Project:

Keta

Summary:

Keta produces minimalist and functional soft-goods products with plans to distribute via DTC and B2B.

My Role:

Founder

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Why Keta?

I love soft goods, in particular backpacks and wallets. I love and appreciate the small, intricate details in the products I carry. However, this also makes me hyper-critical. I find myself constantly having to choose between aesthetics and function with my everyday carry. I wish there was a product that combined minimalism and utility. Minor frustrations and inconveniences compound over time, especially with products we carry every day. This was an itch I wanted to scratch.  

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Senior Capstone Project

For a senior capstone project, we had to create a business plan over the course of Fall semester. I took this opportunity to work on the backpack company I've been pondering. Having just interned in San Francisco, I recalled how every company gave their employees branded swag. Upon researching the $24.7b US market size for branded goods and the fragmented nature of the industry, I decided B2B would be my G2M strategy for the backpack. 

This was the team I worked with for the project (Peter, Gabby, Me, and Muru)

BOSS Pitch

Ohio State BOSS Competition

I continued the idea outside of class, which led me to compete at Ohio State's startup pitch competition. Zealy, the company name at the time, was selected as one of five finalists to compete for funding. I worked on compiling my market research and business plan into a compelling story for my pitch. At this time, I also interviewed customers to validate interest and contacted several manufacturers to help with prototyping. Although I didn't win the competition, the work I did during this time set the foundation for what was next. 

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Giving it a go

After the Fall semester, I decided to give the business a go. I had narrowed it down to one manufacturer and received my first prototype early 2020. I changed the company name to Keta and filed for an LLC, which was approved in March...

The picture is of my friend and Prototype I

Image by Edwin Hooper

Covid...

Covid definately put a wedge in my plans. Over the pandemic, while my manufacturer was mostly unavailable, I worked on defining the brand and brand story. I had contracted a few designers to help come up with the logo, colors, and guidelines. The first version of the website was launched at this time.

 

Towards May 2020, things were put on hold as my focus shifted to other priorities. 

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Resuming operations and pivot

Picking things up in late 2020, we made adjustments based on the feedback from the months of testing Prototype I. As we finalized the backpack's design, we discussed how we would customize the product for companies. We soon discovered we couldn't embroider the backpack post-production due to how the front was designed. This oversight would bring lead time to 6-8 weeks because each order would be made-to-order, making us uncompetitive. As a result, I decided to focus on selling DTC while we figured out how to incorporate postponement in the process. 

Image by CHUTTERSNAP

Supply chain issues

After receiving Prototype III and the projected COGS, I analyzed the landed cost of the backpack. Given my low volumes, CAC assumptions, and increased supply chain costs, I realized my margins were anywhere between low to negative. Discussing with the team, we decided to postpone production. We still communicate on an ongoing cadence to refine materials and designs. For now, we've put this project on pause. Hopefully, we will launch our first wave of backpacks in 2022. 

3 Takeaways:

1) Find mutual interest - My relationship with my manufacturer has been great because we found mutual interest in our goals. They wanted to enter the premium soft-goods market, which is why they offered to design and prototype a new backpack concept with us for free.  

2) Understand requirements - My oversight on the manufacturing requirements for customizing backpacks forced us to pivot the business plan. This experience taught me the importance of identifying must-haves and nice-to-haves when it comes to building a product. 

3) Ask open-ended questions - As an add-on to my second takeaway, I realized I could've identified the must-haves earlier had I asked better questions. During my customer interviews, I asked many leading questions and focused on interest in the idea rather than letting them tell me about their requirements.