"This should exist!"
In a moment of frustration, Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, was struck with inspiration. After searching high and low for a solution to a problem she and many others had, she figured out a brilliant yet simple solution. Likewise, the founders' vision for Bonvera, an idea they felt must exist, was born out of a time of frustration.
The why of Bonvera is two fold: the opportunity in the marketplace and the opportunity noticed in the midst of incredible frustration in a broken business model. The former we'll discuss in this post. The latter we'll discuss in the post Fixing an Entire Industry.
For a business to succeed it must fill a gap in the marketplace; it must fix a problem that others have not yet identified or solved. In the case of Bonvera, the problems have been identified, but in our opinion, have not been adequately solved.
In our ever-changing and fast-paced society, conventional career wisdom seems to be producing less and less positive fruit. I'm a living example of following conventional wisdom to a tee. I went to school, got good grades, got accepted and received many scholarships to Kettering University, a private, top rated engineering school where I graduated with honors with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. My thesis research at Spectranetics, a medical device company, produced two patents. I did everything society teaches to be "successful."
While everything was looking good on the outside, I was felt like I was dying on the inside. Already, in my early 20s, I was frustrated because I was sitting in a cubicle for the best hours of the best days of my life. And to make it even more exciting, I had another 45-50 years to do it. This really started eating at me when I got married and started having kids. Watching all of my kids' firsts and fun moments on my cell phone screen at work in a cubicle wasn't in my definition of success. I desperately wanted to be free. I desperately wanted to spend my time with those I love and pursuing what I was called to do, not just what could make me some decent money (in return for the majority of my waking life).
The path I had set out on put me in a place where I wasn't happy. I was time poor and even though I made good money, it was very difficult to make it possible for my wife to stay at home with the kids. I don't believe my story is rare. In fact, as we started doing research, we realized just how common stories like mine are. The shocking part was realizing how many people are in worse shape with their time, money or both.
Our market research revealed four distinct issues that most people are facing.
A large percentage of Americans are in a very tight financial bind. Here are just a few statistics to shed light on the magnitude of the problem.
-60% of Americans don’t have $1000 in savings (bankrate.com)
-$37,172 is the average student loan debt for class of 2016 (Time)
-$5,000 is the median retirement savings for working age families (CNBC)
These are just a few statistics in a myriad of retirement and savings statistics, most of which are just as alarming. We don't believe we have to convince you that most Americans are in a bad financial situation. They're desperately looking for a solution!
To compound the problem, many of the Americans that are already hurting financially are in jobs that are square in the crosshairs of automation. McKinsey Global Institute had this to say:
"One Third of US workers may need to learn new skills and find work in a new occupation... Workers everywhere will need to rethink traditional notions of where they work, how they work, and what talents and capabilities they bring to that work."
The workforce is changing dramatically and at a breakneck pace. If people don't start preparing for Information Age careers they're likely going to end up deepening their already dire financial situation.
Long work hours, stress, and an overall busy lifestyle is leading to a health epidemic in our country. Easy, unhealthy options tend to be the go-to for many people. Our constant on-the-go lifestyles don't lend themselves to a healthy lifestyle. The lack of time and money up front make the problem worse which, unfortunately, makes the financial issue even worse down the road.
Today's world allows us to be more connected that ever before. However, the depth of those relationships is at an all time low. Real-world, offline relationships and a community of supportive, serving, uplifting people are fading, yet people are desperately craving them.
"The onslaught of digital communities and virtual connections in our lives has left people more connected and disconnected than any other time in history. After a decade of gorging ourselves on friending, liking, tweeting status updates, instagramming meals and snapchatting conversations – sometimes in lieu of connecting with our friends and family offline – what we are craving today is authentic human connection. The SHIFT Report shows that 81% of people listed feeling connected to family, friends and community as a top sustainability issue." ci-shift.com
All of these issues are connected by the underlying current of a lack time and/or money.
This begs the question: Why hasn't anyone solved these problems yet?
The answer is that many companies are trying to solve these problems - individually. We believe that the best way to solve these issues is to provide a solution to the underlying problems of a lack of time and money. Many companies offer great health products and education, many companies/groups offer community, many companies offer financial education, many companies offer Information Age opportunities. The problem is that they're dispersed and disconnected.
Our solution to these four problems is elegant and simple. Before I dive into Bonvera's offering, let me introduce the leadership team of the company.