Interview with Young Entrepreneur Justin Herd
If you’re anything like me, when you’re hungry, you just want to eat, not turn it into an extended process. Justin Herd had the same wish to avoid all the inconveniences that go with dishes, and being a college student, space and time were his biggest constraints. He realized that others must encounter the same issues, and instead of just daydreaming about a better world, he turned it into a reality with OneBowl, a simplified all-in-one way to cook, strain, eat, and store your food.
Justin is an inventor, entrepreneur, college student at GVSU and a CEO member. From an idea to solve his problem to now launching a Kickstarter campaign to bring the OneBowl straight to your kitchen, read the interview to learn Justin’s story and entrepreneurial influences in the interview below.
Founder Name: Justin Herd
Description: Cook, strain, eat, and store food all in OneBowl
Year Founded: 2013
Twitter Handle: @theonebowl
Kickstarter Launch: June 17, 2014 at http://bit.ly/theonebowl
Katie Sowa: How did you come up with the idea for OneBowl?
Justin Herd: Like many other college students, I ate a lot of noodles. More specifically, I ate a lot of Ramen Noodles, Mac and Cheese, and Spaghetti. Whenever I made noodles, I had to get creative when I strained them because I did not have space in my dorm room for extra dishes like a strainer. So, one day while I was using a fork to strain boiling hot water out of my noodles, I thought to myself, “There has got to be a better way.” That was when I had my “Eureka” moment and started drawing out my original OneBowl sketches.
Katie: At what point did you realize that the OneBowl was more than just a good idea, but that it could be a successful business?
Justin: The moment when I realized the OneBowl could be a successful business was after my first idea pitch competition. My university, Grand Valley State University, was hosting an idea pitch competition where contestants had 90 seconds to pitch their idea to a panel of judges. I was fortunate enough to take second place at this competition. After the awards were announced, I was approached by several different people that wanted to help me with marketing, manufacturing, distribution, etc. This is when I realized that I had all the pieces to my puzzle of a successful business and all I had to do at this point was put them together.
Katie: How did you go from student to inventor? What are your top 3 pieces of advice for aspiring student ‘treps with a new innovative product idea?
Justin: It’s difficult for any student to balance his/her education, hobbies, personal life, and entrepreneurial ventures. However, it is not impossible. In order to do so without losing your sanity, I recommend these 3 pieces of advice:
- Look to your hobbies – When inventing a new product, it will pay off immensely if you can create a new product that pertains to a hobby you have. If you spend day and night developing a product that relates to a hobby you have, the chances are that you will know a lot about it, be more passionate about it, and have more fun when you are working on it.
- Network – Never miss a chance to network. The reality is that every entrepreneur needs help from others to reach their goals. I’ve found that when I put myself out there at any given networking event, I run into someone who has the answers to my burning questions.
- Draw the line – Keep your personal life and business life separate. If you are anything like me, your idea for a new product is always on the top of your mind. I’ve found that if I talk about nothing else when I am with my friends and family, I can start to sound like a broken record player. My advice is to use the time spent with friends and family as a chance to take a break from your relentless brain child.
Katie: Congratulations on your upcoming Kickstarter campaign! What has been most important to the pre-launch of this campaign?
Justin: The most important pieces to the pre-launch of the OneBowl on Kickstarter have been the video and promotion. It is recommended that a video is included on a page when launching a Kickstarter. Don’t underestimate how much work goes into making a video! I also recommend working with people who are skilled in video production. Try a film student at your school to get excellent quality for a more affordable price. The other important piece is promotion. It’s important to make sure people will know about the Kickstarter campaign you worked so hard for once it goes live. Using social media and relevant blog sites can help tremendously with promotion.
Katie: What made you decide on launching a Kickstarter campaign? Any advice to others who are considering crowdfunding?
Justin: I chose Kickstarter because I love the community they have built around their website. It’s clear that the people who use Kickstarter to help fund others with new products are truly interested in seeing them succeed. I also like the “all or nothing” funding principal. If the predetermined funding goal for a project is not met, all pledges are cancelled. In my case, this is to ensure that everyone who pledges to get a OneBowl will actually get one. Kickstarter is not the only crowdfunding platform. However, I recommend it since it is the most well-known and may just attract the most people to your project.
Katie: Last year you made it to the top 12 in the 2013 National Elevator Pitch Competition. How did being involved with the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) and attending the National Conference affect your entrepreneurial journey?
Justin: CEO has been a huge part of my success so far with the OneBowl. I joined the CEO club at my university to get help with my idea when it was still a napkin sketch. The content of the meetings, setting goals, and having access to mentorship from experienced leaders are the reasons why I am where I am today with the OneBowl. I also highly recommend attending the National Conference. Aside from participating in the National Elevator Pitch Competition, I was able to learn a ton of relevant information from the breakout sessions. I went into the conference with a list of questions and had them all answered by the end of the conference. Many of these questions were about crowdfunding!
Katie: What is your biggest obstacle that you’ve unexpectedly faced so far?
Justin: The biggest obstacle that I have faced so far is the inevitable tooling costs of mass producing a plastic product. It can be surprisingly expensive to bring a plastic product to the masses. In order to overcome this obstacle, I have done some research and found that there are several great resources for funding (like Kickstarter!).
Katie: What do you contribute as being most valuable to your success?
Justin: I contribute my success to the phenomenal advisors and mentors that I have been so fortunate to meet since starting my OneBowl venture. It is so important to find people who have done what you are trying to do already so that they can help you avoid the mistakes they made.
Katie: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Justin: My goal is to be a serial entrepreneur. First, I would love to see the OneBowl make life easier for college students all over the world. In the future, I hope to pursue other ideas I have for innovative products.
Go to OneBowl on Kickstarter now to buy the one bowl does everything to take your abilities as a chef to a whole new level.