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5 Things My Engineering Background Taught Me About Launching A Product

Career

I believe that life does not need to be filled with day-to-day frustrations which is what inspired me to launch my company redesign. Our mission? To start with a universal gripe and redesign an everyday product to create a solution that’s better and more fun to use. We first tackled the impossible tangled knots that tend to overcome all headphones. This problem inspired the development of our first product, loopit - practical and stylish headphones that never tangle and can also be worn as a stylish necklace even through airport security.


Our solution is simple and elegant. Often I am asked how I came up with something so deceptively easy which is where an engineering background was very helpful. As a trained engineer with a PhD from MIT, here are five things my background taught me about business:

Observe

It’s important to look at the world around you and see where there are inefficiencies and problems. If you find a problem that you think is worth solving, immerse yourself in a place where you can observe the problem. In this case, I went to airports, train stations, street corners and took pictures of how people were carrying their headphones when they weren’t using them. I saw handbag stuffers, neck drapers, hand scrunchers, pocket danglers, constant earbud wearers. I also researched popular press and saw how tangled headphones were being showcased.

When President Barack Obama was pitching his health care plan he said it was easier to register online than to untangle your headphones. The Daily Show had highlighted tangled headphones as something that “Made America the Maddest.” It was clear that it was a problem that still needed a solution.

Test and Learn

One thing that can plague anyone starting a business is to overthink. There are a myriad of things that can go wrong and you can spend weeks and months planning for many scenarios. It is better to just start doing something, and in this case it was to start making prototypes. It may not be perfect, but if you can create a minimum viable product (it can be as simple as a mock-up) then you can begin to engage customers and get their feedback which will allow you to continuously iterate to make your product and business better.

Be Rigorous Where it Matters

There are places where it is important to be as analytical as possible. In our case it was having an extremely rigorous cost model so we knew down to the penny, what our unit delivered cost would be which would ensure that we could make a sustainable profit even when we sold at wholesale prices. This meant mapping out import taxes, looking at different shipping options and understanding how our unit cost would vary by the amount we ordered from our factory. Too often I see new entrepreneurs making intricate business plans and not focused enough on whether or not it is possible to make money on the product or service they are selling.

Network

Don’t recreate the wheel -- learn from others where you can. When I decided to launch my business I had never done anything like this before, so I went online and found people who had launched products and cold-called or cold-emailed them. In the first few months I had spoken to more than 30 people most of whom I still have not yet met, who gave me advice on the ins and outs of launching a consumer product. Entrepreneurs are the kindest and most generous people I know and if they can help, they will. So pick up the phone or write that email to someone that inspires you. I am sure they will be thrilled to share their lessons learned when they launched their business.

Take Calculated Risks

Exploring the unknown is exciting but it can also be incredibly daunting. Before I do anything, I always ask myself, “What is the worst thing that can happen” and if the worst thing is not that bad, then I try it. My favorite story so far is when I was a semi-finalist on the Today Show’s ‘Next Big Thing.’ During that round, you needed to get the public to vote for you and I was on the train back from NYC to Philadelphia. As I boarded the train, someone recognized me from that morning’s segment and asked me to do my product demonstration again. As I did it, the eight people sitting around us were intrigued and all of them took out their cell phones to vote for me. This group of strangers then convinced me to go car by car and ask the entire train to vote for me because this was my moment and I needed to get as many votes as I could. As they were urging me on, I realized the worst thing that could happen was that the other passengers would be annoyed and I would just embarrass myself which I would eventually recover from. So, with their encouragement I left my train car and went to visit the other cars. Amazingly the entire train was excited and ecstatic for me. It turns out that all the passengers on train 2165 voted for me which warmed my heart. The old me would have been too intimidated to do something like this but by realizing that the worst case scenario is not that bad has opened up possibilities that I never thought imaginable.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.