By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter
Inspired to combat the negative effects of school backpacks, which result from their outdated design, 18-year-old Harvard-Westlake students Cameron Schiller and (Palisadian) Jonathan Damico set out to revolutionize the backpack market.
With an interest in business and entrepreneurship and a background in robotics engineering, they had the confidence to take charge despite their young age.
First steps involved talking to a costume designer at their school and learning how to sew, sketching numerous bags until the ideal form emerged, studying thousands of prototypes and receiving feedback from fellow students—the target customers.
Then, they went to a manufacturing house in China to get the ball rolling with the newly revamped bag. It goes by the name Prova.
“Our intention with all of this was to learn how to build a company,” Damico told the Palisadian-Post during an office visit. “And our goal is to see students using the backpacks.”
Other people are involved in Prova, too: UPenn student Allen Gan works in brand and product design, and Carnegie Mellon student Samantha Ho works in mechanical engineering and product design.
Schiller added that, since the team is heavily into robotics, AP science and coding, everyone expected the backpacks to have more of a technological component (such as a charging outlet). “[But] all technology is done with a needle and thread,” he explained.
That’s not to say they backpacks are plain: They have a modular pencil pouch, side openings for access on the go, vertical pockets, interchangeable straps, water bottle flaps and, of course, the all-important laptop slot.
Since Schiller and Damico began this journey, they have had to overcome misconceptions people have about teenagers launching a business without any parental contribution. “[Because] we started this when we were 17,” Schiller said, referencing the obvious obstacle. Still, the age challenge—nor any other challenges—will stop them.
These young men launched a Kickstarter page for Prova on Aug. 2. They are seeking $35,000 to help get the backpacks into the hands of students.
Looking beyond backpacks, Prova founders Schiller and Damico are each planning to pursue science degrees at college.
Visit provadesign.com/kickstarter to view the Kickstarter page and learn more.