Kyle George and Gregory Barnes, two 2nd year engineering students, are the creators behind Henlen Watches. These two young entrepreneurs have created an interchangeable smartwatch for all occasions.
We sat down with Kyle and Greg to discuss Henlen Watches, their experience as young entrepreneurs, and what’s next for their company.
Tell me about Henlen Watches
We have created an interchangeable smart watch that allows for a smart component to be swapped and compatible with various bands and designs that we manufacture. It’s all about the user customization and letting them decide what they want to wear instead of telling them what to wear. Our product lets the user change watches depending on what activity they’re doing, whether it’s going to the gym, going to a business meeting, or wearing something casually around every day.
Something we really focus on is the traditional watch aspect. With traditional watches, they aren’t meant to be worn every single day for every activity. You have different ones for different occasions, whereas the current smart watches are just a piece of technology that you’re slapping on your wrist. We’re trying to bring it back to what watches were originally purposed for, with the same functionality that a smart watch has. Right now Henlen Watches is preparing to create a sports band, a casual band and a more elegant band for special occasions.
Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
Kyle – When the original Moto 360 came out, I bought one and loved the functionality of it but was not a fan with how it looked. It didn’t match with anything. When I had to go to a formal event, I had to wear one of my fancier watches without the functionality of a smart watch. Once we realized that smart watches wouldn’t appeal to everyone just based on how they looked, Greg and I started brainstorming different ideas of how we could make it better and it eventually grew into Henlen Watches.
Greg – We weren’t actually sure about becoming entrepreneurs. We were in an engineering program and we had an idea, not necessarily thinking “let’s make this a business” but more of “let’s make this idea happen.” We heard about FastStart at University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College in Oshawa, and went to one of their bootcamps run by Spark Centre. The bootcamp was all about how to start a business and how to actually turn your idea into something. That’s when we realized it was more than just an idea.
How has Spark Centre helped Henlen Watches?
Dennis Croft, President & CEO of Spark Centre was the first person we spoke to at the FastStart Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in February 2015. After meeting Dennis and going through the bootcamp, we signed up to become Spark Centre clients. We were then pointed towards the new UOIT Brilliant Incubator which allowed us to have free space at Spark Centre’s head office ‘The Loft’ and be able to work with Dennis as our lead advisor and mentor. Dennis has really helped us with everything from putting together a business plan to getting our company incorporated. We had a lot of learning to do when it came to starting a business.
What are some milestones you have reached?
Figuring out what to call our company was a pretty big milestone. Another big milestone was joining the UOIT Brilliant Incubator. Being accepted into that incubator came with a $5,000 grant from the Firefly Entrepreneurship Fund which really fueled us into the journey we’re on now. Also, through the incubator we participated in various pitch competitions which gave us exposure and public interest in our company. We ended up winning the final pitch competition and were awarded $2,500 as well as $1,000 for being the top leaderboard company (based on incubator attendance, participation and other milestones). We’re currently on a very positive path with our product development, we’re getting our manufacturing in order, and we’ve figured out our brand.
What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?
Even if you think your idea is a bad idea, just do it. The amount of things you learn from the start-up scene opens your eyes to so many opportunities. Maybe you’re first idea will crash, but learning from that will help you in your next venture until you find something that works for you. If we hadn’t gone to that FastStart Bootcamp, we probably would not have started a business. If you have an idea, get advice from the right people. Don’t just keep it to yourself, because you never know where it will take you.
What’s next for Henlen Watches?
We are currently looking for investment to help fuel the marketing for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign. Our goal is to launch on Kickstarter in early Summer. We are also hoping to get accepted into the next cohort of Spark Centre’s Thrive Accelerator program.
If you’re interested in learning more about Henlen Watches, please get in touch through their website henlenwatches.com