Freddy Bunkers of HyperGo: Five Things I Learned As A Twenty-Something Founder
I love creating something from scratch that resonates with people. We saw that someone had bought our product from every single state on Amazon in our first year. That was a crazy moment, and I felt humbled that people everywhere in our country had taken a chance on my product.
As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Freddy Bunkers.
Freddy Bunkers is the nineteen-year-old founder of HyperGo, a company he started at age fifteen, which is dedicated to cleanliness and confidence. HyperGo makes ginormous, all-natural, biodegradable superwipes that fanatics and everyday heroes use to keep their bodies clean on the job, at the gym, on the trail, and on the field. Freddy grew up in the Oakland Hills near San Francisco and is a sophomore earning a business major and is a Pi Kappa Phi at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up driving hours and hours, starting at 5 a.m., to large convention centers to play in club volleyball tournaments. I got sick of sitting in my sweat after playing eight plus hours of volleyball and feeling stinky at and after the tournaments so I told my mom I was going to solve this problem with a product. I have always been a problem solver (I’m also an admitted problem-causer who’s bored by the norms).
I knew that I could make a better product than what was on the market and I knew that I was not the only one with this problem. When I was thinking of this product, I told myself, “Freddy, you already have braces, you can’t have acne, too, and since you can’t do anything about your braces, the acne has got to go.” So I knew that I needed to get the sweat off my body as soon as possible and the wipe was the perfect solution.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways idd you take out of that story?
Even five years later, family and family friends will ask if I am “still doing that Hyperglow thing.” They must think that it is just a side hobby or something that never went anywhere.
They also ask if I am going to get an internship soon, so I’ll have a better chance of getting a job after college to which I respond, “I am actually looking to hire an intern.” There are benefits to being low-key about success, but being too low-key can also be a downside.
I have learned to be more assertive in communicating that this is a thriving, profitable business. Without being braggy, sometimes it’s necessary to show people that HyperGo is the real deal and that we’re growing really fast and that this IS my real job.
I still have to strike a fine balance, though, because my friends don’t really need to internalize every drama that goes on inside the business. They definitely know where to go when they need a HyperGo sweatshirt and wipes for any and no discernible reason.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We were the first superwipe (as I like to call it) in the market (with a square foot of goodness), and in my opinion, it’s the best, so we basically invented the category and are constantly innovating to provide more product options and environmental stewardship. We pride ourselves on our mission to maintain the smallest environmental footprint possible with biodegradable wipes and a carbon neutral shipping system (which plants new trees in the Amazon every time someone orders wipes on our website).
But none of that matters if people don’t love the product, and thankfully I believe they do. We have lots of happy customers who leave lots of positive reviews, and we are now receiving regular inquiries from athletes in a variety of sports like NASCAR, MMA and the NFL. We love sending wipes to people who can spread the word — I even made a batch of tie dye HyperGo hoodies for some folks. I love finding ways to surprise people, in a good way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I could not have started HyperGo without the mentorship and guidance of my mom, Jennifer Adams. Growing up and watching her start her business (TruKid, an all natural skincare for kids) gave me all the inspiration I needed to know that the life of an entrepreneur is the life for me. She also validated my idea and helped me on my way to start HyperGo. I was really lucky to have someone that truly believed in what I was trying to do.
I remember when I was in middle school and I would help pack and ship orders in the back of the office and I would see my mom at her desk in the front and I knew that is where I wanted to be, the one in charge. She showed me the ups and downs of working for yourself and the freedom she is able to exercise because of it.
When I was in high school, the President of the school (the CEO basically) asked me to start an entrepreneurship club as part of his innovation initiative. I was thrilled to do it, and we ended up with about 100 kids by my junior year. We went to super cool tech conferences like TechCrunch in San Francisco, and got to tour awesome companies like Facebook, Instagram, and The North Face. I also mentored a classmate who started a sweatshirt company.
What I’d like to do is help other young people of all backgrounds start their own companies so they can experience the same level of financial freedom, empowerment, and self-empowerment that I have found by running a business. I feel really lucky to be on this path, and I want to help others find their way.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I am currently writing a book to be published later this year about how I started my business and completely changed how I did business during the pandemic.
I am also co-founding a new wellness company with my mom, Jennifer Adams, due to launch early 2021. Our emphasis is on approachable wellness, creating high quality, well-designed products, but at prices that are actually affordable. Everyone deserves a wellness routine.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We partner with homeless shelters in the Bay Area and elsewhere to provide an immediate clean for residents who don’t have shower options for job interviews or just their daily lives. We’ve sent wipes to COVID nurses in SoCal with no time to shower between shifts. We’ve also sent kids to sports camps who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to improve their skills over the summer.
