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MOS since 2015

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MOS de 2015 à aujourd'hui.

It’s April 28, 2022, the day before the launch of pre-sales for the new MOS UpLift™. The successor of the “MOS Rack,” this brand new version keeps the same operating principles as its precursor, while improving its functionalities and usability. However, the road to this new model was full of difficulties. I sat down with Joey, co-founder and president of MOS, to have him tell me the colorful as well as adventurous story that has been MOS since 2015. With sparkling eyes, so proud of the accomplishments of his team, Joey described to me the history of the company, how it has survived the typical difficulties of the first years of a small business, the pandemic and other obstacles that our young company has overcome. 

The birth of the idea

MOS, de 2015 à aujourd'hui

It all started in May 2015, at the annual Start-up Weekend in Quebec City. It was the Maker edition, where participants had to build a tangible product. Each team had to develop a business model, build a model of the product, validate its concept and present it to a jury composed of Quebec’s leaders of the entrepreneurial community. So 10 teams were going to compete. To form teams, participants were invited to present their ideas and then vote for their 10 favorite projects. Once the vote was done, each person had to choose the project in which they wanted to evolve. 

The first idea

Joey Hébert, our CEO and co-founder, presented the idea of the “Zerack,” a roof rack for cars that can be deployed on the side of the vehicle. The idea was accepted, and none other than Frédéric Laurin-Lalonde, our second co-founder and product designer, joined his team. So here we will see the first conceptualization of this idea which, through many iterations and prototyping, will give birth to the MOS UpLift™. However, let’s not be hasty. The story of MOS since 2015 is just beginning. 

Working together on Zerack, Joey and Fred discover a beautiful synergy between them: while the first one has an entrepreneurial spirit, more focused on the project development and business side, the second one has the knowledge and technical skills necessary to develop such a product. The weekend goes by, the team presents and manages to get a small mentoring price. 

Once the event was over, everyone went home without necessarily following through. In Joey’s words, at that moment, “it was just an idea, a cute product.” 

The project’s potential

Nevertheless, an old Facebook comment found on the Start-up Weekend Quebec page shows the potential of the project and the solution it offers:

“I hope the Zerack will be developed and marketed for real. From the top of my 160 cm, it would solve a lot of problems and acrobatics when it’s time to go outdoors”. – Andrée P.

Joey was well aware of the potential. Indeed, secretly, he continued to think about it and to apply the project to all the projects of his bachelor  in entrepreneurship and management. A year and a half later, he reached out to the former members of the Zerack team. Who would be willing to join him in the development and marketing of the concept they had once imagined? Frédéric did.

The idealization of an innovative product

In light of their new association, our two co-founders enter the exploration phase. They develop the initial idea for Zerack, and then identify some possible solutions. Joey and Fred also studied the market: Are there competitors? What are their products? What are their customers’ needs? 

This study leads to the discovery of Mammoth Design. Apart from the fact that this company has developed and sold the same operating principle as their idea, little is known about them. Its presence on the web is almost non-existent and the company seems to be out of business. Joey and Frederic manage to get in touch with the man behind Mammoth Design. 

They ended up buying the company, with the goal of using its products as the basis for their vision. However, the name will be left behind. Looking for a new name for their project, Joey and Fred found the word “Mos,” meaning “moose,” in an Atikamekw dictionary given by Joey’s grandmother. This is how the name of the company was selected.

Creating a young team

In 2017, Vincent and Olivier joined the team as mechanical engineering interns. Baptiste, then an intern at Atelier Carcajou (an industrial and graphic design studio founded by Frédéric), also begins working at MOS as a part-time industrial designer. The organization now has 5 members. Having a small team has its challenges. Having a small and young team has even more challenges. Our team understands the importance and need to surround ourselves with the right people, as we struggle to move forward with everyone working on several projects at once. These additional talents and skills will be essential for the functional, aesthetic and eco-conception design of the MOS support. This first official version was the MOS Rack.

Financing the project

During this period of conceptualization and development, Joey was not very helpful. Lacking the technical knowledge and experience, he wondered, “What actions can I take now that will help us later? He also wondered how he could use his entrepreneurial skills to help the company. 

At this point, with Amanda in administration, the small group began to participate in all sorts of events and contests to gain some notoriety and maybe even win some grants to support the research and development. Our young company won several contests and built a good reputation that became very useful in obtaining public and private funding. Even if the company has evolved a lot since its beginnings, all the trophies, mentions and prizes resulting from these various successes are still displayed in our offices. As a symbol of our perseverance and ambition, we still take pride in admiring them.

