October 8, 2010
Entrepreneur Ken Zorovich, President of the housewares company ZokuTM, discussed the genesis of the company and the creation of its award-winning 7-minute ice pop maker October 7 at Stevens Institute of Technology, the Innovation University™. Zorovich turned engineering innovation into successful business when he and his team worked two years to create an ice pop maker that could produce the frozen treats 8,500 percent faster than a freezer. The Quick Pop™ Maker is being sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma and on Zoku’s website.
The recurring theme of Zorovich’s presentation was “play.” Through the design process of the Quick Pop Maker, Zorovich and his design team continuously experimented with different methods and materials to make the product better. Business, he said, should be more like a “practice.” “If you’re practicing something you’re getting better,” Zorovich said, “and if you’re practicing something you’re allowed to make mistakes.” It was through play that Zoku’s design team developed its innovative flagship product.
An industrial designer by trade, Zorovich began his career in entrepreneurship when he and fellow designer Yos Kumthampinij founded a company called Propeller, Inc. In their Monroe Street office just blocks away from the Stevens Campus, the company designed an array of products for other companies, from toys to landmine detection equipment – a project they worked on with Stevens Professor Dimitri Donskoy.
Soon the pair wanted to try a hand at their own business. “We were very good at creating value through great design,” Zorovich recalls. “The projects that we worked on were making money for our clients and that in turn was turning into more business for us. What we were getting frustrated with was the value we were creating was so much more than we were getting.”
Zorovich and Kumthampinij decided to form their own company, which would eventually become Zoku. Their first business meeting was in Babbio Center, the same building where he spoke.
Soon Zoku had a five member team and was working on the next great houseware device – an industry Zorovich chose because it had mass appeal and a low point of entry. After two years of trial and error, the Quick Pop Maker was picked up by Williams-Sonoma in time for the 2009 holiday season. That winter, what might normally be considered a summer-time product was a top performer at Williams-Sonoma, thanks to innovation and clever branding.
Citing his own experience, Zorovich emphasized that prospective entrepreneurs should not necessarily jump right into business for themselves. Experience in any given industry counts, he said, and entrepreneurs should use job opportunities as learning experiences. “Don’t be afraid of taking a job that’s not exactly what you want to do or isn’t the perfect situation. You’ll learn from those. They’re really not negative experiences,” he said. The job that doesn’t seem like a good fit could lead to a better understanding of the industry and its processes. “If you want to open a restaurant, get a job in a restaurant. Understand it. Try it.”
In other words, play.
Learn more about entrepreneurship at Stevens at the Office of Academic Entrepreneurship web site. To discover how Stevens can help make ideas a reality, visit undergraduate or graduate admissions. For more information or to purchase Zoku products, please visit, http://www.zokuhome.com.
For more information about Stevens Entrepreneurial Network Events, contact Ms. Sandra Furnbach at email@example.com.