CLAK: national design and innovation in a chair

CLAK: national design and innovation in a chair

CLAK: national design and innovation in a chair

by UDD Ventures Team / September 11, 2020

Innovation involves a process of abstraction from the environment in which we can detect problems and propose novel solutions. See problems and think of alternatives.

Tomás Rodriguez and Olimpia Lira are a couple of designers and entrepreneurs who have always had the experience of creating products and designs. In 2017 they began to devise what would be one of their most recent and promising projects, the 'Clak' baby chair.

This story begins with the experience of becoming parents, with their first son Cirilo. 'We lived in a small apartment and we started buying different types of baby accessories and we were surprised by the way life changes with one more member. We were very struck by the great variety of items that one has for newborns in their homes, and with Olimpia, as we have always been linked to aesthetics, we thought "How is it possible that everything is big and 'colorful', invasive and not very friendly at a time where space is the next great luxury?” In addition, it is necessary to know how to manage that space. This added to the fact that, personally with Olimpia we have always been very outdoorsy, we really like going out, loading the car and traveling, the next question we asked ourselves was: How could there not be a child seat that is light, portable, and aesthetic, that is useful for children and parents? One has to learn to live with things.' In this way the impulse to find a new practical and useful proposal became latent and the need to create began to emerge.

Clak proposes a concrete measure to solve the problems of space, comfort and mobility when seating children to eat with the family. They designed a comfortable, foldable baby chair, without support 'legs', with the Hook On Chair modality (hooks on the chair) for easy transport and use without neglecting the aesthetic aspect. Although they know that there are already other chairs with this same dynamic of using weight as a form of anchoring, they take the design and use of light materials as a plus and differentiating seal in the market. On the other hand, these creations are 100% nationally manufactured, as is their design.

'Olimpia had lived in the USA as a child and her father had saved a chair with the Hook On Chair that was super eighties, large, uncomfortable, crude, and we started to work and design based on that. Which finally became a super innovative chair, easy to clean, easy to transport, and with a much friendlier design. The chair is made of high resistance plastic and special for contact with food (food contact), without any type of toxic material. The objective was to respond to an aesthetic thing and then to a practical thing, that there was some quick way to put it in a car, handbag, the car, etc. It is very easy transportation. Without realizing it, we ended up manufacturing a chair that stands up to its competition, with a lighter, more portable proposal and rescuing a special spirit, which is special for travel and use at home' mentions Tomás and Olimpia.

“The idea was born in 2017 with prototyping, testing of materials, thinking about the logistics and die-making issue in the first instance. In 2018, and after spending months activating and giving movement to our social networks, we began to market the first units of these chairs,” says Tomás. For this they created their own web platform and social networks to start generating sales and communicating with their potential clients, 'the first thing was activating our web communication channels, such as Instagram, to generate expectations, and once with the product assembled, we launched fully to sell'. Within this first year of work, it helped them a lot to appear in the Más Deco magazine of La Tercera, and in LUN, where they were contacted by stores specialized in children's items which were looking for good design, usability and safety within their products, these being one of its first clients within the commercial segment. On the other hand, the general public also had a great reception of this proposal, word of mouth was one of its main ways of selling, 'on many occasions we generated sales in the same building, and this because people recommended the product to their friends. friends who were neighbors or family members, it's nice to see people's trust and the impact that a good product has' mentions Tomás.

Regarding the formula they have used to make themselves known, Olimpia and Tomás point out that social networks have been a great tool. They manage very well in that today it is not necessary to have large budgets to set up campaigns in RS. Knowing how to use resources, with small investments they gradually became known. 'We did contests with influencers, which in this market is very important, mothers do 'studies' on these products and always look for what specialists such as Pediatricians recommend. On the other hand, word of mouth has been very important, you could say that advice between friends works very well, they recommend the best for their babies, and that recognition is very valuable' they point out.

The valuable experience they gained in the field cannot be ignored. They participated in some fairs such as 'Expo Baby', and 'Baby and Mom', among others, where they could clearly see the effect that their proposal produced on the public and the results of a novel bet, 'when we put the chair installed in a table with a child on top, the impact was immediate, it was filled with people, they approached, asked questions, asked for more information, they were moved in turn, participating in these activities always had very good results.'

Regarding their life as entrepreneurs, they point out that Clak is one of their latest projects, but that they have always been related to the creation of proposals, they are designers and part of their life is generating projects. Speaking of this, they highlight that as entrepreneurs they have always lived in “crisis”, considering the crisis with a habitual state in relation to knowing how to navigate the adversities that this type of entrepreneurial model or lifestyle represents. Process which has been evolving to new levels and sizes.

'We have always been independent and Clak is one more of our creative products. Clak today demands a lot from us and needs to continue to build itself much more, generating a structure more similar to a more traditional company in its processes and operation. It gets bigger, you have bigger challenges, and that is the moment when more specialized people must arrive to continue nourishing the company' they point out together.

Olimpia Lira highlights that regarding her relationship with UDD Ventures it has been super good, 'very good actually' as she highlights. They have been a super ally, who have helped them organize a lot, always supporting them in generating a defined route, which has been key to being able to move forward.

Regarding this pandemic period, from a sales point of view, they point out that they have done quite well, sales of chairs have been increasing month by month, as a constant. They have not noticed a decline, and they believe this rate is due to the fact that people are spending more time at home and using e-commerce much more frequently. Fortunately, this process has not been that complex. The brand has become increasingly better known and this is reflected in sales.

Reaching the end of the conversation, it is inevitable to know his advice and reflections for other innovators, where words of encouragement, strategy, and resilience typical of this segment stand out: “They have to understand that entrepreneurship is being in a permanent crisis, and if you don't have ” For that you are not going to be a good entrepreneur. They have to feel that the crisis is a 'pleasant challenge', taking advantage of a painful market. Start by imagining something that is in crisis and you have to solve it. This path is very difficult. In our case, with a piece we generate a solution, and every time a challenge is presented to us, we must continue this permanent search, we must accept challenges as opportunities and remain in a state of alert to find solutions. The rich thing about being an entrepreneur is the fact that you are the creator, you carry this out according to your criteria, your ideas, your thoughts, and that is super rewarding, especially when things work well. There are days when everything is very good and others not so much, but we have to keep moving forward.'

Currently, Clak has a presence in a total of 17 stores, 70% in Santiago and 30% in the regions, in addition to plans to internationalize the project in the short term. Their next plan is to release it internationally. They are currently working on a 2.0 chair design to adapt to the requirements of US and European safety regulations. They would be launching this new version in December 2020 and entering international markets in the near future.