Awards and distinctions won by the MOS team

  • Winner of the RÉEL “Pitch” competition at Porsche (2016)
  • Winner of La Ruche Académie Desjardins (2017)
  • Winner of the Jacques-Garon entrepreneurship scholarship (2017).
  • Local and regional winner of the Défi OSEntreprendre, as well as winner of the “Jury’s favourite” award at the nationals of this same contest. (2018)
  • Member of the Quebec delegation for the Young Entrepreneur Symposium in Edmonton (2018)
  • Regional and provincial winner of the Force Avenir contest in the “Entrepreneurship, business and economic life” category. (2018)
  • NeoShop Montreal “Jury’s favourite” award from the Montreal Innovation District during the objective Monde tour (2018)

Production of parts and products

In parallel to research and development, a lot of time was also invested in optimizing the supply chain. We had to think about the supply process of parts and materials, while planning the assembly of the final product. With little previous experience as a reference, our team had to use the famous trial and error method. Inevitably, the team experienced some failures. For example, subcontracting the design, procurement and production brought its share of complications, and the final product obtained did not meet the initial objectives. So it was back to the drawing board. 

However, these experiences gained the hard way proved to be very enriching for our young group, and the design of the MOS Rack was completed by the internal team with external collaborators.

Throughout the research and development process, the team was supported and assisted by external specialists in their fields:

  • Produits Exact and their expertise in the design and manufacturing of plastic components;
  • Rupico to help us with the engineering;
  • Faction Bike Studio to ensure that the final product respects the highest quality standards, by means of test benches;
  • Navita, experts in product development, supported us in the implementation of our new supply chain, from the search for new suppliers, to the inspection of parts, to the development of production documents.

The release of the first version, the MOS Rack

In 2019, the research and development was finished, the team started thinking about commercialization. To finance everything and start selling roof racks, we opt for a Quebec-based socio-financing platform called La Ruche.

With a goal of $35,000, it was at the time one of the most daring campaigns in the history of the platform. But why choose this small local site when other services like KickStarter have a much larger reach? The answer is simple: if we were to make a mistake, at least it would be on a small scale. Indeed, we wanted to start with the marketing of a modest batch of 60 units, in order to raise the necessary funds to start a larger production. The goal was also to get feedback from consumers to make adjustments, if necessary. “We wanted to keep it in the family,” says Joey. No less than 45 days later, all 60 units had been sold.

However, the supply chain set up at the time significantly underestimated production costs. So we had to produce the units in a homemade way, without molds or models. The assembly took place in our offices. In spite of these complications, we received a lot of good feedback from customers: “a real game changer to install my equipment on the roof,” “my favorite sport is now much more accessible,” “a miracle for my camping weekend,” etc. Nevertheless, it was important to review the project as a whole, so that it could be viable for the company.

Before we move further into the story of MOS since 2015, we suggest you watch the introduction video produced at the time for the Ruche campaign.

Marketing the roof rack

The initial plan, once the social fundraising campaign was completed, was to officially launch the company with a marketing of 500 units. Promotional efforts included an appearance on the popular TV show “Dans l’œil du dragon,” 5-6 trade shows, a new website and all kinds of promotional offers. 

These communications have paid off, and a real buzz has been felt in the market. Joey explains that they had a hard time handling the large number of calls, messages and emails received during this period, the majority of which stemmed from the appearance on the star investor panel. This marketing campaign was supposed to be coordinated with the end of production of the new roofing materials.

However, with the production line running at a loss, the team made the difficult decision to postpone the launch, and work on building a more viable line. Just as we were beginning efforts to do this, the global pandemic came along. At a time when our product was getting a lot of popular and media attention, the timing could not have been worse.

Unfortunately, in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic erased any glimmer of hope for an upcoming launch. Through the general uncertainty caused by the pandemic, hard choices about what to do next and the future of the company had to be made.

A step back

Despite all the sadness and bitterness of the delayed launch, the team had not said its last word. They had worked too hard, for too long, to abandon ship. A step backwards was necessary to rectify the direction of the company. To do so, we drastically reduced our communications and canceled all sales. It was indeed important to pause and rethink our entire strategy. It took two years to redesign MOS. During these years out of the spotlight, we rethought our identity and revised our goals as a company, adjusting our business plan accordingly. 

A new brand image accompanied the public return. A lot of time was also invested in building a solid supply chain, from which it would be possible to produce a quality product at a more affordable price for the consumer. Finally, research and development was another major focus that resulted in the MOS UpLift™️, the functional, versatile and eco-friendly vehicle roof rack we have long dreamed of

The MOS UpLift™

By now you know our story and the journey of MOS since 2015, to get from an idea to a tangible product in the market. You also have a good idea of all the challenges, obstacles and barriers that have crossed our path. But we are very proud of this incredible story. Passion and courage have led us to our goal: the marketing of the MOS UpLift™️, a multifunctional support that is true to our values and our original vision. 

Finally, while helping sportsmen and women in the accomplishment of their favorite sports, the MOS UpLift™️ is a true symbol of perseverance, heart and ambition. It also offers a beautiful example of all the very human attempts and emotions that can be hidden behind the making of a product.

The MOS Team