Listen To Your Customers

Listen To Your Customers

Where Are They Now?

Mariam Ispahani
Devin Miller
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
4/5/2021

Listen To Your Customers

When we first started out we said you know what we know how to make this. We have made a few of them here are there. We will just get the money that we require to set up the factory to make it so we can go from the lab to commercialization. And then we will make it in mass production. But then once we started looking at things and speaking with potential investors and potential customers we realized that everyone wanted to see what we had made. They were like ok so you say you can make it now we want to see it.

 


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Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

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Ai generated transcription

uh when we first started out we figured okay you know what we know how to make this and we've made a few of them here and we made a few of them there but uh you know we'll just get the money we'll get the few million dollars that we require to set up the factory to make it you know to go from the lab to commercialization and then we'll make it in you know mass production but then uh once we started looking at things and speaking with potential investors we real and especially with potential customers we realized that everybody wanted to see what we had made they were like okay so you know you say you can make it now we want to see it hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as a founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and if you ever need help with yours feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat now today is another great where they at now kind of six months later episode so we have our original guest and i'm going to and i should know marima mariam i'm i i always look at the name but i've always horrible days maria maria with an m at the end there we go maryam or maria mariam all right and i'm not even gonna tackle the last name because i'm gonna slaughter that even worse that's okay all right you say it much much better than i do but uh uh about six so we're giving a bit of an update so we had to had you on about six months ago and you were telling us a little bit of what have you going and now we're kind of walking through how the last six months have gone what you've been up to what you've been doing you're not even in the us anymore you've taken or you've gone out in i think it was bangladesh is that right that's right and again i don't have the cool accent so i don't even get to say bangladesh cool either um but uh so we're gonna hear a little bit about how the last six months are going so with that much is an introduction welcome back on to the podcast thank you very much really i i respect the work that you do and i enjoyed speaking last time thank you so much and i am glad to you know be here again and let's hope that we can get this thing going and network and see how we can help each other absolutely no i i totally agree and it's a pleasure to have you back on it's always kind of fun always kind of you know you leave things off and you're like i wonder where they ever went to or whatever happened so it's always kind of fun to cash back up see where things are or where where things are at and where they're headed so maybe with that kind of for those that are either forgotten or turning tuning in for the first time give us a bit of an uh a reminder as to kind of where you guys are at six months ago kind of what you're up to and then let's talk a little bit about how the last six months have gone okay sure yeah so basically uh my startup that we're very focused on right now is called sonali bioplastics and we are trying to solve the plastic pollution problem with biodegradable products and what we did basically in the past just over the year and a half or so that we've been going we have focused on how to get this startup going what we're going to do how we're going to do and making a lot of plans and then as you know kobe hit us last year about this time about a year ago and even then we said okay no problem you know covet is there and even though it will set us back we still said that let's spend this time looking for customers let's spend this time planning seeing what we can do uh better as well as organizing ourselves so when we last spoke we were very focused on that we were seeing what what what could we do to improve the products that we want to offer and how can we improve the products as in uh the way that we are making them is there another way to make them is there are there more tests that perhaps could be required in order to get uh approval as well as to validate assumptions that we had ourselves with our little you know scientific team and so that's what we did and we spent quite a lot of time um working on that and in the last six months uh we're very excited to say that we made a lot of samples prototypes and so that was that was a big big congratulations to ourselves that we managed to do that because we had made a little bit of this and that in the lab but we hadn't been like so focused on it we figured maybe we would uh do that later after we get some investment money but we focused on that and we got a lot of uh we got samples made of different types of products uh we got details of what we're going to do how we're going to do and now we have some tests remaining and once we get those tests completed some further tests that we require to validate our assumptions and assumptions about the product and how biodegradable it will be how it will work for us people in the environment in society then we will uh we are going to work on filing uh patents no i think that that's an awesome that's and that's a kind of a great run through of kind of what the last few months have been now a couple kind of fault or one initial question for you is what took you to bangladesh or you know with their better accent however you could say bagel dish but i'll say bakelet but what what kind of took you guys to bangladesh was it just hey we have family there we have a better opportunity we have better investors we have you know was it work related business related family related personal related kind of what made you shift the shift working to bangladesh okay so we are u.s based company and we're registered in the us delaware company and i've been based in california for like more than two decades but uh we decided that this product that the products that we're gonna make we have five products in our pipeline and we decided that the raw material the feedstock that we want to use for this product let us pick a raw material that is not something which is taking away from humanity something which is not edible so for example a lot of biodegradable products a lot of bio plastics are currently being made with corn and they are being made with rice and wheat and all sorts of products which potatoes etc that human beings can consume so we said let's try to use something which is not uh in that direction and so we are not taking away from what human beings would eat and so we picked a plant that grows