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Wipebook earns nearly half a million dollars through Kickstarter

Photos by Tina Wallace 

A University of Ottawa graduate has invented and developed a whiteboard notebook hybrid product and raised more than $420,000 in 31 days through Kickstarter to fund the project.

Frank Bouchard, inventor of the Wipebook, works full-time as director of the engineering summer camps at the U of O. He did his master’s in engineering management at the U of O and developed the product in his entrepreneurship class with the help of two classmates.

The Wipebook combines a conventional notebook and a full-scale dry erase white board in order to curb the use of paper that is often involved in note-taking and brainstorming. Bouchard said the product has evolved since his original homemade product.

“I developed a (Wipeboard) during my undergrad because doing assignments was kind of tricky when you have to erase but you’ve made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “I kept using it, and people thought it was interesting.”

He turned the product into a business alongside two other students while in his entrepreneurship class.

“For eight months out of our class, we bought all this inventory, tried to sell it all over the place through different student associations, and we gave ourselves until December to essentially see if the business had a future or not,” he said. “We posted it as a Kickstarter and figured we’d sell the last of our inventory that way. We set a goal of $4,000 and it snowballed from then on.”

Bouchard said the early versions of the Wipebook consisted of laminated sheets of paper and water-soluble markers, but that it has been improved to avoid users getting marker on their fingers. The Wipebook can now be used with a dry-erase solution.

“The first versions were just a laminated sheet of paper that were chosen so you could use water-soluble markers, but people didn’t like to have all that ink smudged on their fingers, so we wanted to design a dry erase solution, which is what we did for the online Kickstarter,” he said. “That one you can use dry erase markers or these special, more stable, corrector pens.”

Bouchard said that despite the Wipeboard’s online success, he still faces challenges in the development of his business, like fulfilling his numerous Kickstarter orders.

“It’s not like we had a half a million dollars worth of inventory just sitting in a warehouse somewhere,” he said. “We now have to figure out new processes to manufacture these books on this crazy scale. We’ve probably got 15,000 books to make, which is not the same as going to our regular print shop guy for 300 copies.”

He also said the company needs to find a shipping company that will fulfill Wipeboard orders at a reasonable cost.

“When we set our $4,000 goal, we didn’t really realize how expensive it is to ship around the world,” he said.

Bouchard is in the process of making the product available to students through independent bookstores and university shops.