Mario Cesar
On Launching An All-In-One Charging Hub & Wireless Charger
from Los Angeles, CA, USA
started January 2019
alexa rank
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On Launching An All-In-One Charging Hub & Wireless Charger

Hello, my name is Mario Rivas and I’m an entrepreneur in the technology space, founder of Joule, and the inventor of The SmartNote, an all-in-one charging hub, wireless charger, and reusable notepad.

I started Joule with a mission to build better products for both the young & tech-focused consumers. My first product, The SmartNote is a compact and environmentally friendly solution for charging electronic devices, storing data, and writing notes. The SmartNote, users drastically reduce the number of tools they have to carry as they navigate throughout their day. The companion application allows the user to scan a page and quickly send that page to the desired cloud service based on a set of glyphs found at the footer of each page. The application utilizes both cloud computing and AI to solve the problem of having too many notebooks for different agendas.

From the initial inception of the physical product to working with developers on the software for the application, The SmartNote is finally ready to launch after almost two years of development. The SmartNote will be launching in September of 2020.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Being a computer science major and my father being a business owner, I knew I wanted to pursue technology with owning a business being the ultimate goal for me. I studied full time and worked part-time during college. I eventually started dropshipping products on first eBay, and then private labeling products on Amazon to increase my income throughout college.

Online commerce has given individuals the power to ditch brick and mortar stores and sell directly to other consumers; the outreach is virtually unlimited with online sales.

I found that Amazon was not fulfilling enough for me. I wanted to design and create my products for the consumer to use. I enjoyed coming up with brands when private labeling but I wanted to take it a step further and create my very own unique and cool product.

The idea for The SmartNote came to me during college. Being a busy student, constantly going from working to studying, I got tired of carrying around my laptop, phone, notebook, and charging cords from the classroom to the math center (which I was always at during school) and then work. There had to be a better way to carry around all the tools in my messenger bag.

I had a 5-Star 3-ring flex binder at the time that was more ergonomic than your typical binder. I decided to take that a step further and thought about adding what would eventually be “smart features” to the binder itself. I took out everything that was in my messenger bag including my three notebooks, laptop, chargers for my iPhone and TI calculator, portable charger, a couple of colored pens I used for notes, and one USB drive.

I already knew how to get into contact with manufacturers and suppliers through selling products on Amazon's website but the inception of a full-on legal business, the molding, and the prototyping were completely new to me. I had the misconception of how simple the business would be because of how much easier private labeling on Amazon is. I would later learn that building a legal business and working with various companies to make one single product is just about the hardest thing I’ve ever committed to doing.


The design process started with sharing the initial idea with an office supplies manufacturer from China that I had developed a great relationship with while selling through Amazon. They were able to manufacture the notebook but needed the technology sourced from a different supplier I was recommended to. Benefits when working with a Shenzhen company not only include lower manufacturing cost but also the benefit of the companies being involved in a tight-knit community which I would come to realize. The technology company already had a type of wireless charger and an already developed charging hub that would fit into an A4 sized 3-ring binder. The only molding needed was for the magnetic USB latch that would seal the binder together. I drew up some designs for the engineer to work with and was eventually set on one design which I gave the go-ahead to manufacture. The technology for The SmartNote was sent to the office supplies manufacturer for the prototype to be developed. The office supplies manufacturer would end up asking for a high minimum order quantity and a down payment for the manufacturing to begin on the custom order.

I started to run a couple of Facebook ads based on some renders I had a US company complete. Apart from the Facebook ads, I also ran some in-person school surveys to validate the product idea. After a couple of weeks of running with the idea of what The SmartNote would be, I thought there was enough validation to place a $5,000 down payment for The SmartNote and begin the sample manufacturing. Four iterations of The SmartNote were developed due to unfulfilling design and the charging cables being too short and impractical before finally settling on one. I needed to go back to the manufacturer’s four individual times to change design details.

Describe the process of launching the business.

While we are still currently in our launch phase, we are preparing and excited about the release of our product this September 2020. In preparation for its availability, we’ve revamped the website with updated product shots and images, have hired an agency that has been a great help with product exposure, as well as run targeted Facebook ads to gather pre-orders for the September 2020 launch. Pre-orders are currently live on our website and we’re already seeing interest in what the product has to offer.

