Meet The Inventors: Brian Petz of Petal, On How To Go From Idea To Store Shelf

Tyler Gallagher
Sep 16, 2020 · 25 min read

Our first few attempts were utter failures, we didn’t even know how to braze a copper joint together. But after a steep learning curve, we developed a proof of concept called the “Alpha”. It was constructed from parts pulled from a mini-fridge, an aluminum sheet metal body bent by hand with a crude wooden jig, and plastic 3D printed components. The Alpha had a 2.5 gallon capacity and is still in use in my kitchen today. We learned a ton from that concept, and it acted as a stepping stone to our next success.

As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Petz, a licensed professional engineer, university lecturer, and a co-inventor of Petal’s patent-pending, waste-freezing technology. An aerospace engineer by trade, Petz has always been a natural problem solver with a knack for finding ways to improve the products, mechanisms, and activities he encounters in daily life. After five years perfecting his trade building jet engines, he took the leap in 2015 to focus fully on the development of the world’s first disposal freezer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up the eldest of four boys in a middle-class household on the West Mountain in Hamilton, Ontario. My mother was a nurse, and my father was a police officer, so when I say middle class, it was very middle class. Hamilton is a blue-collar town with steel production as its primary industry and a variety of trades and manufacturing to compliment it. I was fortunate to go to Sir Allan MacNab High School, a public school that had a full wood shop, machine shop, and auto shop. I did pretty well in math and physics, but really excelled in my machine shop and drafting classes. In fact, I’d say the most valuable skill I ever learned was how to read and create machine drawings, and to work a mill and a lathe. Those skills have driven nearly everything else I have accomplished in my career Were it not for those opportunities, I wouldn’t have achieved the success I have now — as an engineer, an inventor, and college professor.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“That’s the way she goes” — Ray from the mockumentary, Trailer Park Boys

I love this quote. While the full version’s not fit for print and may seem a bit flippant, it’s actually a poor man’s “What’s So” by Werner Erhard. It really helps you cope when things don’t go your way.

The newest prototype didn’t perform the way you expected? That’s the way she goes.

You got turned down by a VC for the 15th time? Just the way she goes.

The entire world comes to a stop because of a pandemic, throwing all of your carefully-laid plans into disarray? That’s the way she goes, boys.

As 2020 has shown us, we can get incredibly anxious about things that are hopelessly out of our control. Sometimes it’s important to stop worrying about the things we can’t control and focus on the things we can.

I’m still learning that if you do this, life has a tendency to send you what you need, when you need it. As an example, I was really stressed out when the COVID-19 lockdowns started. I was worried our launch was going to be interrupted (which it was), the economy was going to tank, everyone would be out of work, and no one would buy a Petal.

I was angry, argumentative, and anxious with the people around me. But COVID-19 is just the way she goes, and I chose to view the lockdowns as blessing for my family. We were able to spend more time at home together and give more attention to my son Ben as he grows into a rambunctious toddler. Furthermore, everyone else is staying at home more now too, and with all that time they’re spending at home, they’re going to realize they need a Petal now more than ever!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was younger, I probably read famed former NASA engineer Homer Hickam Jr.’s memoir Rocket Boys, which was the basis for the popular film October Sky, at least 10 times. Hickam grew up in Coalwood, West Virginia, where everybody in town worked in the mine. It was just what you did. His father was the mine foreman and expected him to follow in his footsteps. I think I saw a lot of parallels between Coalwood and my own upbringing in Hamilton. It was a major inspiration for me and, ultimately, a major reason why I pursued an education and career in aerospace engineering.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What was the catalyst that inspired you to invent your product? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

Where I’m from,Toronto and its adjacent municipalities, we have what some may consider ambitious organic waste collection programs, along with recycling and landfill waste collection. The programs are mandatory by means of infrequent regular waste collection and limitations on regular waste bin sizes. It’s a very good system, and the Greater Toronto Area is able to divert over 50 percent of its residential waste from landfills through its green bin and recycling programs. To paint a picture, the city provides a 7-liter beige bucket, a tiny little thing, to keep your food scraps in. Funny enough, it’s sized at seven liters because they found that at any larger size, it would get so foul with rotting food that it would need emptied at the 7-liter mark anyway.

Well, boy were they right. After about two weeks of keeping this thing under my counter, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was uncivilized. I’m not going to have a bucket of rotting food waste stinking up my kitchen, breeding bacteria, mold, and fruit flies right where I eat and prepare my food. But I wasn’t going to stop separating my food waste either. That would just transfer the problem into a bigger bin filled with other garbage as well. So I put the bucket in my freezer.

