Henry Ford once said of great ideas: "The air is full of them. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time."
Indeed, though great ideas donít grow on trees, it seems that under the right circumstances they can enter your life like an overly ripe citrus fruit that has for too long been dangling unnoticed overhead. There is perhaps no greater testimony for this notion than the story of the "SquE-Z," the invaluable little implement for sanitary and incident-free squeezing of citrus slices that was created by Engineering Technology student Cameron Karamian as a semester project.
The semester project required Karamian and his fellow classmates to come up with innovative product ideas, and to develop manufacturing and marketing plans for them. Karamian had a clear goal in mind for his product: he wanted it to be easily and cheaply manufactured, and to ideally have some secondary, value-added feature that would make it even more beneficial to the customer. However, arriving at precisely what that product should be proved to be something a challenge for him.
Despite many weeks of contemplation and market research, the idea for the SquE-Z came to Karamian in something of a flash, or perhaps more accurately, a "squirt." While having a drink with a friend and brainstorming yet again about his semester project, he attempted to squeeze a lime into his beverage. The stream of juice strayed from its intended target and fortuitously directed itself instead at his eye. "Thankfully, the irony of the situation wasnít wasted on me as I dabbed the juice from my eye," said Karamian. "It was immediately clear to me that this was a consumer need that, to my knowledge, had yet to be met, and I was pretty certain that I could do so within the design parameters I had decided on."
SquE-Z, the Sliced Citrus Juicer
Karamian assembled a team of talented fellow students, and they set about developing detailed manufacturing and marketing plans for the product that he envisioned. The fruit of their many weeks of intensive labor was "Squ-E-Z, the Sliced Citrus Juicer."
Their first production run of 50 units of the SquE-Z demonstrated that the product would indeed be cheap and easy to produce. Upon inspecting these prototypes, Cameron realized that he could customize them for customers by printing their company names, logos, etc. on them, thus achieving the value-added component that he had hoped for.
Emboldened by the glowing response that their presentation received from their professor and fellow students, they decided to present the product at the annual Nightclub and Bar Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Though they had no company and no manufacturing facility, they set up a professional-looking booth and presented themselves as a growing concern.
"We imagined that the attendees would see through our little ruse, but we were hoping to at least get a few orders out of sympathy," said Karamian. "So it didn't come as a big surprise when we didn't get a single order at the show, and we were just grateful that so many people seemed to have a genuinely positive response to our product idea."
It did come as a surprise, therefore, when a flood of orders began to come in the following week, including one from Don Julio Tequila Company for 50,000 units. Though Karamian and his teammates were thrilled to learn that their product was in such demand, they also knew very well that they were not set up for manufacturing in this sort of volume.
Karamian's teammates suspected that, as fulltime students, they wouldn't be able to devote the time that would be required to run such a bustling startup company, and they each ultimately decided to opt out of the ambitious endeavor. Karamian went on to form his own company, Reckko Technologies, and he has since managed to singlehandedly field a steadily increasing number of orders from restaurants, bars, and individuals who want to use personalized SquE-Z's as a unique form of advertising.
He credits his ability to parlay his semester project into an entrepreneurial solo venture to the training he received as a student in the Engineering Technology program at CSULB. "Through the program, Iíve gained the skills and knowledge that have enabled me to be bold and to think outside of the box."
Karamian is presently in negotiations with several potential investors in an effort to take the SquE-Z to the international marketplace. Energized by the success he has enjoyed with the SquE-Z thus far, he is also keeping an eye peeled for another juicy entrepreneurial opportunity.