13 Lessons from Hibear Founder on Being a Successful Entrepreneur

We sat down with the Founder of Hibear, Mark Tsigounis, to learn the story of what it took to build the Earth’s most versatile, all-day adventure utility bottle.
by
Founder Profiles
August 09 |

We sat down with the Founder of Hibear, Mark Tsigounis, to learn the story of what it took to build the Earth’s most versatile, all-day adventure utility bottle. That’s right, we wanted the dirt on what every entrepreneur and wantpreneuer really wants to know… Find out what keeps the Hibear founder up at night, his thoughts on failure, how to deal with criticism from investors, and battling trolls on social media. Mark also shares general advice for entrepreneurs, as well as an insight on some of his favorite quotes and business books. 

Hibear was born out of Mark’s adventures backpacking around the world, from the deserts of East Africa to the mountains of South America. He quickly discovered that the travel gear on the market couldn’t withstand the harsh climates he was exposed to, which presented an enormous problem. Mark recalls some especially challenging scenarios in which his outdoors water bottle failed him. “Traditional insulated bottles are not so great if you are trying to make any of your own beverages on the road” he says.

He found a problem and sought to fix it by creating the All-Day Adventure Flask (AF), the Swiss Army knife of insulated bottles. After two years of development, the team combined the best functionality from each of their ideas into a single, beautifully crafted flask; no kidding! You can craft all your favorite beverages with the AF, from cold brews to cocktails, yet it’s simple enough to be your everyday water bottle. It’s also portable, so you can take it everywhere and avoid buying plastic bottles, reducing your carbon footprint.

Mark and team are doing some incredible things and we’re proud to call Hibear a Novo customer! Now, let’s get into the interview you’ve been waiting for.

Biggest challenge as an entrepreneur so far?

All the bottlenecks you encounter can be frustrating. Manufacturing is hard, especially when you are trying to make a world-class product. Every step into the unknown is challenging, but as long as I keep everything moving, we make progress. This is why planning is critical. For me, the greater mission here is to build a product tailored to people who love the outdoors and travel as much as I do – and to have a little adventure of my own along the way.

Favorite business and personal apps?

Some business apps that I use on the regular are Google Suite, Adobe Suite, Affinity Suite, Hemingway Editor, and Mint. I should probably spend less time using Google Analytics and Facebook Ads. For personal development, I use Insight Timer, Waking Up App, 5-Minute Journal, Strava, AllTrails, and Overcast. I should use more of Books, Kindle, and Audible, and I wish I could delete Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram from my phone.  

Entrepreneur

Top business book recommendations?

  1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. It inspired me to be the architect of my own life. I aspire to be a nomad with my family one day. 
  2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. We are all beginners but focus and curiosity are key in cultivating excellence. 
  3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin. Virtually any book by Seth is fantastic and will help you be a better marketer. It covers everything from permissive marketing to serving and respecting your tribe.
  4. Zero to One by Peter Thiel. It helped me build a product that defined a brand new category of outdoor gear.  
  5. The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. It helped me discover my “why” in business. Here’s a quote from Paulo that has stuck with me: “The Good Fight is the one that we fight in the name of our dreams.”

Best piece of advice for entrepreneurs?

“Stay curious, keep focused, be generous, and embrace the suck.”

Stay curious

I build in permanent time to create, and it is the most important block in my schedule. It cultivates curiosity and gives me time to think.

Keep focused

The weight of anxiety is real. I make time throughout the day to breathe and be present. I know if I don’t have ten minutes to meditate, then I will probably need an hour to cultivate focus.

Be generous 

I aspire to give 10x more than I take. I believe it will come back around to me in some form. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

Embrace “the suck”

I think I have the best job on the planet, but it isn’t always Care Bears, Unicorns, and Airbnbs. Embrace “the suck”, and when the suck comes, it’s hard, but it is also part of the deal. I know that if I embrace it, I can cultivate persistence.

Greatest lesson you learned in business?

Pain is a great teacher and motivator. I blew my first pitch; I mean I totally bombed it and it was utterly cringeworthy. The kind where you want to curl up into a tiny ball, whispering “make it stop, just make it stop,” except the audience is having the same reaction. It gets worse: there happened to be a research team studying public speaking anxiety who approached me afterward to be a part of their study. My pitch was that bad.

So I got motivated. I read, listened, and studied pitches. Then I went out to redeem myself. It led me to some pretty awesome opportunities.

The learning for me wasn’t just becoming better at pitching. It was learning to drive forward over the big pile of shit, get over my pain, and find the magical pony. You know the kind, white with rainbow locks and makes you feel pretty awesome? Yeah, that dude, love that guy.

