refine the idea, to make a business model canvas, which led me to make a business plan, and they hooked me up with all of the right people to do prototyping and all of the competitions. Now I’m trying to take a big swing at commercializing the product.

What made you want to develop your own products and go into business at this age?

I was inspired by my dad. He’s a family doctor, but he is very entrepreneurial and started his own practice. He just encouraged me when I was 12 years old to pass out fliers to the neighborhood to cut grass. I did that, passed them out and got five calls back, and I had my own lawn business. I just knew right then and there that I loved this idea of entrepreneurship and making my own business and my own income. Ever since then, I put my focus on how I could do everything in an entrepreneurial way.

Do you hope to build a business around this idea and produce OneBowl yourself, or license out the design or even sell the IP to a third party to produce?

This product lends itself to a licensing model. … It’s hard to make a full business around it unless I expand the product line. I want to take A before B and get initial sales before I make that decision. Most likely, I won’t create an entire business around it. Most likely, I want to license the product so I can flesh out other ideas that I have that have more potential to be full-scale businesses.

What’s next after OneBowl?

I have a few ideas, but it’s all about having one success before the next. I really have this passion for outdoor recreation, backpacking and back-country camping, and I just see so many opportunities in camping products that we can make in Michigan. They are more like plastic-based products, and I’d like to build a brand around this idea of all these products that I have ideas for. I’d like to build a brand called ‘Tree Trunk Products’ that would be a Michigan-based camping-gadget brand, essentially.

What have you learned so far in trying to commercialize OneBowl?

Where there is a will, there is a way. I’ve learned that if I have a problem I need to solve, or if I have a next step that I need to accomplish, every time I go to a networking event or I just put myself out there to try and find an answer, I always find it very quickly. I’ve learned that Grand Rapids has everything I need to be a successful entrepreneur right at my fingertips. There are so many free resources in Grand Rapids.

Tell us about the major setback you experienced in developing OneBowl.

I was getting into my car when a man asked me for some spare change. I put all of my supplies, including my only prototype, on the roof of my car while I dug for some change in my pocket. It wasn’t until I was on the highway that I realized I left my dear prototype on the roof as I watched it fly into traffic and get crushed under a truck. (Editor’s Note: Broadview Product Development Corp. in Zeeland bailed him out, using a SLA 3-D printer to create a new prototype overnight so Herd could do a television interview the next day.)

Why use crowdfunding to fund your product development?

It’s a fantastic way to get an idea out there for people to decide whether they’d be willing to part with their hard-earned dollars for that item. A term that’s thrown around a lot is, ‘If your idea is something that’s good, you have to have customer validation.’ Kickstarter is a great way to do that. It’s a way to actually prove that this many people are actually parting with this many dollars for your product, and you can show that to investors in other things.

Interview conducted and condensed by Mark Sanchez.


Read 2739 times Last modified on Monday, 21 July 2014 09:12

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