in this region and also uh my family has been in the business of planting that plant and harvesting it processing it for different things for like i don't know more than 150 years or so so it was always in the family business not not that i am in involved in that this is a completely different venture but uh the plaque i have known about and this region i have known about and so it grows in bengal and bengal covers bangladesh which is a country by itself as well as it covers west bengal which is a state in india which is right next door so all this used to be one and then in 1947 it was uh divided so we basically decided that let's use that plant that plant is called jute and it is similar to the hemp plant which is now suddenly gaining a lot of popularity we can use hemp as well but we have opted to use jute at least to start out with but we do have uh we have done run some uh tests etc on hemp so we do know what we could do with that and how we could process that as well on in similar ways and uh basically having a network over here seeing that we could set up manufacturing here and the cost of labor is less we have connections as well as the fact the main fact that the feedstock is here so we decided that you know the team management team said let's do that and so uh so we set up a company over here as well so we have two companies one in the us and then one here which will handle the manufacturing and the operations etc so for now we have this coin we also have an opportunity to manufacture in the us and we are in discussion regarding that right now let's see what happens with that but uh uh we figured let's at least you know start here and see how it goes so maybe it's so i think as a summer it sounds like kind of a couple reasons one is you had family connections and relationship connections and then you're also saying hey there's a good opportunity for us a plan over in india that our family's already been doing for a long period of time that fits well in our business or within the business of what you guys are seeking to do so kind of has two bit they're both added benefits to be able to spend some time with family support that get to know it and also have the on the business side have been able to incorporate that in with what you guys are striving to do so i think that sounds like a great move and a great opportunity so one of the india india by the way is next door this is bangladesh india is next door if we need them we'll utilize them as well all right no definitely make that makes sense so now one of the things you mentioned is so you guys kind of went to i don't know went back to the drawing board is way too strong but you went back and said hey we need some new samples of products we want to kind of look at the the plans and the path and kind of to get some samples and prototypes and how we can do it what would work better and so how is that you know how is it how did you make that determination or as you're kind of going along saying hey we need more what was the push or the the motivation for getting additional samples and products and prototype was that hey what we don't what we're doing is isn't as good as we want it to be was it more of hey there's better opportunities was it hey we want to be able to show more things for investors or kind of what what motivated that going or going back into the kind of lab mode for lab mode for a bit of time and working on those yeah it's a a couple of things that you said all of them apply for example when we first started out we figured okay you know what we know how to make this and we've made a few of them here and we made a few of them there but uh you know we'll just get the money we'll get the few million dollars that we require to set up the factory to make it you know to go from the lab to commercialization and then we'll make it in you know mass production but then uh once we started looking at things and speaking with potential investors we real and especially with potential customers we realized that everybody wanted to see what we had made they were like okay so you know you say you can make it now we want to see it so when we realize that we will actually have to show it to them then we need to be a bit more serious about this and one of the scientists on my team he suggested that like i don't think we should chase after investment at this time i think we should chase after making samples we should make the prototypes we should do lab tests and we already had done some lab tests and then you know it was suggested that we do even more so we have all angles covered so it was a bit of this and a bit of that and also when we went to the investors they went to uh pushy about the samples but they did all say oh okay so you say you can make it have you made it and so you know we it didn't work too well saying that okay we figured let's get the few million and then so we said okay that's fine you know then let's let's spend the money it's it's very expensive by the way because we have to utilize private labs we have to utilize university labs and uh and we are using only our team people to make these uh prototypes because we can't even use outside people so we can't like you know just go to someone and say you make it uh for us this is how you make it because then we'd lose our formula and that's why we are now uh looking to patent at least two of the products uh immediately and then afterwards uh the others so that's why we are like we got to do this ourselves and so it's cost us a lot of money and that was quite a struggle being a startup putting in so much money into uh making the prototypes so and that definitely you know that's always a trade-off right in the cen with investor dollars and kind of figuring out when that makes sense or if it makes sense so it sounds like not putting words in your mouth but you guys bootstrapped it or otherwise self-funded it in order to get the the samples and the prototypes and kind of get to the stage where you're at today is that is that right is that kind of when you guys went back in that mode is that how it worked yes so it's just basically our own uh internal money and uh no no friends and family have put in money so far and no investors have put in any money either we have quite a few investors in the pipeline we have a few of them doing due diligence on us right now and they ask like hundreds of questions it takes a long time some of them interestingly have asked for lab reports from like external labs but you know we can't provide those at this time because we can't be uh uh telling people what we're doing and how we're doing down to the nitty gritty uh you know details until we have at least some basic pattern yeah in place all right no definitely definitely always a balance and definitely makes sense so now so kind of walk through you guys kind of went a bit uh you you split between bangladesh and then california you kind of have the two different uh branches working there and you went back into lab mode retooled a bit looked at new products new or new samples new prototypes collected data and then you also you know you pulled back a bit on the investors especially kova is also a hard one with investors i mean it makes