Solving a Unique Problem... Innovation Spotlight: Tastee Tape
Tyler Guarino and Marie Eric, graduate students at Johns Hopkins University, join to discuss their invention Tastee Tape - an edible tape that helps secure burritos, wraps, and other foods. What started as a school project has now been featured by Jimmy Fallon, Ryan Seacrest and many others, and was recently named one of Time's Top Inventions of 2022! We discuss:
How the idea came about
The moment the team realized they had something more than a class project
Advice for others with invention ideas
What's next for Tastee Tape
product, tyler, marie, tape, edible, people, inventions, love, prototype, hopkins, grad school, accelerator program, build, burritos, advice, find, fun, company, project
Welcome to Product Voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources to help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests or to submit your product management question to be answered on our special q&a episodes. That's all at productvoices.com. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now, here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.
Hello and Welcome to Product Voices. And I have to give an apology to all of my former guests becausetoday's guests are, frankly the coolest I've ever had. You'll find out why in just a moment. Tyler Guarino and Marie Eric are graduate students at Johns Hopkins University. Tyler is a student in the Masters of Engineering Management Program, and Marie is getting her Masters in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Now, of course, Johns Hopkins is the coolest, so that alone is amazing. But here's what makes them really, really cool. They are cofounders of a company called Tastee Tape. Tastee tape is a product that they created while in school at Hopkins. It's an edible tape that helps secure burritos wraps and other foods like seriously, that is amazing, right? In fact, Time just named it one of 2022's top 200 inventions. Tyler, Marie, I'm so excited to talk with you. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Thank you for having us. We're so excited to be here.
Yeah, thank you.
As you know, I teach at Johns Hopkins. So you know I have I have a special place in my heart for you. But even if it wasn't another university, I would think this product is amazing. So and the process to get there, right? I'm just so proud of you all. So okay, let's get started. Tyler, I'll start with you tell me how this idea started. And maybe a little bit more about the product itself.
Yeah, so Tastee Tape is an edible tape designed to hold your favorite food products together to allow for that mess free eating experience. So the way it came to be is Marie and I and our two other co founders, we all did our undergrad and chemical Biomolecular Engineering at Hopkins. And for the major, you had to take a product design course. And basically you're tasked to come up with a list of inventions that you think would be useful and that you can bring to life. So one of our co founders, Erin, she's on the basketball team or she was. And so she was eating a lot of quick on the go lunches before practice. And one of her main meals was wraps. And they would always be falling apart when she would go to eat them and create an absolute mess. So during that brainstorming phase that we were in, in the beginning of the semester, she came up with the idea of an edible tape to hold the wrap together. And we thought it was genius. And we thought it was something we could actually prototype and bring to life. So we spent the next couple of months trying out all different formulas and ingredients and recipes until we were able to get a working prototype that is clear in color, it has no noticeable taste or texture. And it really has the strength to hold together a big fat burrito. So that's kind of how Tastee Tape was born.
That's a truly amazing like, I love the idea. I wish I would have been a fly on the wall and the lab and like, like figuring that out. And I do have to ask that when when you the first time Erin, is that right?
Okay, so the first time that Erin came to you, and said, Hey, I have this idea. And she said an edible tape to keep food together. I mean, what was your initial reaction was like, well, that's crazy, or oh my god, that's amazing. Or somewhere in between.
Think we were like, That's genius, because it's seems so obvious, but no one has done it before. And it's a fun solution to a problem that everyone has faced before. So we were like, This is awesome. And we we really were confident that we could be able to create the product as well. So we were excited when she came to us with that idea.
That's really cool. And I love I love the fact that you thought you could do it right? Because, you know, it's like you said it's something no one's ever done before. And so the fact that you're like, Yeah, you know what, I think we could probably do this. That's really, really cool. And part of my favorite part of the story. So So Marie, I want to ask you once you got, you know, to the point where you you were finding some things that might work, you got to a workable prototype, and you realize it oh my gosh, this really may be something we may have something here like what happened next what what was the process and what were y'all thinking?
Yeah, so I think we were just happy that we had a working prototype, I think although we did think this is something that we could kind of turn out and have you know, as a great kind of end of the year and of the you know, four years of Being an undergrad, this would be a great kind of project ender. We were happy, we had a working prototype. And we were then presenting our project at Design Day, which we, luckily, were chosen to be one of the presenters, you know, we had our entire team there. And there were a bunch of staff and alumni of Hopkins as well to kind of ask his questions. And then it kind of kicked off with the hub article that just, you know, spoke about some of the spotlight and some of the like very popular products and, you know, ideas that students were coming up with at the time. And from there, we had local news networks reach out to us to kind of, you know, spotlight us as well and talk about our edible burrito tape. And, and from there, it's just exponential growth, and more and more people picked it up. And I think probably the biggest turning point was when Jimmy Fallon talked about us on his Tonight Show, which was absolutely insane. But that kind of brought us to a point where we're like, wow, we need to keep going.