We love sending out wipes to literally help people keep physically clean, but I really look forward to seeing the impact of the businesses that are started by the people that I inspire, coach, and mentor.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Poppleton and Friends (about a city Pig and his friend Cherry Sue) was a childhood favorite of mine, probably because I idolized my older siblings who were doing a ton of 4-H stuff at the time, including raising pigs. 4-H was a great learning experience for me, and gave me an ever stronger work ethic and a lifelong appreciation for pigs. I actually named a Chester White breed pig “Poppleton” (he earned a lot of awards at the Alameda County Fair), and later adopted two teacup pigs that slept in my bed (no, they did not pee in my bed).
I also love the concepts in the 4-Hour Work Week, which my mom gave me right around the time I was starting my company.
I’ve never dreamed of a corporate 8-hour-a-day job, and I’ve always imagined a different lifestyle for myself, so I feel like the Four Hour Work Week is something to aspire to — why wouldn’t you want to spend more time exploring the world around you than you spend at work? Ironically, when my mom occasionally suggests that I could work more, I happily quote Tim Ferris back to her to justify my carefree attitude towards life-work balance.
The old mindset is that you have to work really really hard to get what you want. In middle school I’d always be criticized for taking shortcuts. When I told my mom, she supported me by saying I was just finding the most time-savvy way of doing x y or z, so now that I think of it maybe I should get my mom a nice new hardcover Four Hour Work Week for Christmas.
Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each
Time management: I work hard but want to hang with friends, so I have to be very disciplined about my time.
No peers: the people around me often don’t understand the amount of work I have to do on my business while I’m in college (and previously in high school). Literally as I was writing this, one of my fraternity brothers poked his head into my room to ask when I was going to be ready to go out.
Doubt: I make a lot of decisions, so I have a lot of opportunities to doubt myself. Is this the right packaging design, PR firm, marketing strategy, advertising spend, new launch, massive bet on inventory, pricing, whatever? Will people respond to what I’m doing, and will this make the company more financially sustainable, given that it’s my livelihood?
I can’t complain: all the decisions are mine so I have no one to blame when things go south. At the beginning of COVID, for example, we spent a lot of time and money developing a hand-san wipe, only to find out it would take to the end of 2020 to get the actual orders in. Back in March, we assumed the pandemic would be long gone by then, and we had to abandon the product, so this is me not complaining.
Fear — what if our sales drop exponentially and I lose my business and my freedom? I now depend on my business. My parents didn’t pay for my high school, and with six kids they don’t plan on paying for my college, either, so this truly is my livelihood. If something out of my control happens to my product or business, my whole life would change. When Amazon warehouses were not accepting new inventory for several weeks at the beginning of COVID, I experienced this viscerally. Thankfully I was long on inventory and was able to keep selling, but since then I’m hypersensitive to any changes that could threaten the business.
Financial independence — I paid for my own Catholic high school, I’m paying for my own college, and I drive the car I want because I pay for it.
Work from anywhere — no office, distributed workforce. I have managed my business from as close as home, Seattle, Yosemite, and Sun Valley and as far away as Costa Rica, Thailand, Vietnam, Sweden, and Italy.
Simplicity — I have no factory to run, and I have the ability to scale on my own schedule, and hire awesome people who want to work in ways that work for them.
Feeling of accomplishment — I love creating something from scratch that resonates with people. We saw that someone had bought our product from every single state on Amazon in our first year. That was a crazy moment, and I felt humbled that people everywhere in our country had taken a chance on my product.
Empowerment to help others — I don’t have to ask permission to make somebody’s life better or contribute to a cause I find worthwhile. I’m the decision maker, and I love being a force for good in ways that make sense to me. The more resources (profits) we have in the company, the more cool things we can do.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?
Do it now: it’s a false choice to say that you have to choose between getting an education/skills and starting a business. I’m doing both, so can you.
Find a mentor: not everyone is lucky enough to have a Jennifer. Ask and ask and ask until you find someone awesome who cares about what you’re up to. It’s a very important strategic sale.
Love the product or service you’re creating: You must love the product because this is the sandbox where you’re going to be spending your time unless or until you decide to sell the business.
It’s always always always more work than you think: at every level and on every project. I’m writing a book, and I had no idea how many hours and days I’d be spending working on it. At some point, I’ll have to decide that it’s done, which is of course the hardest part.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I’d love to meet Richard Branson. He started his first company when he was sixteen, he’s been in a ton of businesses, he’s very successful and constantly reinvents how he does business (while maintaining some guiding principles), he tries to help humanity, and he always seems to be experiencing life with joy and a smile.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@freddybunkers on Instagram
@hypergowipes on Instagram
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!