Five years ago, I founded Oopsmark to create the things I wanted to see in the world - mostly consumer products for bikes, bodies, or homes. Oopsmark is best known for the design of Bicycle Wine Racks and the U-Lock Holster, but our product line is constantly changing and evolving: we recently developed a vertical hydroponic system for elegant farming at home.
As the CXX of a small company, my role is to do whatever the company requires to thrive. This task is broad and constantly changing, but my core role is that of product design, development, and the engineering of our manufacturing and shipping processes. I also do all the photography, video production, music, digital marketing and business development. All of the customer service, shipping, and fabrication are done by my staff. It's challenging to do so many things, but that's why I do it.
Prior to Oopsmark, I worked for companies like Cirque De Soleil, JDS Uniphase, Bombardier, Environment Canada, and Natural Resources Canada. I took a summer off to make whatever I wanted and ended up making leather accessories on Venice Beach in California. I'd fully intended on getting back to the grind, but I was making more money than in engineering and was having too much fun to turn back. Combining my passions for making and creating with the knowledge I gained from my engineering background was the perfect fit that allowed me to excel as an artisan.
My co-op experience was all about learning something new quickly and then moving on. This was always done in the context of large companies, but it turns out that the same skills can be applied to artisanal production, video editing or social media. Running my own company is much like co-ops terms - never ending learning and change. This helped us to optimize growth and start Oopsmark without any outside capital or investment.
An Oopsmark is when your mistakes turn out to be better than your plan. I wish I could say that starting my own company was a well-executed strategy, but it wasn't. Rather, it's been a creative process of putting the pieces together, seeing what grows and then circling back on my criteria. I certainly couldn't have predicted how my company would unfold.
One of my criteria for starting a company was that it had to be something that didn't required funding. Most start-ups fail because they don't get the funding they're looking for, so why not design strategies, products or services that don't require funding? It doesn't seem like a recipe for success. Oopsmark grows 30% a year by keeping risk low, being creative and remaining flexible.
Although there are certain things you can only learn from working for people, there are tons of things you can only learn by being on your own and venturing into unknown territory. Engineers are great at solving problems and that's a pretty transferable skill. For any new graduate, I would suggest to go with your gut and not be afraid to try new things.