Yeah, absolutely. So I was going to ask about that. So so I'll get to that specific in a minute. But, but to follow up on that, like, at this point, when you start getting all this attention was, was your intention to have a company to just to have this startup, or it was still kind of in your mind a school project, and maybe something cool that came about?
Oh, yeah, it was fully a school project. For us. That was, you know, the full year that we worked on it, we were putting all their energy into it. But it wasn't something we were anticipating to build a whole, like, build the whole company out of? It was, you know, get the A and walk away kind of deal. Yeah, but, you know, once everything else happened, we've had to keep going.
Yeah, I love that. I love that. So I want to ask a little bit more about all the fun attention. This is getting so taller, maybe I'll ask you this. What is what has it been like? I mean, you know, Marie mentioned, you know, you were mentioned on Jimmy Fallon and I know Ryan Seacrest mentioned it and of course the what I mentioned about time, being one of the top inventions of this last year, lots of really fun attention and you know, all merited right. So what does that been like for you all?
Oh, it's been awesome. It was really chaotic when it first happened. Because like Marie said, like, this was just a class project. We didn't see this like going viral. And it happened. The last week of our semester, which we were all graduating, we were all seniors. So we have graduation happening, our families are in town visiting, you know, there's just a lot of activities going on the week of graduation. And we have all of this media attention. So I'd be going from, you know, lunch with my family right before graduation, to like, running to the car to pick up interview calls and stuff like that. So there was a lot going on. But it was it was exciting. You know, it was fun. And we didn't foresee this ever happening. So we really we just enjoyed the moment and got to experience what it was like to you know, go viral. And it's been it's been really great. And having a lot of people reach out to us has been really nice.
Yeah, that's that's a lots of fun. And again, very merited. I mean, this is a really cool invention you came up with so I have to ask, though, I mean, because again, from that point, then you both started grad school, right? So I'm sure and and decided to, you know, have a have a startup have a company and take that wherever it's gonna go. So So what's that been like juggling both grad school and running this startup? I'm sure you're both very busy. Marie, what's that been like for you?
Oh, it's been pretty hectic stressful. I think the chaos just kind of continues on since we've had the immediate intention. You know, being a full time student alone is pretty difficult. Especially being in grad school, I think we can both kind of speak to it, you're constantly like having classes more work is expected from you like compared to undergrad, you have your own projects that you're working on, whether it's research or you know, other adjacent things. So that alone is is a big task to undertake. And then you add on this factor of having to build a company at the same time. And we're also part of the fuel accelerator program, which has been really great to kind of help us manage all these all these tasks of having to build a company because Tyler and I were not business majors we don't, we never had experience being in being business or building a business. So for us, this has been such a huge learning experience. And I think having to learn and having to do it at the same time, as well as doing grad school is is a big undertaking. And I think luckily, I will say that having like Tyler as well as some of our other teammates. It really helps kind of split up the work and I'm very grateful for that.
Yeah, I'm sure it's fun, but I'm sure it's very hectic. And you know, a lot of prioritization grad school alone is crazy. You know, having a startup alone is crazy. So you, you've all got multiple jobs here. So again, kudos to you. So I'm just curious what What do you have at this point for a vision for the future? Oh, tasty tape the product itself? And then of course, the business behind it. Any any thoughts on that?
Yeah. So I think our goal is just to get it into the hands of consumers, like we want to see it being used, and out there on the market. So we're looking to work with, you know, big food manufacturers to kind of produce it and get it on the market. So that's kind of what Maria and I have been, you know, spending our time focusing on trying to actually bring it to life on a big scale.
Yeah, yeah, that's so exciting. And it's what's in again, my background, of course, is product management. So what's what's so fabulous about this example is that it's a, it's a perfect scenario of, you've got a great product. But now what, because if you don't commercialize it, if you don't have the distribution, if you don't have the marketing and promotion around it, then folks won't know. So you're already starting to get some of the promotion, but you still gotta get it out there in the hands. And so all of that is such a perfect example of of innovation. And then, you know, the process behind it. So that's really interesting. And I'm sure you're learning a lot as well, just from, you know, how do you do that? So I love that. I love that. That's fabulous. So speaking of that, like any advice, Marie I'll start with you, and then Tyler, you can jump in as well. Any advice that you would give to others, both on, you know, if they have an idea, and how to turn that idea into a product, or at least a prototype to start? And then the second part of that question is, then what any advice you know, what you've learned on after you have a product? And how do you try to get that commercialized? So start with the idea, anyone who has an idea out there? What advice would you give them to, you know, move it from an idea to actually a prototype or product?
