Interview with Elliot Cao
Describe your product or service:
“High-performance design kitchen knife and cookware.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Hast (the brand) is created to make cooking more relevant to modern living by offering innovative products combining great design and advanced technology and engineering.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“Hast is self-founded and launched via Kickstarter.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We are currently a team of three and [work] with a few consultants for marketing and tech.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Yes. I am always curious and passionate about creating things that have a positive impact on people's living. I think being an entrepreneur is one of the most efficient ways to bring [about a] positive impact.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“The product is created because of my [interest] in material science and design.
My interest in material science [led] me to the discovery of kitchen knives and development. I joined a CA-based startup team focusing on bring[ing] a NASA-invented material to the knife industry and began to get to know the industry and supply chain more. In the meanwhile, my decades [long] career in marketing, brand strategy, and brand design give me the ability to look at design and engineering with new perspectives. I couldn't find a knife that's strong in design without compromising on its performance, usability, or price. So I gave it a try and started to design Hast knives from scratch.
My experience in the cutlery supply chain also gives me access to new materials and manufacturing partners.
Hast knives are very well received by seasoned chefs, media critics, content creators, and most important[ly] our customers.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“The name Hast is created to reflect our design which is minimalistic, functional, and intuitive. We did a whole name exploration to finalize the name.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Production is the most challenging part. We just have to work with our manufacturing partners very closely and spend as much time together in the factory as possible.
Growing the business is now our new challenge.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Chefs, home cooks, and people [who] are passionate about cooking and design.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Chef collaboration, affiliate marketing.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We did a Kickstarter campaign.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Growth, return purchase, [and] customer satisfaction.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
“Partner/team is the most critical to a startup.”
Who is your support system?
“Positive customer feedback, friends.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Customers like the product as much as I do. I use our knives every day.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Keep trying long enough to be lucky.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“Products that make a difference in people's living.”
More on Hast
Meet Elliot Cao, founder of Hast, cookware and knives startup that offers well-designed, artisan knives.
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Elliot Cao of Hast that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.