After 4 years of making, hacking, and right turns, it’s clear that Nomiku’s trendy-nerdy co-founders – Lisa Fetterman (CEO), CTO and astrophysicist, Abe Fetterman and Wipop Bam Suppipat, industrial designer and trained chef – are having a bit of a “maker moment.”
Not only is the Company and its immersion circulator bringing “sous vide” food out of top chef kitchens and into the hands of everyday chefs, CEO Lisa was named to Zagat’s 30 under 30 Rockstars list this week. It seems her and her team’s fresh take on heat transfer is poised to change the way we think about “making” in the kitchen.
To hear more about their story and how they got here, Megan Bentley, Curator for The Makers Nation San Francisco, sat down with these makers-turned-budding-food-science-moguls in their lofty kitchen-office in the Mission district of San Francisco.
While listening to their recipe for success, three things bubbled to the top: a dash of smart decision-making, a pinch of luck and determination, and a heaping spoonful of support from the maker community.
Here’s what we learned from the conversation.
1. Inspired By Something You See? Make a Prototype and Just See What Happens
Lisa was working at Michelin-rated Saison and was inspired by how its top chefs were using immersion circulators in their kitchens. She saw how easy it seemed to be and how delicious all the food became, and turned to her (now) husband and astrophysicist Abe to see if they could make something.
By (basically) combining an aquarium bubbler, clip, and tea heater, voila! Abe made their first prototype and their first dish – an “ooey, gooey, custardy” egg – and, they became hungry for more. There had to be a way their friends could do this, too.
Lisa was left feeling inspired and connected to her idea enough to be ready when the next opportunity knocked at her door to make it happen.
2. Be in the Right Place at the Right Time + A Little Chutzpah = Maker Magic
Soon after making their prototype, Lisa and Abe were sitting in a Vegan café in New York doing some work and overheard a conversation at the table next to her. It turns out that Mitch Altman, the person who brought hacker spaces to the US, was giving an interview to Make Magazine. Filled with excitement, Lisa walked over to Mitch after the interview was over and said, “Hey, I think I’m a Maker.”
“I mean, this guy looked freaking crazy,” said Lisa. “He had gray long hair which he dyed, and there’s this reporter from Make Magazine fawning over him, right? And, then we listened in on this whole conversation, where he goes through the details of how he basically taught thousands of people to solder, igniting the maker movement in the United States.” She was inspired.
She then told him exactly what they were doing, and before she knew it, he was taking the keys off of his key ring to his hacker space in San Francisco. He told her to go ahead and visit the space the next time they were in there. “From there,” Lisa said, “we never looked back”
Going to maker spaces like Mitch’s – NYC Resistor, BioCurious, and Alpha One labs, and others – she and Abe were well on their way to making an everyday immersion circulator a “thing,” eventually also meeting their third co-founder, Bam, along the way.
3. Trust Your Community: Don’t Do It In Secret
The team engaged with maker spaces and spent time talking about their prototype and idea in the process, Abe points out that without the help and input from others, they could not have built the product they made today.
As he commented: “some people work on projects in secret, but there is no way to build a community around a secret. You need to be open, and you need to share what you’ve done. Talk to people about it. You can’t just do everything on your own in your garage, unveil it on Kickstarter, and expect it to be a success. You have to build that community and that trust, which is – I think – a huge part about being a maker.”
To this day, if you go on Nomiku’s website, you will find a community section that is a great source of input and community-building that the team continues to feed, grow and build upon.
4. Have Passion!
If you’re going to do something, understand the root reason why you’re doing it and don’t be afraid to evangelize it. If you use that energy, it will help make you successful, especially when combined with grit and determination. As illustrated in Lisa’s own words about Nomiku:
“We want to inspire people to cook. To have everything in your kitchen make you the best food possible. That’s it. And, we want you to be able to serve the best thing ever. Be the chef you were always meant to be inside. Every person is creative! And, I believe that fully. You can be creative in the kitchen, you just need the right tools. Like a painter who needs specific tools to control their medium, you need special brushes. Same goes for a chef. There are a lot of tools that chefs spend a lot of money on, as [the essence of what they do is] all about heat control. All those copper pots, etc. Well, what about something that can control heat to the point zero (0.0) degree? If it was anything else, we would have made it. But, it happened to be sous vide.”