Questions with Max: The Birth & Challenges with Cupkin

Questions with Max: The Birth & Challenges with Cupkin

How did you and your family go about coming up with the idea and what was the biggest challenge in getting your business started?

Cupkin was honestly started to be a teaching lesson for our 2 girls.  I actually run a sports nutrition supplement company, but by the time the kiddos were old enough to understand what I do for work, I had already gone through the "startup" phase of the company.  They didn't get to see what grit looks like in real life so I thought it might be an interesting life lesson to teach them by showing what it looks like to take an idea and build something with it.  At the time, Soo Jin was looking for alternative options for the plastic cups / bowls / utensils we had in our drawers.  Couldn't find anything good so we used this as an opportunity to make our own line.  I spent a few years competing in one of the most difficult categories on Amazon so I learned a thing or two about growing on the platform so I figured it would probably be pretty easy to have a set of cups made and then sell on Amazon to have a tiny hobby venture because the whole point of Cupkin was not to make money, but rather to show our girls what you can do with an idea.  Serendipitously, we crossed paths with the founder of HydroFlask and after a LOOOOONG lunch (this was before Covid), he pretty much taught us how to manufacture an incredible cup.  A big part of why the company took off so fast was probably because my competitors weren't nearly as vicious as the bigger supplement companies are.  I'd say the biggest challenge was simply trying to keep up with demand because we weren't planning on going out of stock.  The market essentially forced us to start taking Cupkin more seriously and nurture it into what it has become today.  In my is pretty straight forward if you approach it in a way that most people don't.  I actually answered a question about Kickstarter in the past, so I'll include that part here because I think it's relevant. 

  • The problem that I see a lot of new entrepreneurs make is that they have an idea and then jump in with both feet without first getting any validation.  And for the record, talking with your best friends who will say "yeah!  go for it!!!" is not what I consider "validation".  The only reason I didn't start off on a platform like Kickstarter was because I already had a big network of mommy bloggers from my past career as a search engine optimization consultant.  Once we hatched the idea, I ran it past a bunch of them and had the ability to leverage their networks to get thousands of pieces of feedback from people we had zero connections with...very unbiased feedback.  This is actually one of the biggest secrets I've learned about how to de-risk any new venture.  Before you spend a dime on manufacturing, get validation with cold hard cash.  Before we paid any money to get our cups into production, we took Paypal deposits from folks who expressed interest.  I'm incredibly frugal and simply didn't want to pay the Kickstarter fees and plus, we already had the means to get the validation without the platform.  Today we have the resources to take risks on new product lines without going through the rigorous validation process, but it's actually a good reminder for me personally to never stop being RESOURCEFUL even when you have the RESOURCES.

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