You win a tennis match one point at a time. But, you don’t have to win every point to win the match. I always had been somewhat of a perfectionist. And I always liked to win. Running a start-up means that I’ve had to leave that pursuit of perfection behind because we have endless tasks and not endless time. Further, I can’t get caught up if I don’t come up on top at every instance. Aligning expectations with reality does wonders for your ability to keep pushing forward. The only way to move Jamber forward is to know when good is good enough, and when we can continue to improve in later iterations. Of course, sometimes we have to chase perfection — for instance, with product design, but most of the time, perfection is just not needed.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Arseneau, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Jamber. Diana and her husband, Allen Arseneau, started Jamber, a housewares start-up that enhances the lives of everyday people by innovating products that have been overlooked. They’ve completely re-invented the coffee mug using bio-engineering and a human-centric data driven design approach. Jamber is now in use in all 50 United States, Canada, Europe, and South Africa.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve always been driven, determined and persistent. Being gritty has allowed my husband and me to build Jamber. I was the first person from my public high school to attend Harvard, where I studied chemistry. I started my career in clinical oncology with the mission of helping others on a larger scale than I thought I could with one on one medical care (as a chemistry major, 99% of my classmates were pre-med). I became frustrated by the exceptionally long lead-times (upwards of 10 years!), and while I felt I was contributing to greater mission of good, it wasn’t with the scale that I had envisioned. I’d always been interested in entrepreneurship, but it wasn’t until meeting my husband, who has a much higher tolerance for risk than me, coupled with our a-ha moment, that I took the leap myself. I’m glad I did.
Why did you found your company?
We were having lunch with Allen’s grandfather, a former 82nd Airborne Ranger, the toughest of tough. Allen noticed his grandfather struggling to lift his coffee mug — and that was our a-ha moment. That’s when we suddenly became aware of how incredibly uncomfortable coffee mugs are.
At home that evening, this was even more clear as I used my then favorite mug. The mug was hard to pick up and hold, and my fingers hurt if I held it longer than a few seconds. I often burned my knuckles on the cup body, and I had to be extra cautious when taking the mug from the microwave to avoid hot spills. These downfalls had always been there; now we were aware of them.
So, we did what anyone would do — we combined the principles of biomechanics with the technology of 3D printing to bioengineer a better mug. The impact of this innovation on a everyday product has been remarkable.
I never thought I could make a difference in this world making coffee mugs, but we get emails, phone calls, and hand-written notes everyday from customers telling us how much Jamber has improved their lives. This keeps me going on the hardest of days.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
A coffee mug is so ordinary, but the seemingly simple changes we’ve made (based in a not so simple human-centric data driven design process) make the coffee mug the way it should have been. You’ve probably never thought about it, but coffee mugs haven’t really changed in nearly 5,000 years. This primitive design places unnecessary stress on joints, tendons and ligaments of the hand, wrist and forearm. In contrast, the Jamber Mug is based on an innovative approach that strikes just the right balance between an anatomically neutral hand position, known as functional rest, and an optimal power grip, the most efficient and strongest grip. The result is what is possibly the world’s best coffee mug; it is exceptionally comfortable to hold, with a handle that allows virtually any user to pick it up with ease. The stylish design helps modernize any home and features a stabilizing foot nub at the base of the handle that helps prevent spills.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
My high school swim coach — she taught me to always finish at the wall (just like “don’t stop until the referee blows the whistle). I was crushed (but even at that young age understood) when she left coaching at the end of my sophomore year. A close family member had recently died and she wanted to spend more time with her family. She always taught us “family first, then school, then sports.” She walked the walk.
My first boss — she taught me that women can (and should!) rise to the top, and encouraged me to jump out of my comfort zone. When I first started out I was unsure of how to “network” — what if I got into a conversation and couldn’t get out? I learned quickly from observing her that it’s just connecting with people.
My first office-mate — she taught me that it’s ok to giggle at work. Life should be fun, and work is part of life, too.
How are you going to shake things up next?
Allen and I dream about the day you’ll be able to date a movie based on the coffee mug sitting on the table. We’re working hard to make Jamber the new normal for mugs. We’ve got a whole host of other products in the pipeline and are excited to bring them to the world.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1.“If it’s not fun, why do it?” — Ben and Jerry
There are plenty of tasks that aren’t fun. But if I can’t have fun doing them, then I’m doing something wrong.
2. “You can’t expect to win everything all the time.” — My dad
You win a tennis match one point at a time. But, you don’t have to win every point to win the match.
I always had been somewhat of a perfectionist. And I always liked to win. Running a start-up means that I’ve had to leave that pursuit of perfection behind because we have endless tasks and not endless time. Further, I can’t get caught up if I don’t come up on top at every instance. Aligning expectations with reality does wonders for your ability to keep pushing forward. The only way to move Jamber forward is to know when good is good enough, and when we can continue to improve in later iterations. Of course, sometimes we have to chase perfection — for instance, with product design, but most of the time, perfection is just not needed.
3. “Focus on your breath and make life a living meditation” — Panache Desai on Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul Conversations
Live in the now. That’s all we’ve got!
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
“How I Built This” with Guy Raz.
I’ve always been interested in other people’s stories, and “How I Built This” is the most encouraging and relatable compilation of stories I have listened to yet. Entrepreneurship is challenging, and it’s important to surround yourself with people who are going through similar things — and more importantly, people who have gone through similar things and made it through to the other side.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Can I only pick one? Sara Blakely of Spanx. I loved listening to her story on NPR’s “How I Built This.” She created a product that makes people’s lives better, she has a young family, and keeps it real. Plus, I have a product request/idea that I’m dying to share!
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