Micah Louison, Founder of Home in a Bag
In the spirit of back-to-school, we’re featuring post-secondary students who are building companies between classes.
Micah Louison is the Founder of LO8OP (Home in a Bag) and the 3rd place winner at the 2018 VentureQuest Competition organized by Bow Valley College.
1. What is Home in a Bag?
Home in a Bag is working to end displacement by providing shelter and power to those who would otherwise live without for extended periods of time due to circumstances such as homelessness and natural disasters. For example, when a hurricane hits a tropical country, it can take years before things return to normal, and Home in Bag can help aid in the recovery process.
2. What inspired you to start? What problem are you solving?
I was trying to come up with a practical idea that supports a social cause for the Bow Valley College VentureQuest competition. Although I initially thought “Home in a Bag” was just a concept, the name stuck. I created a prototype in time for the final pitch competition and when I won third place, I realized this idea had some real potential.
After VentureQuest, I continued through the customer discovery phase which confirmed the pain of not having a place to call your own. That process sparked something inside of me that I always knew was there but never acknowledged. I was inspired to take my prototype to the next level.
3. How long did it take you to go from idea to prototype?
When I first came up with the idea, I couldn’t even begin to picture how it would look. Shelter is usually just a tent and Home in a Bag is more than that. It’s two products working symbiotically with the features of a tent, sleeping bag and backpack. Our next iteration will have a subtler design so that it can be better disguised as a standard backpack. This will help increase privacy for people who don’t want to be identified as homeless so they can focus on rebuilding their lives.
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
After several different conversations, we figured out that we wanted to target agencies dealing with displacement and rapid crisis response including Samaritans Purse, Red Cross, etc. They are already very adept at responding to disaster and we wanted to further streamline their work by providing shelter andeventually, a communications grid.
5. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing, what would it be and why?
I need someone who is well-versed in building distribution channels to contact suppliers and negotiate on our behalf to help us access materials at cost so we can increase our production.
I am also hoping to find someone who knows how to leverage artificial intelligence so that we can push real-time, location-based weather alerts to assist with crisis response.
6. What are your greatest achievements so far?
Making our current prototype, which I will be testing for forty-five nights in September/October. It is an act of solidarity for those who don’t have access to shelter, but it is also a method of product testing. We need capital to build a commercial grade product which is why we are also running an ATB BoostR campaign this fall.
7. How have the programs and support available at Bow Valley College helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?
VentureQuest was instrumental to our success. I was able to write a business plan, engage in customer discovery and shed the naïve notion that my idea was flawless. It showed me that I have the ability to grind. I met every deadline and I got through every hurdle just by being available and working. It really demystified the startup journey and made it tangible.
8. How can companies make the most of their experience with these programs?
You have to put in the energy and output you expect to receive. Entrepreneurs are professional procrastinators and VentureQuest provided the deadlines necessary to test my commitment. Take it as seriously as you would if you were developing any other skillset like working out or learning to paint.
9. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup?
Being an entrepreneur is like being a character in a video game. Running a startup means building a product under extreme uncertainty and video games are all about existing in an uncertain environment. Making an impact means being open to opportunity, despite uncertainty.
Ideas are intrinsically free because anyone can make their own version. If someone were to find a solution to the problem I am solving I would happily move on to something else. It is better to champion what already exists.
Published on September 20, 2018