Wipebook starts second crowdfunding campaign

From their rapidly growing startup’s new headquarters in the Byward Market, Frank Bouchard and Toby Maurice are rewriting the book on business success.

The local entrepreneurs launched their reusable notebook, called Wipebook, in 2013 as part of a class project at the University of Ottawa. Fresh off their move earlier this month into Kivuto Solutions’ new incubator space on York Street, they are set to begin their second crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.com on Thursday.

The young firm’s first Kickstarter campaign a year ago, launched to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week, raised about $420,000 in 30 days and generated another $100,000 in sales as a result. Not bad, considering the original goal was a modest $4,000.

“It was really just a class project to see if we could sell off some of the inventory that we had,” said Mr. Bouchard.

Instead, it turned into a crowdfunding phenomenon.

Based on what Mr. Bouchard calls a “beautifully simple” idea he devised as a student, Wipebook is a portable notebook with erasable and reusable pages. He, Mr. Maurice and fellow student Thomas Sychterz created the product for an entrepreneurship class that was part of their master of engineering management program.

Their first crowdfunding attempt on Indiegogo raised just $200. But it helped drive traffic to their website, setting the stage for last year’s Kickstarter success.

So far in 2014, the company has sold more than 25,000 Wipebooks in 10 countries from Canada to New Zealand, generating sales of about $900,000.

Also on Thursday, the company introduced a new, sleeker-looking product with pages that are easier to erase. While they hope Wipebook 3.0 will help spur even more interest in their latest crowdfunding campaign, the founders are keeping their expectations in check.

“Our goal is still $4,000,” Mr. Bouchard said, laughing. “Sales are great, but if we keep the goal achievable, it attracts more people to the campaign as well.”

So far, their efforts appear to be paying off. Office supply retailer Staples will start carrying the Wipebook in about 15 stores in the Toronto region and Alberta in December as part of a three-month pilot project. If that goes well, the product could soon make its way into outlets across the 2,000-store chain.

“That was one of the milestones that we set at the beginning of last year,” said Mr. Maurice. “If we could hit Staples, that was going to be a big home run for us. That could really have a big impact.”

He and Mr. Bouchard remain the firm’s only full-time employees. A handful of part-time workers help out when needed, and the company contracts out manufacturing to local print shop Lowe-Martin Group.

Mr. Bouchard said he and Mr. Maurice don’t have any grand expansion plans just yet.

“Being extremely lean in the way that we recruit people is really important to us, just in terms of making sure that we can do things in a very effective way,” he said. “We may add some people, but we sort of keep that lean philosophy.”