The initial idea was to run a Kickstarter to fund the development of The SmartNote. I contacted a couple of agencies that specialized in Kickstarter launching and most were interested in The SmartNote. I would then realize that the cost of hiring an agency would directly mimic what the cost of launching The SmartNote would be; I eventually decided on going with the ladder of my options.

The initial startup business costs (both the sample and the molding) were funded by me but I eventually would secure an investor by word-of-mouth to make up for the missing $50,000 I needed to fully fulfill the order quantity/price that the manufacturer was asking for The SmartNote.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Joule has not become profitable...yet. Big Emphasis on yet! Pre-Orders have just begun and we are looking to move around 1,000 units of The SmartNote in the first two months.

With the assistance of our public relations company Otter PR, the launch is looking to be successful as website traffic has grown to about 2,000 page views in the past month. The primary distribution will be through online website sales with the use of both Instagram & Facebook Ad campaigns driving traffic to our site. Amazon will be utilized as it’s a space I’m familiar with and later, distribution through brick & mortar chains such as Walmart and Best Buy will be used.

The SmartNote is currently being used as a flagship product to show off what Joule is capable of. Joule is not only a brand focused on technology but around well-designed lifestyle products. Future products will consist of non-tech accessories to increase Joule’s range of products with their development phase being shorter than that of The SmartNote.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

My biggest obstacle in the development of The SmartNote was the time it took from the initial inception to finally receiving the retail-ready sample in hand. Life is extremely volatile, especially within two years. There were a lot of highs and lows that I went through both personally & professionally while creating the product.

The inclusion of an application a little over halfway through the development process was a mistake I would come to realize. The coding required to inject AI software into the application was a big obstacle that the software developers faced. It took months longer than expected and is a big part of the reason The SmartNote is being released after almost two years of development. While the basis of the application is complete, the full application will not be released until the launch.

Learning how to source from overseas suppliers has helped with the development of The SmartNote as well as the ability to target using Facebook advertising. Being adaptable and a quick hands-on learned has been a trait that’s helped me a bunch with the business thus far.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I’ve implemented a variety of tools since the inception of the business. Tools such as Adobe Illustrator for the design have been a big plus in getting my ideas to my product and packaging manufacturers as well as by software developers. Websites such as Alibaba and Upwork have been great for finding the companies I need to develop such a complex product. Alibaba I’ve been familiar with for years but hiring through Upwork was new to me. Email service Mailchimp is what I used during the first few months of the product inception to gather emails for SmartNote development updates and is a service I will be utilizing during launch.

Squarespace has been great as the service I use to keep a nice and cohesive website up and running. As long as the user applies for a monthly business plan there is no percentage Squarespace takes for product sales which is part of the reason I host a website through them. That and their array of applications such as “Commerce” and “Analytics” is what makes Squarespace great for retail stores.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Lori Greiner has been a big inspiration for creating my product. Books such as The Startup Checklist by David Rose have been helpful for business development.

Youtuber Slidebean: Startups 101 has been a great informational source for tips on startups and mistakes that startups should avoid.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

It’s easier to launch a business in today’s online connected world! I tell people to take advantage of the internet & the abundance of information/communication we have available in 2020. Google and Youtube have made it easy to collect information on the steps it takes to source and receives a product in hand. Services such as Alibaba make it easy to find any kind of supplier for any kind of product you’re looking to invest in! Upwork is great if you’re looking for a skill or individual to aid in the development of the product.

Online commerce has given individuals the power to ditch brick and mortar stores and sell directly to other consumers; the outreach is virtually unlimited with online sales.

I can’t imagine the process it would take to design a product from scratch without the aid of the online tools we have today. I tell mostly everybody that has an idea to take advantage of what information we have available to us literally in the palm of our hands (thank you Smartphones).

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

In the future, Joule will likely be looking to hire a marketing specialist. With the experience needed to effectively and efficiently target on both Instagram & Facebook as well as run SEO campaigns through Google and similar engines.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more by visiting the current product website or emailing us at [email protected]

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Mario Cesar   Founder of Joule
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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