In the 1990s, a group of friends was formed in the neighborhoods of Jacksonville, FL. Two of those friends, Toby Doebrich and Patrick Breslend, grew up as best friends and now have accomplished the title of “entrepreneurs” together. Today, the duo is chasing the American Dream with their company of childhood friends at Optimal Bagging (OB).
Breslend’s first job, caring for lawns, ended up planting the seeds that would later grow into his current career. After mowing he would stuff lawn debris into trash bags, but found the constant stopping to open bags hindered his work flow. He found pre-shaking the bags saved him the hassle of doing it on the job. The memory stayed with Breslend through the years.
In 2006, both started college in separate states working towards degrees in education. Their paths crossed again in 2011 when both were attending Florida State University. Initially studying to be teachers, Doebrich ended up pursuing ICT and Breslend, Electrical Engineering.
The memory of bags reared its head again when the two began working at FedEx together. When a package is shipped FedEx Ground and weighs less than 5 lbs., they are often put into trash bags before they’re loaded on delivery trucks. Again, Breslend found himself shaking out trash bags by the dozen so he wouldn’t break his work flow, which could lead to stopping the conveyer belt and slowing operations down.
“I asked my supervisor if there were bags that were easier to open,” said Breslend. “He told me they didn’t exist.”
Optimal Bagging came to be on a quiet New Year’s Eve when the team decided that putting a trash bag in the can shouldn’t be such a chore. The night-in turned into a brainstorm session that yielded the first prototype. The initial prototype was made from trash bags and a food vacuum sealer. Later this design would become the Quick-Pack, a pack of trash bags that hangs over the can and takes less than 5 seconds to change. Shortly after in 2010, a patent was filed for the proprietary design of the bag pack, which allowed for convenient changing.
A piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs – a Patent Agent is a great option for writing a patent. Lawyers, which can be more expensive, are better suited for review and patent protection.
Talking (Startup) Trash
“The business plan changed a lot initially,” Doebrich shared. “We would talk to someone who encouraged us to pursue a commercial angle and another would tell us it was a terrible idea and the consumer route was the key.”
OB set up shop at Domi Ventures in Tallahassee. Through their guidance and experiencing multiple start-up events, OB started to find their groove.
March 26-27 2014, OB attended their first startup event in North Carolina. Startup Madness, co-founded by Jason Widen – brother of Domi Venture‘s founder Micah. Doebrich explained the event was a great first experience for OB, giving them an opportunity to do a sales pitch “test run”.
OneSpark & Kickstarter
Just months later, the Jacksonville natives stole the show at OneSpark. From April 7-12, OB shared their product with 250,000 who crowded Downtown Jacksonville. The event drew more people than during the 2005 Super Bowl and attendance numbers doubled from OneSpark 2013.
“I came back without a voice,” laughed Doebrich. “I pitched about trash fourteen hours a day for five days.”
OB was a part of the technology category, OneSpark’s largest, which included around 600 entries. The enthusiasm paid off and OB progressed to the finalist category, alongside a mobile app and a clean energy initiative. The team gave a 2-3 minute pitch to judges and began the waiting game.
“We couldn’t believe we were finalists, we never thought we’d get to that point,” said Breslend.
Get there, they did. In fact, OB went on to win their category and $15,000 to further their business. The OB team was over the moon – throwing shirts in the air before making their victory jog to the stage to receive their check. Shortly after OneSpark, OB ran into their next challenge – their website had no commerce section and couldn’t accomodate interested buyers. For a quick fix, OB started a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of selling bags.
Only around 4% of Kickstarter browsers leave the front page, making visibility a challenge. Doebrich explained that most campaigns start off with a sensational day, the product of friends and family along with other supporters gathered in the few months leading up to the launch all donating in the first 24 hours. Most campaigns see a burst in the beginning and again before the campaign closes. In contrast, OB’s donations steadily grew over the 46 day campaign, ending on June 5th with a final total of $20,440.
Right now, OB has a second patent in its provisional stage. The team is going ahead with a commercial brand strategy and has a team in place to move efforts forward.
Breslend is working with a chemical engineering student to test and analyze different LLDPE plastics in a mass spectrometer. With this information, the team will be working on a unique blend for OB’s bags. Currently, the OB bags are two and a half times thicker than the average bag. The transparent bags allow for safer handling at waste management facilities and quicker processing.
“It’s crazy to think we both came to Florida State wanting to be teachers, and we’re here now,” said Doebrich.
The education both received at Florida State served as a springboard for success. Doebrich credited Zeigler’s speech courses with part of their OneSpark success. After returning, Zeigler had him give the speech to his classmates. Both Breslend and Doebrich graduate in August with degrees in ICT and Electrical Engineering, respectively. Breslend currently works at the Engineering school at Florida State and Doebrich recently moved to Miami to advance his career.