Caleb Lystrup, a 28-year-old Las Vegas native, is co-founder and one of two CEOs for Khione Outdoor Gear, with Casey Messick.
The company creates products for outdoor adventures, its first being the SHEL, a lightweight, insulated hammock cover that keeps users warm with their own body heat.
Lystrup, a mechanical engineering graduate student at Brigham Young University, is working on getting the SHEL sold in stores and online after the company’s kick-starter launches in July.
How did you get started?
I’ve always been an inventor at heart. I never really thought business would be my thing. About a year ago, I was on a camping trip with a bunch of my friends. We were in a mountain, it was really cold, and I was in a hammock and got the idea to make an insulator that would go around the hammock. After sleeping out in the cold and deciding I wanted a hammock insulator, I decided to make my own. … I didn’t really expect to become an entrepreneur, I just wanted to invent a product that I love. … I finally realized that if you actually want to make a difference with your invention, you have to connect it to the marketplace via entrepreneurship.
What sort of influence did growing up in Las Vegas play into your invention?
My brothers and I spent a lot of time jogging around downtown, it was just just sweltering hot. We’d try to get away on weekends, we’d go to Red Rock and Mount Charleston … I used to work at UNLV in the business building for (the Office of Information Technology) as a lab technician, and I guess I’d been really close to the entrepreneur community many times, but we never found each other.
Knowing what you do now, what do you wish you had known when you started?
I wish I would’ve known how well this (the SHEL) would have done. You just don’t know. When you start something, you have an idea, but without a lot of experience it’s hard to predict where you’re going to be. If I had any idea how much people would love this product, I might have taken off a couple of years (from school) just because my research has to be my top priority. … I want to have that and the time is now to launch this company, so I’m doing both.
What’s the next big thing in the camping gear industry?
I see a lot of companies shifting over to tech accessories. So ours is high tech in that we trap air in key places around the hammock. … It allows us to have a much warmer product for a much lower price. … I think high-tech applications to the outdoor industry are really going to do well. I think there will also be a lot of products for smartphone applications and solar applications for outdoor gear.
I also speak Dutch and Flemish. And then I’ve dabbled in a few other languages: I’ve dabbled in Japanese, French, Chinese and German.
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