A Simple Mug is Improving People’s Quality of Life: With the Co-Founders of Jamber
“We’ve had countless people call, email, or write handwritten letters, telling us how much Jamber has improved their lives.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana & Allen Arseneau, the husband and wife duo that co-founded Jamber, a new consumer brand that is changing the world, one cup at a time. These two sport some pretty impressive stats. While Diana went to Harvard, and Allen went to Stanford, they both come from very humble beginnings, and shared that they struggled through all sorts of adversity to get where they are today.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
Ours is a story of grit.
Being gritty has allowed us to build Jamber. Both Diana and I are naturally very gritty people — we’re driven, determined, and persistent. Diana was the first person from her public high school to attend Harvard. I come from a family of six boys, raised by a 5’3” 100-pound single mom in Boston. My commitment to school (and mixed martial arts) allowed me to get out of the violence and poverty that surrounded me. Neither of us come from money, and we’ve both learned to be very frugal — a gift that helped us succeed as entrepreneurs. We are blessed with two wonderful children — Shauna is 11-years-old, and William is only 5-months-old.
We started Jamber so that my grandfather could enjoy his coffee without pain. He was my hero growing up — an 82nd Airborne Army Ranger veteran of the Korean War. A tough man. One day, five years ago, we were having lunch at his senior living community. He was struggling to hold a paper cup of water. When I asked him how he drinks coffee, he responded “It’s horrible. Don’t get old. Everything hurts…my fingers, my hand, my wrist. Everything.” We looked around, and saw a room full of older women struggling to hold their cups. It turns out that mugs were designed 12,000 years ago, and have not really changed since. After so many millennia, humans have been conditioned to just accept that mugs have dinky little handles that make drinking difficult. So, we set out to design a better mug, and a better handle.
We thought this would be easy. But, it took us almost two and a half years! Being a scientist and an engineer, we naturally wanted to incorporate real data and research into the design. In the end, we created a family of fourth order polynomial equations that were transformed into the Jamber handle (so cool, I know!). After living with Jamber for so long, we’ve realized that Jamber is more than just a mug, it’s really a shift in the way we interact with physical products. Jamber frees us from having to think about picking up a mug, so that we can give all of our attention to enjoying the smallest moments, and the people we share them with.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
After an hour of chatting at a trade show, we had to ask George Blankenship (creator of the Gap Store, Apple Store, Tesla Store, and Amazon brick-and-mortar store) to leave us alone.
Actually, it was more like, thank you so much for all of your time and advice, but we are being swarmed with customers we must attend to! We met George at a trade show in Nashville where he was the keynote speaker. George came back to our booth and was so kind to share all sorts of fantastic thoughts and ideas with us about Jamber. He loved what we were doing, and left happily with a Jamber mug.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We like to think that we create James Bond-esque products. We create beautiful, hip, and sophisticated products that have almost hidden functional benefits on the inside. Take the Jamber mug — it looks like a super cool modern mug, and then you hold it. It’s like magic. Your hand goes into functional rest, which means your ligaments and tendons are at rest, so there is little or no strain.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
My big brother Paul Ruckes. Paul and I were matched 30 years ago, as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization. He’s the father that I never had. Paul has been our sounding board as we’ve grown Jamber, and a huge supporter.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It might sound ridiculous to say that a mug can change the world, but it’s true. We’ve had countless people call, email, or write handwritten letters, telling us how much Jamber has improved their lives. In fact, we actually feel that building Jamber is a moral obligation.
Every person has their own story for why they love Jamber. For some, it’s that they don’t need to use their thumb to pick up the mug. Some become obsessed with the stabilizing nub under the handle (it makes the mug really stable). For others, it’s that they can hold a cup of coffee for a full hour at a time. Parents have told us that their children drink more water. Customers tell us that Jamber very quickly becomes their favorite mug of all time, and that now that they have Jamber, they can’t go back to anything else.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my startup,” and why?
- Done is better than perfect. Just get stuff done. Waiting for the perfect time or outcome often leads to no outcome. Iterate and make prototypes. Sometimes imperfect is great.
- Find an entrepreneurial network around you. Founders need to commiserate, share ideas, and refresh themselves. What better way to do this than with other entrepreneurs?
- Keep lots of chocolate on hand. Whether that’s fancy chocolate on days that you want to celebrate (L.A. Burdick anyone?), or copious amounts of cheap chocolate for all the other days (Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips will do just fine). Chocolate makes everything better.
- Be on the lookout for great hires on day one. Start thinking about your first hires from the beginning. Part of running a successful company is attracting top talent. A great book with practical details is: Who: The A-Method For Hiring, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Sometimes, you happen to see your idol on the street. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. We’ve spoken with George Blankenship, Soledad O’Brien, Steven Tyler, Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, Ben Stiller, Michael Buble, the Counting Crows, a Bomb Squad Trooper, and many others.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
We’ll pick two, since there are two of us.
Howard Schultz of Starbucks, since we’ve made the best coffee mug in 12,000 years — it would really just make sense for us to get together—and Sara Blakely of Spanx. We loved listening to her story on NPR’s “How I Built This.” She created a product that makes people’s lives better, she has a young family, and she keeps it real.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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