30 Oct 2017
4 min read
An often overlooked source of inspiration for inventions is frustration. When Roy Plunkett was annoyed with his eggs’ sticking to pans, he invented non-stick Teflon cookware. Likewise, when Bishal Bhandari, a Nepali entrepreneur based in the US, was trekking to Muktinath, he was annoyed with the sheer volume of his toiletries—and the inconveniences that came with them. In response, he ended up inventing GoBout.
GoBout is a portable, multi-functional toiletry dispenser designed for people who are constantly on the go—travellers, trekkers, environmentalists, campers and more. With its ergonomic design, GoBout can store and dispense different liquids out of one container. GoBout comes in two versions: the larger GoBout unit houses five different capsules that store and dispense products like shampoo, body wash, face wash, lotion, sunblock—anything you need while you are travelling light; each capsule can carry 100ml or 3.4 ounces of liquid. The smaller version, however, has only four capsules and can carry 100 ml or 3.4 ounces of liquid in total. Compact, environmentally friendly and spill-free, GoBout promotes reusability (all the capsules can be refilled and reused easily), and using it helps reduce the amount of trash generated. The GoBout design is all about simplicity and reusability.
The birth of GoBout
As mentioned earlier, GoBout was born out of frustration. “I was trekking around Muktinath and the winds there made my face dry,” says Bishal Bhandari, founder of GoBout. “When I reached into my bag to find some lotion, I realised that I had forgotten to pack it. On top of that, all my other toiletries had spilled inside my bag. I was very frustrated.” BB, as he likes to call himself, then took it upon himself to find a solution. He sought to build a simple portable container that would carry all his toiletries—and ensure that mishaps of the sort he experienced in Muktinath would not recur.
In the beginning, Bhandari, who had no previous experience with research and development or product design (he’s a Finance graduate from Boston College), found it challenging to come up with a prototype. He had no concrete product idea nor a design. One day, while he was eating alone at a park, he happened to look at a trash can and noticed the multiple compartments it had. The trash can’s design became his inspiration. He went back home, pulled up his 3D design software, and prepared a design for the GoBout prototype.
Developing the prototype
“If it were 10 years ago, I definitely could not have made the product, nor would I have been able to market it,” says Bhandari, who made use of the modern resources at his disposal to design, raise funds and market his product. He learned coding and designing via online courses and got going on his prototype; after playing with six prototype designs, he printed their designs with a 3D printer. With advice and help from his engineer friends, he then worked on the seventh prototype. By the time they homed in on the final model, they had burned through 10 prototypes. “We would not have been able to experiment as much as we did with the prototypes had it not been for 3D printing. Making just one plastic mould cast costs thousands of dollars and takes a few months at the least. I was a student back then and I didn’t have the budget to build a prototype the traditional way,” says Bhandari.
Crowdfunding and marketing
Satisfied with his prototype, Bhandari then focused on promoting his product online. As the product started garnering attention, Bhandari then made use of online crowdfunding platforms. Bhandari listed GoBout on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the two hottest crowdfunding sites on the internet, in July of this year. Bhandari’s project reached its target of pooling USD 30,000 in less than 48 hours. In a span of a few months, GoBout raised USD 77,664 on Kickstarter, and USD 92,628 dollars on Indiegogo, easily surpassing his stated target amount. Today, having used various internet marketing platforms, Bhandari has been successful in collecting more than 5,000 online orders from all over the world.
A Nepali-American brand
With the required capital in place, Bhandari started setting up a supply chain. He wanted to manufacture GoBout in the US, mainly to be closer to production and to ensure quality control. The caps and containers for GoBout are manufactured in Connecticut and the capsules are produced in New Jersey. GoBout is set to launch in December this year; it will be primarily sold over e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay, but units will also be sold through select supermarkets, some as far away as Singapore and Japan.
A lean mean entrepreneurial machine
GoBout’s journey so far shows how entrepreneurs can get going and get their product out there by relying on a lean startup model: For starters, Bhandari used minimal resources to design and perfect his product; he then made use of the internet to market his product and then turned to crowdfunding for capital. The positive response he got not only gave him confidence in his product, but also provided him with immense bargaining power that he could use when he was negotiating with established supermarkets for placing his product on their shelves.
The GoBout story can serve as a lesson for beginning entrepreneurs who have nothing but an idea to go on. To come up with and market an innovative product, you don’t really need deep pockets. All you need is a winning idea and enough drive to see the product through to the finishing line.