However, that created a whole bunch of other issues. Now I was storing my garbage in my freezer with tomorrow night’s dinner, and it was a real pain to access. Every time I had a little scrap of food, vegetable peelings, or raw chicken I needed to toss out, I had to open the freezer door, then open the lid on the bin and toss in the waste, perhaps contaminating surfaces as I did it.

I remember quite clearly, it was the evening of November 8, 2012 when I had just gone through this annoying routine and I stood in my kitchen and thought “this is such a nuisance, why can’t I get a garbage bin that does what my freezer is doing for me?”

I got excited about the idea and did some research. I couldn’t find anything like it. It did not exist! I thought “wow, that’s really interesting. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem. In fact, every single person I know has this exact same issue” And so I called up my friend and fellow engineer Prim (now Petal’s co-inventor), and we riffed and ranted together, quickly realizing the many different use cases such an invention could have, not just in the kitchen, but with dirty diapers, pet waste, and incontinence briefs and liners;, in restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals, and nursing homes. The potential was huge. This was absolutely something that needed to exist!

There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

I’m going to focus here on hardware product ideas because there is a ton of information available about creating businesses based on software and services. What I found to be severely lacking as we stumbled along our journey was any guidance on how to take an idea for a physical product and translate it into a business.

Hardware products are difficult nut to crack., Unlike software, which can be scaled as it grows, hardware requires significant upfront investment to produce product. Tooling and inventory costs can go into the tens of millions of dollars, and investors aren’t going to invest big money in tooling and inventory if you don’t have the sales to validate the market for your product. It’s a chicken and egg scenario. You need sales to get the money for tooling and hardware, but you need tooling and hardware to sell product!

I’ve found that the solution or “secret formula” to getting a product as significant as a brand-new home appliance into the world is to sidestep tooling and inventory costs through investor backed crowdfunding. You might not have half a million dollars lying around to run a crowdfund yourself, but if your idea has merit, you can convince investors to test the market with you. Convincing investors to put up several hundred thousands of dollars to prove the market in a “pre-sale” is a lot easier than convincing them to front millions. In the end, the result is the same; if the market is proven, you’ve immediately got the money for tooling and inventory from your pre-sale revenues (and ability to borrow more if needed). This method works so well, even large companies like Sony and Phillips use it to mitigate risk when launching new products.

This lower-risk path to product realization wasn’t available previously. Crowdfunding is just now maturing from a domain of the amateur home-gamer into a serious, corporate endeavor with real money behind it. But don’t be intimidated by the big players. Previously, only huge corporations with hundreds of millions, or billions in annual revenue could develop and launch capital-intense hardware projects. Crowdfunding pre-sale events are the great equalizer. It’s a great way to get your product to customers who need it.

So that’s what we did. We worked the “buy it, then we’ll go and make it for you” strategy into a convincing pitch deck and we were able to garner not just investors, but also an equity deal with Rainfactory, an industry-leading crowdfunding company. With this route, the majority of capital and resources went towards marketing. We could save all the expensive tooling and inventory costs for after we had established a customer base that covers those costs, and proven the demand for our product in the marketplace.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Petal is an idea that in hindsight seems like common sense, so we wondered “Why hasn’t anyone done this before?” We started looking into previous patents for household disposal freezers. Low and behold, we found multiple concepts dating all the way back to 1962. The idea itself was not new. Many people had had the same “ah ha” moment that I shared with you. But as it turns out, ideas are cheap, it’s all in the execution. And taking a brand new appliance from concept to garage-built prototypes to a mass-produced product on a store shelf is so difficult, expensive, and fraught with risk and failure that the landscape was a graveyard of failed attempts once buoyed by brilliant ideas.

You want to be very conscious of the history of your product when you start out. Take a good look, do not whistle past the graveyard. Start in the existing market: Is your solution in the market already? Search online for it. If your exact idea is already available, be relieved someone has solved your problem, buy it, enjoy it, and move on. If not, is there a product out there that attempts to solve the same problem? This was our case; existing waste bins and diaper pails exist, which validates that the problem of stinky garbage was significant enough to warrant an industry of products that attempted to solve it. If you find that there is a market demand for products that solve the same problem as yours, does yours do it better? Does it do it so much better that it won’t be drowned out in a crowded field? Again, this was the case with Petal, so we forged ahead.

