April 11, 2017
By Emily Lapinski
How many of you are just about ready to give up at this point in the semester? You’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked and it seems like you can’t catch a break. Sitting through classes, you’re doing all the motions but your mind is somewhere else. What is the point? It may not always seem like it, but your time here at Dominican is worth it.
Senior Matthias Witteman, majoring in business administration, is a perfect example. Witteman has seamlessly transitioned from DU student to product manager, with an original product he co-created already selling on Amazon.
Witteman started working for Euro Centra, a company importing and selling low cost products from around the world, in august of 2015.
“Euro Centra only has about 23 to 25 employees so it’s great,” Witteman said. “The environment is organic and decentralized; we can talk to our bosses on an equal level. I know the marketing, photography and social media realm and my co-worker is a linguistics expert. We are all jacks-of-all-trades and we have our fingers everywhere. It’s a little chaotic but lots of fun.”
He was hired on the e-commerce end of the company but, due the company’s decision to change things up, now does much more.
“This past fall the company wanted to reestablish themselves and recognize core competencies,” Witteman said. “They wanted to explore how we could sell on Amazon and be profitable and at the same time make products that we ourselves would like.”
The shift was selling from business to business to business to customer and that is where things started to really look up for Witteman. The brand Vivora, derived from the Spanish word for life and the Latin word for now, was developed and the product Luno was underway.
“We started in August of 2016 and it came out a little over three weeks ago,” Witteman said. “It’s a long-term investment. I remember starting this project and saying are we going to do this? We work for the company and are using their money so we needed to make sure we made the right decisions.”
The product is essentially a textile case for a yoga ball, allowing it to be more aestethically pleasing, professional and user-friendly.
“It’s not the newest idea, but we took an idea that’s already on the market, a yoga ball, and spiced it up,” Witteman said. “The case itself is really interesting. When you sit on it a normal yoga ball it expands and just the pressure of your weight makes you go about three inches lower. We call this lateral deflation. The Vivora Luno holds your weight and creates a rigid platform to sit on that’s very comfortable. We wanted to make sure this product to be a differentiator.”
Witteman is in charge of marketing the product as well as doing search engine optimization for Amazon. This allows consumers to find the Vivora Luno when searching for similar products.
“This order was essentially a test order and we were taking a pessimistic route,” Witteman said. “We set up all these back up accounts or contingency factors, like our website, just in case our launch was bad on Amazon. We wanted to make sure we could have different channels to reach consumers. I also built a website and created the social media accounts.”
The product proved to be a success.
“Two weeks ago we were unsure we could even sell and now we are doing so well,” Witteman said. “Since our Amazon sales are going so well are estimating that by late May we are going to run out of inventory. We’ve sold 70 units, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but on Amazon starting off it’s crazy. You are in an abyss.”
Witteman and his co-workers have already started designing a similar product for children called Niko.
“While creating this we thought what about kids?” Witteman said. “The Niko, which is the version for kids, has five lines of different bear faces. The product development for this one has been amazing.”
The Niko hasn’t launched yet it is in the final stages of product development. Being a part of this experience has made him grateful for his education.
“Everything I have learned here has helped me so much,” Witteman said. “Everyone says that these things don’t matter and that you will just learn it on the job and that’s not the case. Knowledge affirms your intuition. It’s the textual background that affirms what you’re thinking and gives you more confidence. When you sit down and you say ‘let’s make a ball that’s different’ you sound ambiguous. When you say ‘hey let’s pick out some key differentiators or we know for a fact because of Porter’s five forces that you can either be a cost leader or a differentiator’ you are taken seriously. I think my Dominican education has helped me in the development of this brand every single day.”