BreakfastBox Provides Your Personal Morning Cook
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of features on competitors in the 2015 Cozad New Venture competition, a program sponsored by the University of Illinois' Technology Entrepreneur Center that is designed to encourage students to create new businesses. The competition process offers teams assistance in the form of: mentors to help guide them through the phases of venture creation, workshops to help with idea validation, pitching skills, customer development, and more as well as and courses to enhance their skills and knowledge. Teams who make it to the finals round of competition will have the opportunity to meet with venture capitalists, early stage investors and successful entrepreneurs who will serve as judges. The judges will determine up to eight finalist teams that will present their ventures at the finals event. Last year, these teams competed for nearly $200,000 in funding and in-kind prizes.
Morning breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, for many it’s also a luxury that only a few devote the time and energy into enjoying before beginning their busy day.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a machine that actually made us breakfast in the morning?” asks Peter Fiflis, a University of Illinois grad student part of the trio comprising the BreakfastBox team, a startup hoping to make it possible for more people to enjoy a hot and healthy breakfast.
To put it simply, BreakfastBox is a device whose aim is to have breakfast cooked and ready for its owner right when they need it in the morning. Users would only have to load this device with the raw materials early in the week. The BreakfastBox automatically takes care of the rest.
The idea would be for a user to be able to ‘order’ what it is they want for breakfast the next morning, perhaps two eggs, a sausage patty, and a couple pancakes, the night before on their mobile device. The BreakfastBox will cook your breakfast and have it ready for you exactly when you need it.
The trio behind BreakfastBox -- Fiflis, Pawel Piotrowicz, and Matthew Szott -- grad students in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at Illinois working at the Center for Plasma Material Interactions Laboratory. The idea for BreakfastBox was conceived out of shared hunger.
“We would come into the lab, sometimes without eating breakfast, because we might be working long hours as grad students,” said Fiflis on why they started toying with the idea. “It would save us so much time. We would actually be well fed coming into the lab, be a lot happier people, and be able to work more efficiently.”
With that the team began work on developing their prototype. After much time in development, they were finally able to enjoy their first breakfast, eggs over easy. Their prototype is also currently designed to cook sausage, bacon, and pancakes, but they’re looking to potentially cook other foods including omelettes and muffins as well. Now the team is primed to engineer a sleek and reliable product for consumers. Their preliminary market research has been positive thus far, as they find their market.
“Our market was ourselves at first! Then we realized when we did more market analysis that we have a much broader market than that,” said Fiflis.
After some initial surveying, the team currently has several hundred responses and sees a market within young professionals, newly graduated college students who are young and tech savvy, as well as discovering a market with young mothers.
“We have heard responses like ‘Oh yeah this would be awesome to have! I really wanna buy one of these right now. When are you doing beta testing? Can I be a beta tester?’” said Fiflis, “So it’s been a very encouraging response that we have received so far from some of our target market.”
Fiflis also feels that their experience taking classes around the College of Engineering has given their team an expertise beyond solely nuclear. “Yes, we’re all nuclear engineers but we have enough breadth of experience that we’re actually able to solve a lot of the problems that have come up with the device, a good portion of it so far has actually related closer to mechanical engineering.”
“It feels like every day’s a little victory” said Fiflis regarding the development process of BreakfastBox. “It was little things that we weren’t quite sure how to do. Normally when you flip an egg on a skillet, you shove something under it and you flip it over, but how do you do that in a BreakfastBox? As soon as we were able to accomplish that the first time, it was a big success. Cooking the first breakfast was definitely a pretty big victory.”