If you’ve got an idea that satisfies those criteria, the next step is to do a patent search. This will inform you as to what’s already out there in the prior art, and any active patents you’ll want to avoid infringing on. Google Patent Search is a great resource for this. Be thorough. It’s difficult searching for things you don’t want to find, but you’ve got to do it so you can avoid big problems in the future. If you have the resources, you should consider employing a patent agent to perform a search for you as well to be extra thorough.

As I mentioned, we found multiple concepts for household garbage freezers as far back as the 1960s but none of them had made it to market. As we discovered through development, one of the reasons for this was that a disposal freezer with a reasonable footprint will have a very small volume-to-surface area ratio, creating issues with energy efficiency. Only recently has insulation and refrigerant been made available that is efficient enough to allow the freezer to operate economically. These are the kinds of things you’ll want to understand as you develop your product.

If you find concepts in the prior art that share characteristics with your invention, don’t be discouraged. Everything that exists today is an incremental improvement on something that came before it, and if it’s prior art, then it’s fair game, and not enforceable IP. If that’s your case, you may be able to add your own incremental innovation, patent that, and bring it to market. If the characteristics of your invention are under an active patent however, then you’ve got to be careful and consult a patent agent about your prospects.

Did you have a role model or a person who inspired you to persevere despite the hardships involved in taking the risk of selling a new product?

I can’t really pinpoint any one individual that inspired me to follow the path I have taken. What really inspired me to take the big leap of quitting my day job (a full time job with full benefits and a gold-plated pension) was the feeling that I had hit a career ceiling where I was working. I was 29 years old, I had no mortgage, I wasn’t married and had no kids or dependents and I realized that if I was going to do something as high risk as this, now was the best time to do it.

I think this is something that a lot of millennial and zoomers are experiencing, especially right now, and I want to tell them that it’s important to extrapolate their lives out 20 years. If the trajectory they’re on isn’t taking them where they want to go, staying on that trajectory is more fraught with risk and hardship than taking the leap of upending your entire career path, whatever that might look like for you. I also want those people to know that it has never been easier than it is today to start a business and succeed. The amount of technology and services available to us to learn, to develop a product, and to reach our customers is unparalleled in the entire span of human history.

Make your decisions as if you were looking back on your life contemplating your regrets. Which are you more likely to regret, starting out on a new adventure by creating a new business, or sitting at 9–5 desk job for 30 years (assuming you even have that kind of job security), making money for someone who did step out and take that chance. Even if you fail, failing isn’t as bad as a lifetime wondering what could have been.

For the benefit of our readers, can you share the story, and outline the steps that you went through, from when you thought of the idea, until it finally landed on the store shelves? In particular we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

Well, first and foremost, you need to have absolute conviction in your idea. In the era of IoT, Smartphones, and Zoom meetings, we had stumbled upon a product that really should have come along in the post-war era that democratized household convenience through appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and microwave ovens. There are technical reasons I mentioned previously for why disposal freezers didn’t materialize, but it is a missing piece of the household puzzle, the last of the “great appliances” so to speak. After gathering feedback from everyone we knew, receiving nearly universally positive feedback for the idea, we were utterly and completely convinced of the value and need for our idea within every single household on the planet.

Once we decided this was indeed a “quit your day job” idea worth pursuing, we needed to create a proof of concept to demonstrate it was feasible. Since it didn’t exist, it was important to know if the reason was economic, or technical. To do that, we needed a workshop. My father always kept a workshop in our home growing up, and after I left university and started working as a production engineer building jet engines, I began instinctually accumulating a comprehensive set of hand and power tools for carpentry, auto-repair and general maintenance in my basement/garage (as an engineer tends to do). It came in very handy in prototype development. We also bought a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer that we still use to this day — it has been worth its weight in gold.

The Proof of Concept

Our first few attempts were utter failures, we didn’t even know how to braze a copper joint together. But after a steep learning curve, we developed a proof of concept called the “Alpha”. It was constructed from parts pulled from a mini-fridge, an aluminum sheet metal body bent by hand with a crude wooden jig, and plastic 3D printed components. The Alpha had a 2.5 gallon capacity and is still in use in my kitchen today. We learned a ton from that concept, and it acted as a stepping stone to our next success.

