Over the last few years, the Dingman Center has been working with Obidi Orakwusi to launch his company, Gym Supreme and its first product the Mega Bar. The Mega Bar is an innovative and versatile piece of exercise equipment priced lower than its competitors. A member of the EnTERPreneur Academy, Orakwusi won a $1,000 grant from the Dingman Center earlier this year. We caught up with the student entrepreneur to get an update on his business.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea came to me in May 2011. School was out for the summer, I had no plans, and I realized I probably was not going to have a job. So I thought to myself, “why note create a job?” I got motivated and began sketching the concept of the Mega Bar on the back of a job application.
I designed the Mega Bar with a friend in mind. My friend had no gym membership, so every time he went back to school he had to settle for resistance bands, which are incapable of working the entire body. With that in mind, my goal was to create a product that would provide an effective workout at home. Unknowingly, my friend was my first target customer. Once I had a reasonable sketch, I made my first prototype with plastic straws, toothpicks, and paper clips to test out the simple physics. Then, I built a full scale plastic prototype. It took me some time to order a production prototype because I was constantly making measurement adjustments. I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes.
Tell us about your team.
During the process of developing my startup, I learned not to rush into decisions. I don’t have a full team yet, but I do have friends with skills and connections like my corporate lawyer, web site programmer, investment banking buddy and a colleague of mine with connections to QVC and sporting good chains.
How have you been working with the Dingman Center?
The Dingman Center has been an amazing resource for me. I get to meet and connect with fun business-minded colleagues that give me advice and feedback. Dingman Center Angels Review Days, workshops, and everything Dingman offers gives me different perspectives on what I knew and what I need to do. It always feels good when I say Gym Supreme is a member of the Dingman Center EnTERPreneur Academy at the Smith School.
How are you using the $1,000 grant from the Dingman Center?
The grant was an amazing cushion that opened up cap space for legal fees associated with the utility patent, trademark and the purchase of social media advertising. Although the grant will be split across several expenses, I know it would not have been possible to get all the legal work finished this summer without the grant.
What has been the most challenging aspect of starting a business?
For me it has been a mixture of funding and tedious patent work. The lack of funding prevented me from rushing into decisions because when you have plans that cost more money than you have, there is usually a wait period between milestones. The wait allowed me to analyze needs and create a hierarchy of tasks.
What goals have you set for the upcoming year?
One of my patents arrived on my birthday–that was a nice gift. The main goals remaining for 2013 are the Pitch Dingman Competition and a Kickstarter pre-order. The Kickstarter campaign is time dependent on the number of potential consumers I attract using various social media campaigns. When I feel there is enough interest from a significant number of followers that will likely purchase the MegaBar, I will launch the pre-order. With good revenue from that, Gym Supreme will become eligible and will apply for Cupid’s Cup in 2014, beginning the search for capital.
Have you had to change your business model since you started?
Oh yes. Initially, I was focused on a model that cuts out the middleman in order to maximize profit from sales and avoid margin reductions from wholesale. I soon learned that avoiding the big retail orders might not be effective because I would give up visibility on very popular retail platforms and have to rely solely on my own marketing to make sales. This would result in an increase in consumer acquisition costs and a decrease profit. That strategy is possible, but requires too much capital infused into marketing. The model is evolving to include a platform that will provide recurring revenue if properly executed.
How do you stay motivated to work on your business when success doesn’t come as quickly as you hoped?
I believe there is a reward associated with the risk I am taking and the reward is success. When I imagine the success of Gym Supreme I stay focused, get excited, and keep going because I am determined to reach that goal. If I give up before anything significant happens, I have defeated myself.