Yeah, I mean, I think this may come off very, like simple, but I think just get started, right? Like, I think for Tyler and our entire team, we, you know, we're just hey, let's try to use our, you know, engineering brains and figure out a solution to something that may seem like pretty silly to people off the bat. But sometimes it's just, you know, hey, what, what do I need to look like? What are similar products out there? Tape? What does tape look like? What does what are the elements of tape that I can work with, to then kind of convert it to an edible component, something that people you know, can eat. And I think looking to like examples out there to then kind of build off of that to then create your own product is a really great start. And I think moving forward from that is looking to your network. I think Tyler and I would not be here, if we didn't have our advisor, Dr. Donahue, if we didn't have a great alumni network network as well. I think Hopkins kind of really builds that into the system. And we speak to so so many alumni that have been giving us great pieces of advice. Because, you know, frankly, we didn't know what we're doing. And we're figuring it out along the way. So it's really great that we can constantly reach out to our networks to kind of, hey, what do we do moving forward? Now? What's our next steps? What's how do we proceed forward. And I think that the network is a really critical parts and growing as a business. And plus talking to people that have done it before, people who've done it 20 times before different iterations have made the mistakes already. There's great pieces of advice to learn from those people. And I think extracting as much as you can, and you know, building strong connections can can help your company succeed or your product even succeed.
Yeah, I love that. And Tyler, in any advice you would give?
Yeah, I totally agree with what Marie says, I think one thing is, even if your idea seems really simple, or even silly, like ours is edible tape, you know, it has that kind of silly, fun element to it. Like, there still may be a need for it, and that you shouldn't discredit any of your ideas. And, and just, you know, go for it. And even when you come across, you know, there's always going to be bumps in the road. And when you come across them, you just have to have that perseverance to keep going. You know, it took a lot of iterations to get a product that worked. There were times where we had a product that looked exactly like tape, and then you'd go to use it and it would like fall apart or tastes funny. But you just kind of had to keep going even when you had those little setbacks. And just like Marie said, I think talking to people is the most helpful thing because people are really willing to like give their advice and help you out. Even if you don't know them that well we've been really fortunate that Hopkins has an accelerator program that we've been lucky enough to join. And that has opened up a lot of doors for us and has been able to connect us with people and even if you meet someone who maybe doesn't have the exact, you know, knowledge set that can and that they can help you out with, they might know someone else that they can put you in contact with. So really not being afraid to talk to other people to ask for help when you don't, like know exactly what you're doing, like Marie said, like, we're we were engineers at heart, we don't have that business background. So sometimes we have to ask for help and and seek out people who have that knowledge set and people are more most likely willing to help you out. Which is really great.
Yeah, absolutely. Great advice from both of you. And I, you know, again, I spend my time a lot with product management and product team, product managers and product teams. And, you know, the thing that that I love about your story is that you didn't set out to be product managers or right, or entrepreneurs, etc. But you focused on a problem. And you solve that problem, a real consumer problem, you know, interesting, silly, you know? Or not, right? I mean, just a real problem that when when, folks, when you mentioned it to folks, I'm sure they were like, yeah, that is a problem, right? It's not like we talk about messy burritos all the time. But when you when you framed the problem to them, they probably said, gosh, yes, that is really amazing. And I would love to have that solved. So and again, I say this to everyone listening, you know, whether you're a product manager today or an aspiring product manager, just find problems to solve, right and then go go jump in. Murray, I loved how you said, just get started, right? And iterate. That's, that's how we find inventions. And that's how we innovate. So I love it. I am. I'm such a big fan of both of yours and your founding team. And I'm just so proud of everything you've done. I'm so excited that you could join us here today on product voices and share your story. Tyler Guarino, Marie Eric, thank you so much for joining and sharing all about Tastee Tape.
Thank you so much for having us. It was a pleasure to be here.
Ok everybody. Tastee tape, t-a-s-t-e-e tape.com. Follow them. They're going to be huge. Thank you again for sharing your story. And thank you all for joining us on product voices. Hope to see you on the next episode.
Thank you for listening to Product Voices hosted by JJ Rorie. To find more information on our guests resources discussed during the episode or to submit a question for our q&a episodes, visit the show's website productvoices.com And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform.
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