Kevin Cruz of ORA Scents

Metro Vancouver is home to an incredible startup and small business community and the Network Hub is proud to support the entrepreneurial spirit every step of the way. That’s why we were so happy to support Enactus Canada’s 2015 Student Entrepreneur Provincial Championship for British Columbia. Yes, startups can start while you’re still in school.

The winner of the competition was a team from Simon Fraser University led by Kevin Cruz. He has team created a product called ORA Scents, a smart scent diffuser for the home that you can control via a mobile app to create unique scent combinations.

We had the chance to ask Kevin a few questions about where he came from, his team’s unique product, and where they plan on going from here.

Tell us about your educational and/or professional background.

My background is a mixed bag of made up of entrepreneurial endeavours. One of the first “ventures” I started was a small music studio based out of my place where I gave piano, singing, and saxophone lessons to students. Throughout university, I’ve worked in Marketing and Client Engagement for Venture Connection, a university-wide program that offers entrepreneurship and training services and opportunities for students and recent alumni; as well as a Research Assistant for SFU Innovates, helping with data collection and analysis.

At this point in time, I’m close to graduating from SFU’s Beedie School of Business with a double concentration in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Marketing.

How did you come up with the idea for ORA Scents?

ORA Scents came about as a result of several pivots in our business. We had originally set out to build a smart home hub system that would enable users to control various environmental aspects of their homes: sound systems, lighting fixtures, etc. However, as we went out and talked to people, we saw this huge opportunity at the intersection of the home scent/fragrance market and the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IOT) market (particularly in the consumer sector).

ORA Scents (1) ORA Scents (3)

Where did the name ORA come from?

ORA is actually short for something! It’s short for Olfactory Response Automation – essentially the technical name for the ORA Scent Diffuser.

What has been your biggest challenge thus far?

One of our biggest challenges has been finding and building a talented, multidisciplinary team that is entrepreneurial and user-driven. There are a lot of moving parts to not only the product, but the business as a whole. Thankfully, we have an amazing team of cofounders and advisors; and we were able to find these people without having to go to angel investors or do any serious fundraising.

What does winning the Enactus Entrepreneur of the Year award mean to you?

It’s great to be recognized for all the work I’ve put into ORA Scents. Winning the Enactus Entrepreneur of the Year award is a great reminder of how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go to build a great business.

How will you be utilizing The Network Hub workspace that you’ve been awarded?

Over the next few months, we see the Network Hub being our main base of operations. It’s a pain always trying to find space on campus to have our team meetings and work sessions. Having a space we can go to, where we can work out of together, will do wonders for productivity and culture building.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I’d have to say my dad. He’s an entrepreneur as well. The values he imparted on to me have helped shape who I am, not only as an entrepreneur, but as a person: humility, curiosity, authenticity, and resilience.

What are your next steps moving forward? When can people buy a diffuser?

Over the summer and into early fall, we will be completing the “design-for-manufacture” phase of product development. At this point, we have proof-of-concept prototypes, but in their current state, they are far from being able to manufactured on a large scale in a profitable way. It’s one of the most difficult challenges.

Do you have any advice for your fellow young entrepreneurs and startups?

Do fewer things better. Most founders think that they have to do a million things and that they are all equally important. It’s better to be really good at a small amount of things and then add more later. If there is only ONE THING that you can do today to further your business, what would it be? Just do it.

Where can people continue to follow the ORA Scents journey?

You can check us out at ORAScents.com, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @ORAScents and like us on Facebook.

We’re rolling out a paid beta testing program right now and are looking for people interested in trying out the ORA and giving us feedback. If you’re interested, you can email me at kevin@orascents.com!

Note: The ORA Scents product is still in prototyping stage and the final form factor may change over the course of the next several months.

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