19°N: Honu Cooling Pack

Product Manager | 2020-2022
Project Overview
My primary product was the wearable active cooling pack for runners, hikers, cyclists, and adventurers called the Honu Pack. The original technology was implemented as a wearable cooling shirt system for US Navy shipyard welders working in dangerously hot conditions. I managed a small flexible innovation team to bring the project from concept to first deliveries. As part of this effort, we launched a spinoff brand called 19 Degrees North that sold over $30,000 worth of products in the first year and are expanding into new markets.
My Role
At Oceanit, I adapted government-sponsored technology to consumer products. As a product manager I:
  • Identified potential markets and presented problems, competitors, partners, market sizing, and opportunities.
  • Conducted ethnographic research with potential users and synthesized research into actionable insights.
  • Create and test business cases for new products entering the market through simulated sales, pre-orders, A/B testing, and price sensitivity analysis.
  • Branded and promoted new products.
  • Contracted with industrial designers, prototypers, partner companies, media content producers, advertisers, and vendors to bring projects to life.
Background & Early Research
In the early 2010’s my company began working with the government to develop a nanopolymer that efficiently conducted heat to create better cooling solutions for soldiers, pilots, and welders facing extreme heat. My role at Oceanit was translating this technology to a consumer-facing product that Oceanit could market, license, or spin-off.

The first phase of my work involved scoping the project and creating an initial landscape mapping. Through a lightning-fast series of user interviews, market research, and lots of googling, I put together a proposal for a two-year staged approach with milestones and deliverables that de-risked the product as it progressed.

The initial phase consisted of in-depth ethnographic research and market research. Identifying a fundamental problem, use case, user group, and business case was critical in aligning the team and convincing the company's executive board to fund the project. We began interviewing by casting a wide net and talking to firefighters, race-car drivers, construction workers, doctors, extreme athletes, welders, microchip manufacturers, oil-rig workers, and more. From this, we learned who felt the most acute response to heat stress, who was willing to pay for solutions, how people thought about safety and performance, and what people thought about existing cooling solutions (often limited to “drink plenty of water, stay in the shade, and take breaks”).

Concurrently, I worked on researching the macro-market trends for each industry. Internally we decided that our team was interested in working on consumer-facing products, selling directly to the user, and entering growing markets. These constraints further helped us refine our target users and pinpoint where we wanted to focus our efforts.

I synthesized the results of this research by creating personas, journey maps, prototypes, and visual mock-ups of what each potential path could move towards. From this, two large high-potential markets were found: outdoor enthusiasts and people with medical conditions that made it difficult to regulate their body temperature. As an initial approach, we would design for the outdoor gear market with the hopes of expanding.
MVP, Brand Development, & Crowdfunding
Next, I went through rapid design cycles to create a cohesive product, brand, and business model. Building on the needs for comfort, adaptability, trustworthiness, and approachability we learned from our research, I led the team to create a brand that highlighted these aspects and enabled new adventurers to have more confidence in their ability to tackle complex challenges.

The design of the pack followed these characteristics. Our internal engineering team and I worked together to create prototypes that honed in on the specific needs of cyclists, runners, and hikers in hot climates. Minimizing weight, maximizing comfort, and proving reliability were all built into the pack, and I continually prototyped with potential customers in Hawai'i throughout the process. We also created a dedicated company around helping outdoor adventurers cope with an increasingly hot climate - 19°N. I made a brand deck, wireframes in Figma, digital ads, and a website wrapped around similar messaging that connected with users. In addition, I built different promotional materials for the various markets we continued to explore and work with (brochures, fliers, outreach packets, pitch decks, and articles).

Catapulting off this branding, we launched a Kickstarter to test the initial market. I contracted and managed a product marketing team and digital advertiser. We created a comprehensive marketing strategy, put together multi-platform ads, and optimized for maximum returns. In two months, my team raised $30,000 between Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and pre-sales.
Manufacturing, Partnerships, & Expansion
After answering our market viability questions through crowdfunding, I found and worked with contractors to finish the industrial design of the bag and manufacture the initial batch of 500 units. I worked with two vendors in China, a prototyper in Thailand, and a manufacturer in the US to create our first backpacks. When I ended my time at Oceanit, we had the first finalized samples from each vendor, had given initial products to early supporters, and were ready to ramp up manufacturing to deliver our Kickstarter orders.