External Validation and Institutional Partnerships

Working in your basement is great to start with, but there are industrial capabilities that you just can’t match at the institutional level, like million dollar 3D printing machines, vacuum formers and CNC mills and lathes. If these things are critical to getting you to the next level, you’ll need to find an institutional partner or incubator. While many incubators are focused on software and offer desk space, free food, and ping-pong, there are a handful that have the kind of real industrial capabilities needed to develop hardware. Our Alpha prototype was enough to get us a government grant, and a partnership with the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technology (CAMDT) at Sheridan College in Brampton, Ontario. CAMDT has industrial 3D printers, waterjet and laser cutters, a machine shop, and a variety of other resources that have been instrumental in our prototyping and development. Working with CADMT, we were able to iteratively refine our designs while we filed patents to capture our innovations.

Intellectual Property

Firstly, a patent sounds more useful than it actually is. It gives you the right to sue somebody if they violate your intellectual property. That means that you, an upstart company strapped for cash, have to spend a million dollars to sue another company that had the wherewithal to enter the market with your idea. It’s a losing proposition, and if the foundation of your business is built on suing people over patent violations, you’re on very weak footing. The greatest IP you can develop is a strong brand, and relationship with your customers. Nobody can imitate that or steal it from you. A patent is like adding alligators to your moat. It’s a deterrent, but one that people will always find a way around to compete with you.

That said, investors really like patents, and it’s worthwhile to pursue one for the purposes of raising capital and dissuading others from copying your idea while you develop your brand and customer relationships. For anyone looking for a crash course in patents, I strongly recommend Patent It Yourself by David Pressman and David E. Blau from NOLO. I used this resource to write our original patent. I had a lot of fun doing it, and our patent agency, PCK IP was impressed with the comprehensive nature of what we were able to produce for them to file.

Market Validation — the Pre-sale

This is the stage we are actually in with Petal right now, which you can see for yourself at petalclean.com. In this stage, as mentioned, you should develop your branding and strategy for the crowdfund pre-sale and approach investors with a plan to generate pre-orders. The money investors are giving you should primarily go to marketing. By definition, success will bring additional dollars for tooling and inventory.

Any crowdfunding agency will tell you that you will several hundred thousand dollars to throw at marketing if you want to be successful. The exact amount will vary, but it’s a reasonable amount of money for angel investor groups and seed funds.

Source a Good Manufacturer

Sourcing a good manufacturer can be very tricky, especially if you are looking overseas. There’s a lot of stories of intellectual property theft, but you can’t let that paralyze you. If it’s a good product, people are going to copy it. Distinguish yourself with your brand.

In sourcing a manufacturer, you want to wait until you’ve got a decent idea of what your final product will look like, while also leave room for their expertise. They may end up telling you that if you change the way something is designed, you can save 20%. I would recommend sourcing a manufacturer before you have completed your DFM (Design for Manufacturing) and your GD&T exercises because whoever you go with is going to know way more than you about how to make what you want them to make. Their business is manufacturing, yours is design and sales.

Identify companies that produce something similar to what you want to produce, they’ll be the best equipped to produce your product. They’ll also be the best to copy your product, so you want a solid brand, and an NDA in place before sharing information. It takes good faith and trust to form a relationship with a manufacturer. Remember, manufacturing companies are in the business of manufacturing, not necessarily selling the end user, that’s going to be your job.

Finding a Retailer

Meet your customers where they are, which is increasingly online. Brick and mortar stores have high overheads that are going to eat into your profit margins. They’re great as an ultimate goal because a deal means huge volumes, but starting online and drop-shipping is the most practical thing to do.

Once your online business is doing well, make your way to the relevant trade shows to find retailers. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago are the two that come to mind. Another way to get into a place like Walmart or Home Depot is to start in their online store. They will let you sell through their online platforms like Amazon does. Shelf space is a real premium, so if you can prove your product sells well in their online store, it will be easier to convince a buyer to put you on their shelf. Be careful about relationships with brick and mortar retailers though, the bigger they are, the more easily they can, and will, push you around.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

So, before we decided to develop Petal, we wanted to try something else first in the crowdfunding space. We knew that Petal was too good of an idea to risk screwing up, so we wanted to use another idea to learn from. We decided to run a crowdfund for a flow meter that you put on the end of a beer funnel.

The science to it was actually pretty complicated because impeller-based flow of a carbonated fluid wasn’t easy to measure, but we got it working and had a lot of fun with it. We created a hilarious video full of ridiculous jargon. We were scientists studying the field of “Chug-o-nometry”. Our users were “Chug-o-nauts”, competing based on their “Chug-o-metrics” which included how fast they chugged, how much they chugged, and their “BPM” or “Beers Per Minute” score.

