Notable Notebooks: Don’t Judge a Notebook by its Cover
By Notable notebooks team
June 14, 2018
A Little About Our Company
Notable is a Calgary-based startup that was founded as part of the LaunchX Clubs Program. Our mission is to reduce paper waste and advocate environmental sustainability by providing convenient everyday alternatives to people all around the world. We want to contribute to a greener future by helping people make simple and achievable lifestyle changes. As busy high school students from middle-class backgrounds, we understand that it is often difficult to choose the environmentally friendly option when factors such as cost and convenience also have to be taken into account, so we decided to develop a product that provides the benefits of all three. By making it easier and more appealing for people to be environmentally conscious, we aim to pave the way for change on a large scale. We know that big changes are made in small steps; our hope is to be one of those steps.
With Notable, form meets function in a clever eco-friendly design. Our reusable waterproof notebooks can be written on with any FriXion™ pen, then erased with a damp cloth, and reused. The notebooks come with 4 pages for daily, weekly, monthly, and custom project planning, in addition to 20 blank pages that can be used however you wish. With durable waterproof paper and stylish cover designs, Notable aims to be an affordable solution for everyone’s paper needs.
The Road So Far
In terms of traction, Notable has been met with considerable interest: market research showed that 37% of 150+ survey respondents considered paper waste to be the most pressing environmental issue in the world today and this concern was backed up in our initial sales. In the first 7 days of business, we earned $350 in revenue including nearly $100 of pre-orders. Initial customers were impressed by the almost-magical ability to erase the ink so easily. A school trade show also helped us to gain more traction within our initial target market of students and teachers. Approximately 35% of people that visited our booth decided to purchase a notebook, allowing us to break even on our very first day of sales.
We are a team of 11th Grade students based in Calgary, Canada with a shared passion for business and entrepreneurship. Yi Nuo Cheng, Director of Marketing, manages our website and social media profiles, in addition to designing any promotional material. Emily Chen, Director of Finance, organizes Notable’s financial data, accounting information, and day-to-day transactions. Elaine Wang, Director of Production, manages the production process and researches potential new technologies for our product. Karen Hu, Director of Quality Control, ensures that our product continually meets the standards of excellence that we expect from ourselves and our company. Over the past few months, we have faced the ups and downs of building a startup together and we continue to grow and thrive as a team.
Having brought Notable to where it is today, we believe there are some lessons that are better learned first-hand. For us, one such lesson was that the road to success is never set in stone. One of the LaunchX lectures featured a graph of what a company’s path to success might look like – it was anything but straightforward. At times we found ourselves taking one step forward and two steps back, revisiting stages we’d thought we’d already passed and sometimes even starting from scratch with a different product idea. It was certainly frustrating at times but in the end, it was to our benefit – thanks to the consistent re-evaluation of our product, we became more aware of our goals and better equipped to lead our company to success.
Another thing we learned from our experience with LaunchX was the importance of communication. Ensuring that important tasks are delegated efficiently is crucial to the success of any business. Without communication, it is very hard to work effectively and finish projects successfully. To strengthen accountability, we made sure to be disciplined in keeping our schedule for meetings.
We also feel it is important to acknowledge that the process is more important than the result. Success is not always guaranteed, but success and failure do not dictate the value of the experience. The new skills, experiences, and memories are by far the most valuable thing we have gained from starting our company and are the reason we are motivated to building Notable day in, day out.
Finally, we learned to have fun! Though there have definitely been difficult moments and times when mistakes were made, we have managed to overcome these obstacles and often laugh about them in retrospect. The ability to recover from, adapt to, and thrive despite hardship has been an invaluable lesson for us and it is all the better that happy memories and friendships have been made along the way. As the saying goes, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Advice For New Entrepreneurs
Building a startup can definitely seem intimidating at first. You have so many ideas and a strong will to see them into reality but are unsure about how best to go about getting there. Here are some pointers to keep in mind along the way!
Firstly, make sure team members have set roles. Assigning various VP or Director titles is a simple and effective way to make sure that everyone knows what they need to do. Having complementary skill sets and encouraging one another to use your talents and abilities to their full potential will help to create synergy and balance within a team. Each individual should take ownership and responsibility for their role to give your company the best shot at success. Furthermore, having a variety of roles, skill sets, and perspectives can be extremely useful in the synthesis and refinement of ideas. Two heads are better than one!
Reach out to industry professionals, mentors, and teachers for guidance and feedback to help you figure out what works for your company. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who might be able to provide you with valuable advice and input, whether it be for product development, team building, or even inspiration, so feel free to seek the wisdom of those who understand your struggles and have been through the process before.
Working, thinking, and learning as a team is also extremely important. Particularly when things are just starting out, efficiency is key. Working cohesively ensures that things get done in an effective manner. Find team members who share your vision and are passionate about the company and what you are trying to achieve. Shared experiences and friendships are what make the entire entrepreneurial process meaningful and fun!
Perhaps the most valuable advice any entrepreneur can receive is, “Don’t Give Up!” The ‘trough of sorrow’ was a concept introduced early on at LaunchX – it refers to the period of struggle that many founders go through after the initial high of starting their company. If this happens to you, don’t worry. Know that almost every company has been through the same struggle and that, while it will take considerable time and effort to overcome, it is possible to come out the other side a stronger company, ready to set yourself on the path to success.
The Road Ahead
We are happy to announce that Notable will be continuing as a company for the coming year. Going forward, we are considering a change in operations: instead of simply aiming to make a profit, we plan to give back to our local community in broader ways. We are thinking about changing our business model to involve recruiting volunteers to make the notebooks and then donating profits to a charitable cause. This would enable us to spread our vision of environmental sustainability to a wider audience, as well as empowering our volunteers to take action in their local community and make a positive change.
Over the past nine months, we have learned so much through our experience with the LaunchX Clubs Program: how to work effectively as a team, the ups and downs of startup life, and the importance of young people driving innovation. We would like to thank LaunchX for the opportunity to take entrepreneurship into our own hands, as well as the incredible opportunity to participate in the Global Demo Day at MIT. It was truly inspiring to witness the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of our fellow Global Finalists and to hear such powerful words from the mentors and LaunchX alumni. Knowing that we are capable of making a real difference in the world is an amazing feeling and we couldn’t be more excited to see what happens next!