My name is Lily and I am a start-up co-founder. Well, at least half of the day I am. The other half I go to class, study for tests, and make my way one day at a time towards graduation. I like to joke that I am majoring in mountains. That’s because I see every class through the lens of my backpacking equipment start-up, PacBack.
How it all began.
I got the itch to create my own company in an entrepreneurship program that took me through the steps of launching a start-up. I wanted my focus in the program to be something that I was already passionate about. Since I had fallen in love with backpacking my freshman year, I began exploring ways that I could enhance my backcountry experiences. My first idea was to make veggie-packed dehydrated foods that could be sold in a biodegradable package. I soon bagged the idea when I tasted what I made and remembered that I’m a horrible cook. I then experimented backpacking organizers for inside a pack and easily packable toiletries, but I wasn’t over the moon about any of those ideas.
And the idea was born.
After my failed attempts, I decided to hit the backcountry with my friend John to clear my head. Taking a rest from the hike, we sat on metal I-beams next to an old railroad in the Tillamook State Forest to play cards. Let me tell you, there is no harder substance known to humanity than metal I-beams. Our backs hurt the next day, and it took a little bit of fun out of our trek. This discomfort lead us to the idea for the PacBack Trio, a mattress pad that turns into a chair and a pillow.
After a semester of creating a hypothetical company, participating in pitch competitions, and traveling to New York and Japan to validate the venture, I couldn’t put the project down. So John and I started to run with it. As a busy student, there were countless reasons not to pursue the venture, and plenty of people advised me that focusing on school would be a better choice. But at the end of the day, I loved working on PacBack.
Co-founding PacBack hasn’t been all smooth sailing.
I’ve waited over six months for manufacturers to send me something resembling my vision for the product, had samples shipped to me that were literally pool floaties, and have been told to my face that the Trio was “stupid.” But my dream of finally making the Trio a reality and actually having a comfortable place to relax while backpacking, along with the support of my friends and advisors, is what kept me in the game.
John and I are launching a Kickstarter for the Trio, so it’s up to the general public to decide whether or not our product is in demand. Regardless of the outcome, I’m thankful to have “majored in mountains.” Creating and launching the Trio has given me more real life experience than I could have ever gained in a classroom. It’s one thing to find a break-even price in class or create an idea for a social media strategy, but another to come up with the numbers that go into a price and actually take the photos for a campaign. This experience has allowed me to meet some of the coolest, most innovative, and most genuine people on this planet. Best of all, it has given me an awesome excuse to drop everything and head to the mountains for “product testing.”
The most important lesson I learned from PacBack and to speaking with experts in the outdoor industry is that the journey starts with the first step. Everyone has a great idea, but almost no one starts the journey to make their idea happen. If you gain anything from this article, remember the importance of the first step. Every adventure starts with one: in the mountains, in school, or in your career.
John and I created PacBack because there was no comfortable place to sit after a long day of hiking. It took ten prototypes and over a year of work to get us where we are now. Every second has been worth it. Our Kickstarter launches on November 14. We don’t want a sore back or bad night’s sleep to take any bit of fun out of your next trip, so please check it out and see if the Trio can make your adventure even better.
Ed. Note: This article was updated on 2/11/2018. The PacBack Trio’s Kickstarted unfortunately did not reach it’s goal and was not funded, but we’re proud to support students continuing to create new innovation in the outdoor industry.