it even harder for especially early on when you know investors along with a lot of the world didn't know what was going on what to expect and so a lot of them pulled back saying hey we're not doing new investments we're gonna focus on the investments we already have or wait and let this play out so it was always making it a bit harder time so it sounds like it was a good good idea to pull back kind of bootstrap itself fun get the prototypes and different samples get a bit farther along and it makes it more attractive to investors and i'll also let things settle down a bit so now as you kind of look to the next you know next six or 12 months kind of looking again into the future where do you see things headed where you know kind of what's the next steps in the plan yeah okay so uh just uh just one quick thing here even though i am based in california and we are registered and everything in the us uh we most of our scientists are interestingly based in canada and so except for one of them uh all the others are in in canada and so that's where we have conducted all the tests and set up everything in fact it was even suggested why don't we set up a canadian company so i said that like okay i don't know you know we'll think about that next but right now the main focus is to um to get some investment and we have not gone after local investment here in bangladesh but just recently somebody approached me about that so we're going to see what the options are we know that the the investments that are made here in startups are very small compared to what we're used to in silicon valley and you know the rest of the world so we'll kind of see how that goes but we are you know basically speaking with uh uh investors in the us canada and in canada and in europe so we're gonna see what happens with that and we're pretty sure that like in the next six months we really should be somewhere because we know that there's a need for these products anybody we speak with they say that they that like yeah you really need to get this out there the and if if i speak about the products basically we are you going to be making products which would replace uh single use plastic for packaging as well as replace uh where you would use plastic in in place uh in in the food industry in the pharmaceutical industry uh electronic industry and you name it so uh we have several verticals that we deal with and we already have letters of intent from customers so we're pretty excited about that we have lots of requests from canada and europe for from companies who are eager to work with us once we get going as well as to be a distributors for us so all that is there so we see all that coming together in the next uh six months to a year and we need to basically get the money in get the machinery here and get uh you know get going on making these products on a large scale no i think that that sounds like lot lots of work to do with lots of fun along the way and lots of opportunities i think that will be an exciting kind of next six to 12 months as you guys kind of continue to grow and expand well as we kind of wrap up a bit on the podcast i normally ask the two are the two last questions i always change it up for kind of where are you at now and so the question always asks at the end of the where you at now podcast or the episodes is so along your journeys you've now kind of had an additional six months further along in your journey as an entrepreneur um or you know as a startup and as an entrepreneur what is your biggest fear okay oh there's so many um i think uh i don't i don't fear that you know we uh will fail as far as the products are concerned i i'm not worried about that because i know that you know we can make these and we know the world needs them so i'm fine there uh what i fear is um i am not too sure about like uh the entire manufacturing setup because i know that we could run into a lot of red tape we could run into a lot of hurdles because as much respect as i have for bangladesh and for other countries besides the us i think that it's going to be challenging you know since i have uh pretty much been in the u.s for so long and worked there and lived there never worked you know outside the us uh except for a few jobs here and there kind of you know but mainly being based in the u.s so this is a big thing for me which will be a big challenge and that's a fear and so we need to get some very good solid local people and so i just want to get you know those kinds and once we have that i think we'll be fine well i think definitely uh you know there's always a lot of fears that you i don't even fears or stresses or strains or scenes that you worry about things that keep you up at night and things that excites you that are fun and that always you know there's always kind of that big mixture and we always tend to hear everybody oh this is the the wonderful things and exciting things but it's always easy to forget that there's you know there's always fears as a startup or founder and stresses on that so it's always great to hear and appreciate you sharing that well as we as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to find out more whether it's being a customer or client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to find out or connect update and find out more oh sure we're you know easily accessible uh we have a website people can send us email through the website it's sonalibioplastics.com uh you can google us as well shonali bioplastics we also have a linkedin page which is uh kind of active and we have quite a 400 plus followers there we have a twitter page and so i have some people helping out uh managing uh the social media side of things like uh twitter facebook linkedin and so we are we are basically on these uh platforms for social media posting a post here and there and other than that we have the email which is available and quite a few people also send us requests for example wanting to sell for us be distributors for us buy from us things like that via our website awesome and i i think that uh if i were to spell it out uh sonali is um going to be s a or sorry s o n a l i and then just the word bioplastics all one calm yeah perfect well i definitely encourage people to to reach out find out more and get involved as as you guys are doing some awesome work uh as you as you guys continue developing so well as we wrap up first of all thank you again for coming on the podcast now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell um we'd love to have you on and hear or share your journey so just feel free to go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the podcast also as a listener one make sure to click subscribe in your podcast players you know when all the new awesome episodes come out and to leave us a review so new people can find out about the podcast as well last but not least if you ever need help with your patents or trademarks or anything else reach out to us at millerip law just go to strategymeeting.com thank you again it's been a pleasure it's been fun and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last we will be in touch for sure thank you so much you

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