If the thought of digging endlessly through a stuff sack in search of one specific thing, not finding it and having to dump out everything to do so makes you want to scream, rest assured that Chez Brungraber feels your pain. She finds the general blackholeness of stuff sacks and back packs crazy making, and she founded Gobi Gear as the answer.

The travel gear startup launched a KickStarter for its SegSac, a stuff sack segmented into four parts, on Oct. 7. The campaign reached its $15,000 goal in 25 hours. StartupBend caught up with Brungraber to learn more about Gobi Gear’s products, her plans for the Bend company and her secret sauce for running a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Startup: Gobi Gear
Founded: 2011
Owners: Chez and Griffin Brungraber
Employees: 2
Headquarters: Bend

What inspired you to make a better stuff sack? We were preparing for a three-month trek through Asia in 2009 and I wanted better control over my stuff while we were travelling. I had this idea that stuck with me for months, that a stuff sack could be segmented. So I bought some canvas-like material and sewed one before our trip.

Gobi Gear's SegSac.
Gobi Gear’s SegSac.

Are you a designer? No, I’m a biologist. But most of my consulting work is out in the field and I travel a lot for work. It took me 20 hours to sew my first sack. It was a cylinder with five segments that actually opened on both ends. It was amazing how well it worked. The entire three months of the trip I was so organized, I’d actually be waiting for my husband to get ready.

When did you decide to turn your idea into a business? I realized how helpful it was and I started thinking that others would think so too. I began to research factories in China and eventually made an order for 3,000 of our first product, the HoboRoll. It’s a segmented stuff sack that’s also a daypack. We did some social media marketing, and then I negotiated a spot on the Grommet, which is an online retailer. It took us 2 years to sell out of half of that first order, and then two months to sell out of the rest.

Chez Brungraber, founder of Gobi Gear.
Chez Brungraber, founder of Gobi Gear.

You’ve done not one, but two successful Kickstarter campaigns. What do you know that so many others don’t? I did a ton of research before we did our first Kickstarter in July 2014. That one funded for $20,000 in three days, and ended at more than $50,000. I got on the site eight months before we launched and starting pledging lots of companies, including ones that I thought would fail. Kickstarter removes failed projects, but I wanted to find a way to see why some campaigns took off and some didn’t. I realized quickly that the Kickstarter crowd really wants to be the first, they want to be in know. So you need to capture that spirit of partnering with people at the beginning.

Did  you learn anything from your first campaign that you employed this time around? The first time I wasn’t prepared for the media or bloggers, who saw the product and got really excited. I didn’t have any samples to give them, so they couldn’t review it right away. It was like, can you wait six months? This time I ordered samples of the SegSac and began distributing them to media before the campaign even began. I also reached out to our previous mailing list to let them know. We had 185 people say they were interested before we even started the campaign.

Gobi_SS_PackBuild_1 full

What’s your plan for Gobi Gear? The first Kickstarter got us back in business after we sold out of our first batch of product. This one should help produce even more products and grow the company. Right now we have one full-time employee, but I’d like to hire more. I’m working to get the SegSac into some larger retailers. And eventually I can see us expanding into other types of adventure travel products.

Last thing: how did you come up with the name? We named the company after the Mongolian nomads in the Gobi Desert. They are some of the efficient travelers in the world. It’s a pure lifestyle. They’re always moving and their not hampered by a lot of stuff.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley