BZbox was invented by Kaeya Majmundar, an undergraduate at Emory University. Kaeya was frustrated after helping her friend move boxes out of a dorm room and spent the summer reinventing the cardboard box. Now, BZbox has evolved into an easy to use, all purpose, collapsible storage product.
Kaeya aspires to be a serial entrepreneur and has applied for patents with several different products in a variety of industries. A couple of her most recent products are being sold in the products section of this website for a limited time.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was raised in a family of doctors, and so my venture into entrepreneurship was something brand new to me and to everyone around me. I feel that my ability to lead came from the fact that I was the first in my family to explore this "unchartered territory." I had to learn everything on my own, and that meant devouring every article, every book, and every word of advice I could get my hands on from today's successful entrepreneurs. Now I have this large memory bank with all things entrepreneurial stored in my head, and I am able to draw from that any time aspiring entrepreneurs approach me for advice.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at BZbox?
The only other "job" I've had was being a Resident Advisor in a dorm at Emory University. It has been a great experience because I enjoy interacting with my freshmen charges and guiding them along their way. At the same time, however, it has also made me realize that I really never want to have to "answer up" to anyone. It's not that I particularly disliked working under supervision, but I never really liked having to report to someone or get approval every time I tried to make a decision. I want to be my own boss.
With BZbox and ZipTank, I get to call all the shots. It comes with a lot of pressure because it is all up to me to make or break the products, but that challenge motivates me to work hard and be creative.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at BZbox?
The biggest highlight by far was pitching BZbox on the Season 5 Finale of ABC's hit show, "Shark Tank." That was the experience of a lifetime that I will never forget. Getting grilled by the Sharks really propelled me into the reality of how hard selling a product is and what it takes to have it endorsed by successful entrepreneurs.
At the same time, handling the aftermath of being on "Shark Tank" is also my biggest challenge. The show has generated a lot of interest from consumers who want to buy my products but I have not had a lot of luck getting into retail stores. Many retailers have approached me, started paperwork, negotiations, but then sort of faded away. I am still in the process of getting shelf-space, which is something I feel I should have achieved already, especially because my final product is ready to go. However, I realize that high demand is a good problem to have and I am optimistic about being able to put my product in the market.
What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
I always tell young women with entrepreneurial aspirations to take advantage of their minority status. Being one of the few women in business pitch competitions, meetings, and conferences made me stand out amongst the crowd...literally and figuratively. There you have a bunch of guys in black suits and ties lined up to pitch and then you see me, in a bright red dress. Women also tend to be better at letting our personality and personal drive shine through our pitches in contrast to men who tend to focus only on the facts and figures. I always play that to my favor and I feel it has helped me to capture my audiences and judges.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It is really difficult because I am an undergraduate Economics major and an entrepreneur. Fortunately, many of my professors have accommodated my business schedule into class work obligations. It takes a lot of organization and discipline for me to be able to handle both well. Then there are sacrifices to be made; I am often so exhausted by the end of the week that I skip out on the weekend college parties and excursions with friends; but I figure that if I give up some thing right now, there will be plenty of time and reason to party once my products are selling.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Separating my brain from my heart in decision-making has been the biggest challenge for me as a woman. Men tend to make decisions only based on numbers and tend not to worry about how their decisions impact others. We women, on the other hand, worry about how our decisions may affect others and sometimes we can also let others affect our own decisions. Although this may cloud our judgment once in a while, it also makes women more trustworthy. This certainly played out on my "Shark Tank" episode. Kevin O'Leary had offered me a deal but I really held out for Lori because I knew she would give me the support I wanted and not just give me money and leave me to my own devices.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
After winning the Collegiate Entrepreneur's Organization's Elevator pitch competition in 2012, I have been fortunate to have met Chicagoans especially who have been invaluable to my personal and professional growth. A few particularly stand out; Esther Barron, the director of Northwestern University's Bluhm Legal Clinic, and Patrick Richards from Richards Patent Law, have taken care of all things legal for me. Both have spent countless hours explaining things to me in person, over the phone, and over e-mail. They have also filed all my documents with the government to make sure I am running a sound business.
In addition, I recently became acquainted with the Entrepreneur's Organization through Michelle Kehrer, a fellow Chicago entrepreneur and director of EO's Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) program. I am a finalist in the GSEA pitch competition this year, which will be held in Chicago on November 19th where I will compete with 19 other student entrepreneurs. As a part of my prize package, EO invited me to a conference in Cleveland where I was introduced to many successful entrepreneurs who are where I hope to be five years from now. It was very helpful to be able to pick their brains and learn what it will take for me to get there.
Katie Sowa of Chicago's Future Founder's Foundation, whose goal is to guide young Chicago entrepreneurs, has also played an integral role in my endeavors. Anytime I feel I have run into a brick wall, she always helps me find another resource out there to get around it.
Many young entrepreneurs tell me about their hesitations of starting a business without sufficient funds or resources but I have been able to get this far with the help of everyone I just listed and then some. People are more than willing to lend a hand if you just ask; Chicago, in particular, has a wealth of resources just waiting to be taken advantage of by entrepreneurs like us.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
BEYONCÉ! She continues to shatter ceiling after glass ceiling in her kraft. Beyoncé has worked hard for years, clawed her way, and now stands at the pinnacle of the music industry. Despite her staggering success she continues to be personally involved in her business and deliver even more than what her fans expect of her. There's something about Beyoncé's work ethic and her creativity that keeps me perpetually in awe.
What do you want BZbox to accomplish in the next year?
Retail! I really want to see BZbox in stores. Currently, I'm only selling directly off my website.