I’m still convinced that if we were to take the idea down to Spring Break, we’d sell them like hotcakes, but a critical flaw in our business plan was the fact that people who like to chug beer out of a hose are not the same people that participate in crowdfunding events. To say we did not succeed would be to put it lightly, however we did walk away learning about the significant resources needed to run a successful pre-sale event.

The early stages must have been challenging. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” after making your invention, when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I really can separate our journey into three distinct phases: Our first phase, which was initial development, second phase, which was looking for capital, and the third, developing our pre-sale event. The first phase was really fun, and I looked forward to getting up every morning, going down into the basement and doing real engineering and development work. That phase lasted for about two years, and I mark the end of it when we admitted to ourselves that we wouldn’t be able to pull off a crowdfund and instead looked to license our designs to an appliance company.

Our second phase began when we had given up initially on a pre-sale, and partnered with a manufacturer. The manufacturer though wanted us to find VC money for tooling and inventory. This was a frustrating and fruitless endeavor. Slogging from angel group to investor forum to incubator, hearing the same thing over and over again: It’s a great idea, but we’re going to pass on it. In hindsight, I can’t blame them. It was a great idea, but what we were offering wasn’t appealing. There was too much risk in buying tooling and inventory without existing customers. This also lasted about 2 years, and, we were just about to pack it in when we finally had our breakthrough.

By last summer (2019) Prim and I were a month away from shelving the project when we finally hit our tipping point, and connected with our now-CEO David M. M. Taffet. David has experience raising money and building successful companies in a variety of industries as different as data storage and cash-for-gold. David shared our vision for the product, he characterized it as a “Category Killer” to supplant traditional waste disposal methods. He was able to take a fresh look at what we were trying to accomplish and immediately brought us back to our initial crowdfunding strategy, this time with a contingent of investors that would allow us to bring to bear the kind of resources needed for a proper “pre-sale” event. The strategy seems obvious in hindsight, but all the best ideas are.

Building a new business is so risky that the number one best thing you can do to beat the odds is find someone who’s done it before, and give them what’s needed to motivate them to help you succeed. Be judicious, be careful, and ask for proof of past success when you’re looking for that person, but the bottom line is that’s what you need. Think about it, they’ve made all the mistakes before, they’ve figured out what works, and they have an extensive network of people to help. In the end, you’re going to know everything that you know, and everything they know, and that’s going to boost your odds of success substantially.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Invented My Product” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

You can’t do it all by yourself. Prim and I tried to do way too much by ourselves. We were engineers by trade, and we were very good at engineering, but when you’re acting as engineers, executives, PR people, marketers and pitch-men, you end up wearing so many hats at once that you stall out in every aspect of the business. Build a team that covers all your bases with people that have overlapping skillsets for redundancy. Do this as early on as you can so that you gain the benefits of compounded synergies early on.

However long you think it’s going to take, it’s going to take twice as long. When I sold my girlfriend (now my wife) on striking out on my own with Petal, I told her I thought it would take a year to get things off the ground. I really thought it would take two years, and now we’re three months into year six.

Your success is based on probabilities. A large part of success is based in chance, but the more people you meet, and the longer you persevere, the higher your odds get. It’s like fishing in that your odds of reeling something in improve the longer you keep at it, granted you’re in the right spot. Take every opportunity to meet new people and actively expand your network. You never know what kind of chance connection will spark chain reaction leading to a big win! A decision to go to a whiskey tasting event culminated over a year later in a connection with our now CEO David M. M. Taffet.

Identify and employ parallel strategies towards success. You can only focus on one thing at a time, but you have 16 hours in the day to shift that focus amongst a plurality of strategies. You should always pursue parallel paths to success. The path Prim and I took in our first two phases was very linear. That’s one of the reasons it took us so long to find success. If you’re pursuing three different paths to success, you’ve boosted your odds by a factor greater than three because those paths could converge.

