Chez Brungraber, founder of Gobi Gear and creator of the HOBOROLL, was kind enough to answer our questions about their unique product and Kickstarter campaign (now in motion!) to help launch their new business endeavor. Check back later for the chance to win a Hoboroll, or go ahead and pre-order it here.
What led you to develop the HOBOROLL and what is it?
I wanted my items (gear, clothing) to be more organized and more accessible while traveling, especially when living out of a backpack. I loved stuff sacks and packing cubes, but wished they could do more for me. So, I took a stuff sack, and segmented it. The HOBOROLL was born – giving me the organization and efficiency I always needed. The HOBOROLL is a stuff sack with internal segments, keeping gear separated but easily accessible, with drawstring openings at both ends of the bag. It also features radial compression to reduce overall volume.
At what point did you decide to pursue this project — in other words, what moved you from idea to action? What sacrifices have you had to make?
After traveling with my own HOBOROLL for a few months in Asia, I realized I was onto something neat. I made the sacrifice of taking my savings and not buying a house, but instead turned that money into inventory and started Gobi Gear. It was a pretty big leap, and I did it not really knowing what I was getting into. But I truly believed in my project and knew if I stuck with it, I could make it work.
How do you define adventure, and where did that come from?
I define adventure as seeking new thrills – whether that be finding a flower I have never seen before at 16,000′ or jumping of a cliff into tropical waters at Koh Phi Phi. Adventure is something I seek regularly, and usually involves being taken outside of my comfort zone and pushed to do something challenging.
What were you doing before this?
I was, and still am, a botanist. I work as a consultant, helping clients find and identify rare flowers. In 2009 I added wildlife biology to the list of services I offer. I do this work sporadically, when there are projects and clients need me, which is great because Gobi Gear is able to fill in the gaps in my schedule.
How has your experience with Kickstarter been? Complaints? Pitfalls? Successes? Any advice for future entrepreneurs who might be interested in that platform?
Kickstarter was great in that its easy to use. It also seems to have its own following – meaning just by launching a campaign, I was able to hit a new market previously unaware of my product. The process was fun too – being funded in the first week, then having a lull in the middle, only to finish strong with $12K in the last few days! So far no complaints, but we’ll see when I actually start downloading everyone’s pledge and trying to fulfill the orders.
Who physically makes the HOBOROLLs?
The HOBOROLLs are made in China. We are still sourcing a factory at this time, as its important to me not only that we have quality production but that there is a human side of this too – worker’s need to be treated well. I have agents in China who help me figure all this out, as it can be quite daunting to navigate as a foreigner (I tried in 2009, it was overwhelming!)
Who are your inspirations?
My inspirations are other entrepreneurs who started from scratch and built amazing companies. I try to take lessons from them, and learn from their mistakes as well as success. I also find myself inspired by the many people in developing countries, who have what we would consider to be “so little”, and yet they are so happy and so pure. They somehow find ways to smile despite worrying daily about having enough food. I remember teaching a young Kenyan boy simple math, and he was so appreciative, as if I had done the most wonderful thing for him. It truly inspires me to be happy with less, and take small successes as they come.
What’s next for you and Hoboroll? What’s your vision for your company?
The HOBOROLL just got a great re-design thanks to our Kickstarter funds, so that production will start soon. After that, we have four more really neat products in the works for Gobi Gear, so I envision continuing to grow the company and provide travelers with awesome gear – so they may enjoy their next adventure!