- Freddy Bunkers invented HyperGo wipes when he was 15 so he could freshen up after sports practice.
- Now a college student, Bunkers is running a successful ecommerce business with his five-person virtual team.
- Although COVID-19 halted some of his expansion plans, it also caused a surprising bump in business.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
When Freddy Bunkers was 15 years old, he founded HyperGo, an active lifestyle brand that specializes in body wipes to use after workouts or while traveling. Today, the 19-year-old entrepreneur is poised to crack seven figures in revenue in 2021.
Bunkers told Insider he started his company based on a personal need.
“I was sick of driving to and from volleyball practices and tournaments and sitting in my sweat for hours,” Bunkers said. “I was 14 at the time, and I made a pact with myself that I couldn’t have both acne and braces, and since I already had braces, I knew I needed to find a way to get rid of the sweat immediately after practice.”
Inspired by his mom, who’s also an entrepreneur, Bunkers was primed to think of income-generating solutions. He settled on the idea for a wipe that would make it easy to clear away sweat on the go.
Bunkers looped in his mom, who he describes as a “maverick in manufacturing,” to help find the right factories and chemists to work with. She also invested startup money in Bunkers’ idea, which he paired with his own savings to get the company off the ground.
“She acted as sort of an angel investor because she believed in me and the product,” he said. “Luckily, the required startup capital was low.” Before he had his driver’s license, he recalled, he would Uber to his mom’s office after school to work on product development, ship out the day’s orders, and post on social media.
Bunkers is currently studying business as a sophomore at the University of Washington. He hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in entrepreneurship and plans to apply to get into UW’s business school. He shared how he got his company off the ground.
Creating a product, name, and design
Before fine-tuning his idea, he evaluated his competition.
“I was dissatisfied with the current offering and I knew I could make something better,” Bunkers said. “Some wipes were too sticky and left my skin feeling more gross than before I wiped down.” He added that often the sizes were too small or thin, requiring him to use multiple wipes to feel refreshed, and found some smells unappealing when combined with sweat.
He then searched for the best natural ingredients for moisturizing as well as cleansing and developing a wipe that was biodegradable.
“I wanted to make my business as eco-friendly as possible, so all-natural ingredients were the way to go,” he said. Bunkers also wanted to prioritize making his entire shipping process carbon neutral.
One of the more surprising challenges was figuring out what to name his product.
“My vision for the company was an active, fitness lifestyle, and the name had to represent that,” he said. “I wrote down different adjectives that I felt resembled an active lifestyle — go, hyper, fast, etc. — and tried to combine them until I found a name I liked.” He said this process “took forever.”
After finalizing the formula and name with trademark protection, he turned his attention to the product’s design, using freelance platform Upwork to find a designer who could bring his vision to life.
After Bunkers decided to use Amazon as his main ecommerce platform, he said he “encouraged, cajoled, begged” his friends and family to buy the product and write a review. “Reviews are so, so, so important on Amazon that you don’t really exist without them,” he said.
He also started running Amazon advertising on his product, beginning with a small budget of $500 a month. Sales began to take off, reaching $100,000 after his first year in business. He soon found that he couldn’t fulfill all of the orders himself, and as a result pivoted from shipping direct to customers to having Amazon ship to them instead.
“The pallets became too large for me to pack by myself, so I had to enlist my five siblings (sometimes by force and the allure of money) to help me pack all of the pallets on weekends,” Bunkers said. “They did it begrudgingly, but they still helped. We would have packing days every weekend and ship huge pallets out to Amazon.”
He eventually reached out to family friends who had fulfillment warehouses for referrals, settling on a warehouse near his home. This freed up his time to focus on running the business.
“I can better use my time creating brand partnerships, developing new products, and more,” he said. “If I had to ship the product myself, I would not be able to manage college.”
It took about a year to transition into hiring a full-scale warehouse. In that same timeframe, Bunkers was able to hire his first employee part time — a friend of his older sister — who put many of HyperGo’s current procedures in place and got the product into numerous subscription boxes, including Gentleman’s Box, Fun Run Box, Adore Box, SprezzaBox, and Bedford and Broome.
“I feel lucky that a product I needed resonates with a wide audience,” he said.
Maintaining a remote team
Bunkers said he’s built his entire business around being remote.
“I have never wanted to sit at a desk all day, it’s just not my style,” Bunkers said.
Before he started college, he hired and now manages five employees. With their help, he put systems in place to make communication between everyone as seamless as possible — Slack for communication and Asana to manage projects efficiently. He holds team Zoom calls every week, and talks every other week with his social media team and Amazon marketing agency.
“Putting these things in place, my business became streamlined and does not need minute-by-minute intervention for it to run,” he said.
He also uses services like Upwork and Fiverr to outsource any work that he can’t do himself, including creating his website, video content, and social media imagery.
“This way I always get a new perspective on something because every designer has their own opinion,” he said.
Pre-COVID-19, Bunkers worked out of local Seattle coffee shops or his fraternity media room. Over the summer, he spent time working from Sun Valley, Idaho, and Napa and Tahoe, California. Last fall, he was able to work in Costa Rica.
“Once COVID is managed, I plan to get on a plane,” he said. “And since school is remote now, I can just go and work anywhere.”
Catering to new pandemic needs
Bunkers said this past year HyperGo experienced a surge of interest from new customers. 2020 marked the first time the company hit seven figures in revenue.
“We’ve heard from customers that they like to do a workout and then get on a Zoom call,” he said. “And with people traveling in RVs this past summer, our product really worked for customers getting in their car and checking out the national parks. People are still sweating during quarantine.” He added that the company has initiated a number of influencer campaigns and advertising strategies that have all helped increase brand recognition.
The coronavirus has altered some of the plans that Bunkers had for his company, such as setting up pop-up shops across the country as well as developing a new wipe scent. The same substrate used in his wipes is used for masks, so production stalled for several months.
Fortunately, because he ordered more wipes than he needed during his last development cycle, he’s had enough stock to cover the increased demand.
He admitted that the pandemic shocked him into realizing how vulnerable his business is, and he’s spending a lot of his time fortifying gaps as needed. Specifically, he realized how tied to Amazon his business was.
“On a whim, Amazon could shut down my listing and all of my revenue would be gone,” he said.
To combat this, Bunkers has been spending time growing his direct-to-consumer ecommerce site on Shopify, and is also working toward launching several new brands.
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