From Frustration to Creation
As an avid traveler and someone who has lived on three different continents, I naturally find myself packing and unpacking all the time. After returning from a trip one day and having begun the unpacking process, I realized that once again my favorite shampoo and toner had leaked out all over my luggage.
As I sat there in disbelief, I thought about how much time is wasted on packing and unpacking beauty and care products just to find that by the end of it the products have spilled. “There has to be a better way to do this,” I told myself as I cleaned up the mess. That’s when the idea for ZIRUI was born. A light bulb went off in my head. Right away I drew the initial design for the product out on a sheet of paper while I sat at my desk in my dorm room. The next day I spent the whole night working in Kendade to convert the drawing into actual CAD models. As I returned to the Makerspace the following week, I felt a rush of energy as I began to print out the first rough 3D models. “This could be something special,” the sound inside of me seemed to say. Now almost a year ago from when I first started, the design that I used for a class project has evolved into a Kickstarter that will go live on the first of November.
Growing up I was fascinated with the process of entrepreneurship, as both of my parents are entrepreneurs who started their respective ventures. I have always been an entrepreneurial person, and consider myself to be both a curious and active thinker. Yet, despite the fact that my mind is constantly bubbling with ideas, I had always lacked the courage to take the final step to execute them. I was always telling myself that my ideas were not good enough, and because of that I never pushed to make the ideas in my mind more than just ideas.
It wasn’t until the summer of my junior year that I had an eye-opening experience after participating in the Lynk program to do a tech internship at a Berlin startup for three months. While I was there, I got to experience the hustle, energy, and chaos of being right in the center of the European startup scene. It was through my internship position that I was able to experience first-hand the thrill that follows shipping an APP and understand the relationship between a product and its users. For me, it was interesting to see how many different aspects there were to a working business venture. It was during that summer that I decided I would take “Entrepreneurship: Idea to Prototype” with Professor Rick Feldman in the fall. The class was about taking an idea and developing it into an actual business venture and I had a feeling that this class could be the final nudge that I needed. It was. This was the perfect final push. It was the final nudge that I had been waiting for.
After the semester was over, I decided to follow up on the class by taking an independent study with Professor Feldman. Through my independent study I got to work on developing the product even further while also receiving academic credits for all the work I was doing on ZIRUI. Junior year was not an easy time for me since I was taking six classes during both semesters while also working really hard on developing my product. I would spend a lot of late nights in the Makerspace lab on campus, finishing the CAD models and working on prototyping. Nothing can describe the joy I felt in first seeing what had been an idea on a napkin come fresh off the plate from the 3D printers. Professor Feldman also recommended that I participate in local pitch competitions in order to become more involved in the startup community. The opportunity I had to meet so many helpful mentors and friends through local events eventually led to a fruitful summer for me at Valley Venture Mentors’ collegiate accelerator. From time to time when I wasn’t working on ZIRUI or doing coursework I would walk up to the equestrian center and ride the horses. Having such easy access to nature and animals was an easy way for me to remain inspired while also staying productive and focused.
The first of next month is when ZIRUI’s first product will be made available to the public, and I cannot be more excited. The product is called the ‘ZIRUI Go Case’ and it is a modular case that has a mirror and modular bottles that magnetically connect to the surface. Since the bottles are all interchangeable, TSA-approved sizes, and are high quality and nicely sealed, people who are traveling with liquid products don’t have to worry about them taking up too much space, leaking out, or being too hard to find. If all goes well with this launch, ZIRUI hopes to come out with even more designs and products that will hopefully help empower people to do more with their lives while spending less to achieve a great look.
Starting ZIRUI has been such a fulfilling ride that I don’t think would’ve been possible without all the support from MHC. Mount Holyoke is the place that’s allowed me to pursue not just one but all of my interests while teaching me to “never fear, change.” There’s something about being in a supportive and tight-knit community like this female liberal arts college that has empowered me to think and act fearlessly and create outside the box.
With all this being said, it would not be fair to say that this has been all me.
Along the way of what has been an amazing journey, I have met so many amazing talents and aspiring peers who have the same vision as me. Currently, ZIRUI has an amazing team of content producers from MHC (Celestelle Webster, Summaya Wagenseil) as well as engineers and a chief designer. I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me to realize ZIRUI’s vision whether it was through encouraging me with kind words or providing me with harsh, honest constructive feedback.
As for other Mount Holyoke students who are interested in starting their own startups, I think the most important thing is just to start. Don’t overthink it in the beginning–just do it.