Thanks for taking the time to sit with us to share your Startup Story with our readers. Can you start out by sharing a little bit about yourself and your company?
My passion for design, business and music has been with me ever since I was a little boy. My parents, brother and I moved to the States in 1997 from Bosnia. Right away, at 2 years and 8 months old, I started taking objects around the house apart. I would analyze them and to the best of my nature, put them back together. (It wasn't always the prettiest)
I found my favorites to be the electronics as I grew older. Specifically, game consoles and old computers my parents would bring home for me.
As my curiosity grew, it led me to receive a scholarship from Iowa State University to pursue a degree in Design! From there, I graduated with 2 Bachelor's Degrees and while I was studying Industrial Design, I founded my company, Aloha, Inc.
Every business has some sort of catalyst for getting started, or some inspiration. What was your "ah ha" moment?
During the study of my Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Design I was given a 10 page paper assignment by my electrical engineering professor. At that time, I was going to school full-time and working full-time. I went through 3 bluetooth speakers and 2 sound bars. I even started borrowing my friends speakers because mine kept breaking on me...
As I was driving home one weekend to see my mom, who at the time had been disabled for about 5 years, I had my Ah Ha moment! I realized I could design and manufacture my own Solar Powered Portable Smart Speakers. Eliminating the middle man, so I can listen to my music directly from the source!
Through pain, love and creativity I imagined the future of Portable Smart Speakers. In that same month, I lost a childhood friend in a tragic motorcycle accident. We used to be big b-boy's when we were kids. We even put cardboard down on the ground and would spin on our heads/ do handstands.
The loss of my friend, seeing my mom in pain, working constantly, going through multiple bluetooth speakers and the assignment in my college class turned a vision into a business.
With a million business ideas out there, what makes your business unique?
The timing for our business is unique in and of itself because the rest of the industry has caught up with technical advancements. These advancements, such as 5G LTE and optimized solar voltaic cells, provide the opportunity for our product line to come to life.
In addition to the technology advancing, we have positioned ourselves to be pioneers for Solar Powered Portable Smart Speakers with our Utility Patent and Design Patents. We hold rights to a proprietary operating system that enables for a true standalone smart speaker.
All of our devices are unique in the sense where you don't need a home, phone or car to provide the power supply and internet connectivity. With a built in solution, users can now make emergency calls/texts, listen to their favorite music and control other smart devices without ever needing their phones again!
Launching a business is hard. Do you have a team, or a people that have helped you get to this point? And, can you share a little bit about that?
When I first started the business, I had support through 3 mentors and 3 employees. In 2018, we had a Sales Associate, Mechanical Engineer and Marketer. In addition, we received development support from Surfaceink in California.
Currently, I have a COO and 2 Advisors. 1 Advisor is the Ex-Director of
Mobile Products at Samsung and the other is a well known Attorney from Manhattan, New York.
Our COO has over 10 years in organizational development, with his most recent role through the Bloomberg Foundation.
Additionally, we now receive development support from Spanner in California.
People love an inside scoop. What is something most people might not know about you or your company?
I lived in Rome during the fall of 2015. I traveled to 7 different countries in those 4 months and spent a lot of time relaxing with friends at the beach/ exploring the outdoors and cities.
The feeling of freedom and pure curiosity led me to design a few organic form factors for a project during that time. Some of those original forms influenced the design of the current product line today. The colors, vibes and emotions from that experience transcended into Aloha a few years later.
Every business hits that wall, or hurdle. What is a major hurdle your business is facing? And how can our readers help, or get involved?
A few major hurdles our business faces are hiring the right people for what the business needs today. Additionally, COVID-19 put a pause for our development efforts.
Since then, we have had to pivot with our MVP. Now, we have a new MVP ready to go, but still need additional funds to bring it to market. Our biggest "wall" is getting a solid deal flow with investors. Our company falls into the CleanTech space, so I believe that 2023 will be a strong year for us.
If readers know of amazing Electrical or Mechanical Engineers, I'd love to meet them. As well as any passionate investors in the consumer electronics, audio or cleantech space.
Starting and running a business is a major learning experience. Up until this point, what is the biggest lesson you have learned, personally, about running your business and the field you are in?
Personally, I learned how to overcome the negative aspects of the ego. During my time building the company, I have found my ego in the past creating unnecessary objections for the team and business.
Instead of listening and responding from a nurturing perspective, I would get frustrated with the parties involved.
I am happy to say that my listening and communication skills have improved ten-fold, so instead of ending the call due to frustrations, I can help navigate the parties to see it from my perspective. I am glad that my ego is no longer a barrier to our advancements.
It was tough sitting with the leaders of Intel, Microsoft, etc.. and hearing them say some amazing things to me. At 22 years old, that attention went straight to my head and I lost the core of my why. Now, we are rooted in our why and use that as our North Star!
For our readers first learning about your business, could you share three key take away's that you believe our readers should know about you, your business or your product/solution?
I am a certified Cradle to Cradle Innovator. So, I take pride in designing products, systems and services for the future with sustainability in mind. From how we manufacture to what materials we choose, I emphasize the circular economy to address Environmental, Economic and Social concerns.
Aloha reuses the waste we have already put in the world and repurpose it in our products. Additionally, we have a process in place that allows us to recycle our entire product and use all elements again.
I am passionate about community and growing together. I was the Vice President of Industrial Design Student Association, Iowa State University Chapter, where I helped raise the culture in our department. Last, but not least, I was an Industrial Designer for Iowa State Universities Solar Car, Penumbra. I helped design the Infotainment system, partner decals and headlights. Our car competed in Australia against other top universities!
For that person learning about your business, why would they sign up for, or use your company or solution?
Currently, there is no other solution on the market that allows you to take your favorite voice assistant with you anywhere without the need of your phone, home or car.
All speakers on the market today have to be tethered to the home, phone or car for a power supply and internet connectivity.
Aloha provides for a true standalone experience when at home or on the go!
Are you currently seeking funding, co-founders or building out your team? If so, how can our readers help out?
We are actively seeking a technical Co-Founder and investors. We are looking to onboard additional advisors who have a background in fundraising/ have sold a company in the past.
If you know of some potential co-founders, investors or advisors, I'd love to hear from you!
Well, it has been wonderful sitting with you today to learn more about you and your company. How can people find out more about what you guys are up to?
To keep up with our journey, follow us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/aloha-corporation/, Instagram: @alohacorp and Facebook: @alohasmartspeakers
Current website: www.alohaboomboxes.com New website is in the works, stay tuned!
Thank you for taking the time today to sit with us and share your Startup Story.
Thank you, Joseph. I appreciate you and the Denver Tech Alley team featuring me!