When I first started I wanted to bring a new type of bowtie that could solve the problem of the intimidating learning curve and the stigma that people have when it comes to wearing a bowtie. I wanted to be able to, and the product still is this, have it where you can tie it and unhook it so that it stays tied and you never have to deal with it again. I ultimately settled on velcro or hook-in-loop, which is a generic term; my goal was to help guys out because bowties are really in and a lot of people don’t take advantage of that because of how difficult it is to tie one and they feel like they can’t learn. I wanted to help people with that because I spent a lot of time in high school practicing how to tie one before going to dances and even then I still couldn’t get it perfect; It wasn’t until this process that I actually perfected it.
I found out about it from Zac speaking to a class of mine. It was always kind of in the back of my mind and at first I thought, “I’ll never have a reason to be in that,but that’s really cool, kind of like a Shark Tank type deal” on a smaller scale and the same idea, but I thought “that’ll never be me”. But then I had this idea from my sister trying to help my dad tie a bowtie and I was like, “there’s gotta be a better way to do this”. [The INKUBATOR] was always in the back of my mind, so when I was thinking of ways to get it started, this popped up and I scheduled a meeting with Zac. He knows nothing about bowties so he couldn’t give me a lot of specific feedback but it was important to show face and get my foot in the door to talk to people about the way the process works. When it comes down to it: I heard about it, it was in the back of my mind for a couple of years, and then I had an idea and it was the first thing that I thought of.
For me, what I knew about entrepreneurship was on the glamour side, like what came from Shark Tank, so I wasn’t familiar with the validation process. By doing this program, it helped me explore some avenues to make sure the idea that I had was interesting to people and something they might potentially buy. I would say that throughout the process it helped me stay focused and have a certain path to go on in order to complete things more efficiently than if I were doing things on my own. If I didn’t do the INKUBATOR I would’ve started working full time right out of school because I graduated right before the program started in May of 2018; it changed that in regard that I wouldn’t be this far if I didn’t do it because I would’ve just gone to work full time. In my opinion, working full time is so exhausting, I get home and my brain is dead; I mean, entrepreneurs do it all the time so it’s not like it’s impossible, but it’s more difficult that way. This helped me get jumpstarted.
It’s really easy to hear things you want to hear, and it’s difficult to seek controversy or seek adversity with your product; you want everyone to love it, you want all of your ideas to be correct, you want it to be as easy as possible. But to be successful you have to look for people to say no, you have to look for criticism; it showed me that you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t look for the negativity that can help you build on what you have, to use that criticism to improve on what you have.
How has the INKUBATOR changed your outlook on entrepreneurship?
It showed me the difficulty that people go through before they get to Shark Tank. I would also say that it really showed how many moving parts there are and the level of focus you have to have on the various aspects because you’re juggling a lot of things like the marketing, the product development, the designing, and the communication with people to try to get in front of stuff; you’re wearing a lot of hats when you do something like this. It’s a more sheltered environment than if you were just doing it on your own so it gives you an intro into what it’s going to be like if you’re continuing with your idea and trying to make it bigger. It shows on a smaller scale the kind of roles you’ll have to play and gets you ready for that aspect of starting a business for real, which I think was valuable for me because I like design, I like marketing stuff, I like talking to people, but it showed me all the juggling I had to do in order to improve the product and make it successful.
It got me interested in the startup world, which is a lot more appealing to me to work for a company like a Jumperthread, or an Oros, or something like that, startups that were started here in Cincinnati, rather than jumping into a giant corporation like a P&G. For me personally, the startup scene is more appealing, and also if I wouldn’t have gotten into the INKUBATOR, I would’ve immediately started working full-time and I would’ve gotten locked into this certain path of “this is what I have to do” permanently until I retire; this broadened my horizons and showed me that maybe there is another path that can work. It’s a much less traveled path, a much more difficult one to take, and it’s a lot less common so it’s difficult to make it in that scene, but it’s something that I want to pursue rather than go into the standard 9-5 forever and you work for someone, you have a boss, you have superiors, people below you that you’re in charge of, that standard structure; but maybe something could be different, and it really broadened my horizons in that regard.