Launching a startup is not the easiest thing, especially when dealing with hardware. Now, add the challenge of reinventing the popular field of cocktail mixology, and you step into the shoes of Laurier Alumnus and CEO of Bartesian, Bryan Fedorak. With a KickStarter campaign in motion, and an upcoming product launch, we sat down with Bryan to learn more about his experience with starting a company from the ground-up, and how the Lazaridis MBA helped him to achieve his business goals and objectives.
What was the most challenging phase in the development of the Bartesian, and how did you and your team overcome that?
Since we are a building a physical product, it was difficult to gauge interest during the customer discover phase without people seeing a physical product. Bartesian was a new idea, unlike anything that was available on the market. The closest thing was a single-serve coffee maker (our MVP), so we retrofitted it to pump cocktails to test out our idea and gain valid feedback.
With your background as an engineer, how did you find the transition to business education in the Lazaridis MBA?
The Lazaridis MBA really places emphasis on incorporating knowledge and skills from a broad range of topics, just as managers do on a daily basis. At first it was challenging one’s way of thinking, and often required much more creativity and emphasis on the human factor. However, from this, I’ve learned to be a much more rounded individual. Engineering is obviously heavily focused on technical analysis and math, so courses like finance and analytics were familiar. Marketing and OB were quit foreign, yet a lot of fun to learn!
How specifically did the Laurier LaunchPad program contribute to the development of your company/product?
LaunchPad taught us to rigorously follow the Lean Startup methodology. They really pushed us to do the customer discover work up front, and this ensured that we truly tailored a solution to a problem, not vice-versa, the fatal mistake of many startups. This has given us, and will continue to give us, an advantage into the future by building a product that is customer focused.
What advice do you have for future MBA students on juggling a business and an MBA program at the same time?
You really have to be passionate about your business. Make sure it’s something that truly makes you excited, because if you’re unsure, or just doing it for a ‘cool’ experience, then it’s not worth it. There is no doubt that juggling a start-up business and completing an MBA simultaneously is demanding, but although it sounds cliché, if you love what you are doing, it isn’t hard to make it work at all. You have to be driven and resilient to succeed.
With Bartesian’s Kickstarter campaign in full-swing, and orders coming out soon, what are your key company milestones for the next year?
First and foremost: shipping the product to our customers once our campaign is done. We will be heavily focused on production/delivering/shipping the product, as well as continuing to develop and optimize our customer acquisition channels. Of course, we will always be developing (and testing) new flavours!
If there is one memorable lesson or moment from your time at the Lazaridis MBA, what would it be?
The biggest takeaway from an MBA is that it’s a mentality – or a way of thinking. You reach this next level of competence and strategic mindset that isn’t taught in just one classroom; it’s a combination of skills and how to use those skills.
What is your favourite Bartesian drink?
Uptown Rocks. It’s one of our signature drinks and has an amazingly unique flavour. The base is gin, which is strange considering gin is typically not my favourite spirit, but the drink is well balanced – not too sweet, not too bitter – nothing like I’ve had before. Plus, it’s named after Uptown Waterloo!
Bartesian is a pretty unique machine – in your mind, what do you think is the Bartesian’s greatest competitive advantage?
Unlike other cocktail machines out there, Bartesian doesn’t require all the ingredients for each drink since it’s a capsule based machine. You only need to have the basic spirits on hand, everything else is in the capsule. This convenience combined with a truly authentic taste is like nothing on the market. Plus it looks mighty fine if I say so myself.
What is one piece of general advice that you would like to share with entrepreneurship enthusiasts?
There’s a lot of advice/mentorship out there and people will always be giving ideas/suggestions. There’s a lot of great advice, but it’s your job to filter through it – it is very easy to get pulled off course. Look externally to learn, then make a choice and have the confidence to go with it; ideas are easy – execution is hard.
While the Bartesian represents a substantial leap from traditional cocktail-making, only bold moves can make a dent in the fabric of today’s business world. Working hard from a corner booth at The Communitech Hub’s VELOCITY Foundry, the small but energetic Bartesian team is a testament to the effectiveness of Lazaridis MBA’s Integrated Core methodologies and LaunchPad Program. We wish Bryan and his team the best of luck, and look forward to tasting a Bartesian drink, or two, one day soon (especially the ‘Uptown Rocks’)!
To learn more about the Bartesian, and how you can contribute to their KickStarter Campaign, visit the Bartesian website today.
To learn more about the Lazaridis MBA Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, and the Laurier LaunchPad program, click here.