Trust in “the flow”. A lot has been said about “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. I’m a pretty grounded, practical guy, but I’ve seen very extraordinary coincidences, so I keep an open mind. If you are diligently positioning yourself correctly, synchronicities tend to coalesce into a type of “flow” that offers up opportunities to you. It’s up to you to reach out and seize them. It might not be what you had in mind, but God, fate, the universe, whatever you want to call it will always give you something you can work with. Trusting the flow will also reduce your stress and anxiety.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

This sounds like a great place for a checklist and it plays off of some ground we’ve already covered:

  1. See if it already exists (i.e. it’s available to buy)
  2. See if it ever did exist (was, and failed)
  3. See if something else exists that solves the same problem
  4. Determine if your solution is better enough to win out
  5. See what other people think of the idea
  6. See if there’s a patent for it (if someone thought of it)
  7. Develop a working prototype
  8. Develop a rough business strategy (business plans are academic exercises in fantasy)
  9. Seek out entrepreneurial grants, bursaries, and other governmental development funding
  10. Form a partnership with an institution or incubator for access to resources and equipment
  11. Refine your product into ready for production (partner with an industrial designer too)
  12. Build a brand strategy, a go-to-market strategy (pre-sale / crowdfund)
  13. Work your network to find Seed Investors who will put up cash

We could keep going, but that’s plenty to get started.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

One thing we did not do is approach an invention development consultant so I cant comment either way. That said, paying others as consultants to help develop your branding, strategy, and to have access to their networks to expand your chances of success is something we did do. It is how we were ultimately able to make our breakthrough connection. Whoever you talk to, make sure you are thorough in checking their background, ask for clear examples of prior success, always have an NDA, and negotiate results-based compensation.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Since we’re talking about a physical product, you’re going to need venture capital eventually. Take it as far as you can by partnering with colleges and universities, and taking advantage of government grants and programs before you look for that investment. These things add value and legitimacy to your idea. Then approach investors with a crowdfunding plan for a product launch that includes a fully developed branding strategy. Also keep in mind that if you’re going to use the capital you’re raising to hire a service, try offering equity to a service provider in lieu of cash since the equity you’re giving up would be exchanged for cash anyway.

Bootstrapping is really tough. I had saved about $20k when I took the plunge, and that lasted me one frugal year of living. If you’re someone that’s developing a product, almost by definition, you know things others can benefit from knowing. Teach.

Teaching part-time at a college or university can be extremely helpful by relieving financial pressures and open up additional resources and opportunities for you to develop your business without consuming all of your precious time. This is a win-win because many institutions are looking for people with real-world experience to share with their students, as well as great ideas they can foster in their commercial partnership programs. Again, an exemplary example of this was our partnership with Sheridan College and CAMDT. The partnership we’ve forged with them has been instrumental to our success.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

As I mentioned before, I’ve had the privilege of teaching engineering principles to thousands of students, the majority of which are foreign students seeking their education in Canada. In the classroom, I’m always sure to impart my students not only with important engineering concepts, but with life lessons and career advice that have taken me years to learn. If I can give them a head start with the life lessons I’ve learned in my journey, they’ll be that much further ahead, which in turn sets us all ahead.

If we want to reach a more equitable society, we need to strive for an equality of opportunity for every child. I intend to use my success to develop and deploy a diverse set of educational options for young people. Everyone learns differently, and from what I can observe, the one-size-fits-all system that we are employing today doesn’t work very well.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It’s been said that if you were to take out all of the screens in a room, you couldn’t really tell if you were in the year 1971, or 2021 (unless it had a Petal in it, of course!). It seems that while we’ve excelled in the realm of bits and (Information Technology) we’ve totally stagnated in the realm of atoms.

IT has allowed for incredible advancements in productivity, but as we’ve shifted to a service economy, we’ve lost the ability to produce things we depend on (like PPE and pharmaceuticals) and shed many well-paying manufacturing jobs, leaving a lot of people behind. Coal miners and machinists matter just as much as programmers and software engineers and we need to get back to a place where we’re making things again.

That’s our aspiration with Petal. We chose early on to have a North American supply chain and to prioritize the enrichment of our communities through gainful employment opportunities instead of sending those opportunities overseas and just importing the profit back to us.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Along the same vein as getting back to a place where we make things again, Mike Rowe is doing great things through his Mike Rowe Works Foundation. The work he’s doing to shed the unjustified stigma our society has developed for blue collar jobs is desperately needed to rebalance our societal priorities. Welders, plumbers, electricians, masons, and everyone else working with their hands are helping to keep the lights on, the water flowing, and our roads and bridges safe and useful. Rowe is a genuine, humble guy who’s been providing fantastic insight into the problems our society faces and doing something to solve those problems. That, and he seems like a great guy to have a beer with.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.