Unicorn

Thoughts on failure?

It’s definitely not fun, but it’s part of the process. I take notice, learn, and move on. If I let it get the best of me, I would have quit a long time ago. Fighting the good fight is far more important than a few failures. 

Last time you took a vacation and totally unplugged?

It’s been a couple of years, but I’m not even upset because there is so much cool stuff to do. I love what I do and that certainly helps. That said, I feel like I haven’t earned it yet. Once I get there I’ll know, and then I’m going surfing for two weeks where there is no cell service. 

What keeps you up at night?

The most important thing for Hibear is our tribe. They motivate me to build the best product, one that exceeds all expectations to deliver 10x the value. As long as we satisfy our core group of true fans we are doing our job. After that come the 4 Ms: Marketing, Money, Manufacturing, and Money. Meditation and time in nature help reset the constant ticking of my brain’s self-destruct feature. 

What does your daily schedule look like?

This is a bit of a pipe dream. I hope to someday have a more regimented schedule, but right now it’d be more accurate to call it controlled chaos. Ultimately I build it under the philosophy that my downtime fuels my productivity. The higher the quality of downtime, the higher the quality of work. Here’s a roadmap of a typical day in the life:

Mornings
  • Meditate and journal (25 min)
  • Work out (60 min)
  • Review daily plan (15 min)
  • Create and plan (45-60 min) 

This could be product development, strategic planning, or project planning. During this time I am creating the future for Hibear. It’s fun as hell when the ideas are flowing. I do my best work in the morning.

Mid-Mornings
  • Freelancer coordination (15-30 min)
  • Key daily tasks (3 hours)

This is when execution happens, but also when I have to ask myself, what are the key tasks that will yield the greatest results with the resources allocated?

Afternoons
  • Brain reset (20-30 min) 
  • Work (4 hours

I nap, walk, meditate, run, or just get outside in order to clear my mind and increase my productivity. 

Later on, I have meetings, emails, or stuff like that. I come out of the gate strong and then punch myself out by the afternoon. This is also when our overseas partners are coming in to work.

Evenings
  • Time with family and friends 
  • Evening planning session, personal Development, and next day prep. 

Any productivity hacks?

Aside from meditation and journaling, I get outside a lot. I live in Tahoe, California so it’s pretty easy to do every conceivable outdoor activity. I have to remind myself how grateful I am to live in a place like this. Beautiful places inspire my creativity and motivate me to make this work. 

Advice on leadership?

I am ultimately responsible for everything that happens. If things go wrong, the failure is on me. Conversely, it isn’t about me when things go right, it’s about the team. Freelancers’ work is also so important to Hibear because I can’t do what they do. I need to make sure I am delegating tasks and providing them with all the tools for success. Being at the helm isn’t knowing everything; you also have to trust your team. 

Advice on dealing with criticism in the business world and online?

I find that most of the time, fellow entrepreneurs want to be helpful because they know how hard it is to do what we do. But there is always tough love. I have to be receptive to be better. For example, I had an angel investor tell me that my idea was bad, my product sucked, and he didn’t get it. I focused on the constructive parts of his feedback and made corrections. It wasn’t the first hard pill I’ve had to swallow and won’t be the last. Rejection hurts, but it’s part of the process. 

When responding to criticism, chances are that I’ll take one of two approaches. More often than not, I’ve taken the feedback out of context and tension has arisen due to a misinterpretation on my part. I always assume the best of intentions on their end and provide a kind and thoughtful response. Usually, that energy is reciprocated.  Alternatively, I can acknowledge the veracity of their feedback. I try to have the self-awareness to recognize when I have a problem that can benefit from an outside point of view. At the end of the day, I can’t make everyone happy.

As for the trolls, I find that combating them often involves an escalation of force. It would feel so great to go straight for the jugular and engage them in social media comment wars. But let’s be honest, I am not changing anybody’s mind if they’re on a path of destruction. I may not agree with the way they handle stress, but I have to embrace the suck. Why drain my energy trying to make vicious robots happy? I have the upper hand, after all: a comment delete button. Pick your battles. 

Our anticipated Indiegogo launch is early November. Our first few hundred backers will receive early bird pricing and also get first to ship.

The Takeaways

Mark and the Hibear team have demonstrated that creativity, discipline, and persistence can lead to innovative products that go above and beyond consumer needs. We’re just as excited as they are for their upcoming product launch, with a tentative release of early November on Indiegogo!

At Novo, we admire Hibear’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovative drive because we empathize with the small business struggle. That’s why we support small business owners like you, so apply for Novo today!

Water bottle

“Novo was built specifically for us. They get startups”

Mark Tsigounis, Hibear Founder

 

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