A pair of industrial engineering alumni have developed a product that will bring convenience and ease to parents and other caretakers when changing diapers on-the-go.
Cameron Lynch and Danilo Manfre, both of whom hold a B.S. in industrial engineering (IE) from Iowa State University, are the co-founders of Fin & Viola, a consumer-packaged goods company with an emphasis on “baby and mom” products. They currently have five different products for sale and a list of prototypes to develop in the future. Fin &Viola products are currently available through their website and the ISU Bookstore.
“Our products are designed to make your life easier” said Manfre.
Their flagship product is the DubleRoo™, which they say “provides peace of mind to every parent or caregiver who needs to change a diaper on-the-go.” Their product provides both a clean, durable surface on which to change baby’s diaper as well as a built-in pouch for storing a soiled diaper, without fear of leaks or odor, until it can be properly disposed.
The idea for their company first came about in Spring 2020 when they were part of the Entrepreneurial Product Development Club. Because of the strong relationship they had with the university, the duo decided to base their company in Ames with their office currently located in Iowa State University’s Research Park. The name for their company was inspired by one of their co-founders, who made up the characters of Fin and Viola and would tell their imaginary stories when out on bike rides with his two young daughters.
“Fin & Viola means imagination, creativity and the idea that kids can grow to be anything they want,” Manfre said. “The dream behind Fin & Viola is to add value to the experience of being a parent. We want to create a brand that people turn to not only to buy products, but also for resources to make their experiences as parents easier and better.”
Their website features a series of blogs designed to provide information on various topics related to being a parent and interacting with babies.
Coming to Iowa State University
Lynch grew up in Iowa City and first developed an interest in engineering when he would build dams in the creek in his parents’ backyard, though he admits these dams would quickly wash away. He jokes that his parents are grateful he never became a civil engineer, but he did find a place for himself in Iowa State’s industrial engineering program. As an undergrad, he was involved with everything from the Clean Snowmobile Challenge club to helping his classmates learn how to use SolidWorks. He participated in the Entrepreneur Club, which was his first major exposure to entrepreneurship and the business world.
Manfre, meanwhile, grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, but attended his senior year of high school in Waukee, Iowa. He said that he was influenced by several of his classmates and host family to attend Iowa State, adding “for a foreigner, it is great to see some familiar faces.” He gravitated toward IE because he felt it provided him with a general engineering background, combined with skills in management, economics, statistics and business overall.
The duo, who both said the beautiful campus is also part of what attracted them to Iowa State, often take IE concepts and methods – such project management, cost analysis, process improvement, quality control and rapid prototyping – and apply them to their business. Aside from this technical knowledge, the duo also emphasizes the importance of soft skills, such as developing good relations with suppliers and an ability to collaborate with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
Lynch and Manfre worked closely with Jim Fay, a fellow entrepreneur and an Entrepreneur in Residence for Iowa State’s College of Engineering. Fay continues to work with them providing mentorship and guidance to the group, and currently serves as the president and CEO of Fin & Viola.
Encouraging other entrepreneurs
Both Lynch and Manfre said they did not come to Iowa State with the intent of becoming entrepreneurs, but instead stumbled upon it through their coursework and other activities. Because of this, they encourage others with unique ideas to pursue their business dreams.
“Just know that whatever you do first may be wrong. And that is OK. What matters is doing it, failing, learning from it and doing it again. Understand that it won’t happen overnight and that if you don’t put hard work, consistency and discipline into it, it will not happen,” Manfre said.
Manfre also expressed the importance of not getting so consumed by your company that you forget to have a personal life. He said things like getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and making time for your family, friends and hobbies will improve your work performance and will help to prevent burnout.
Lynch stressed the importance of good communications skills with every aspect of a business. He also encourages new entrepreneurs to continue to develop both professionally and personally by reading.
“Whether it be textbooks, books to learn from, or books to enjoy, just start reading,” he said. “I recommend the book The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John Mann for anyone who wants to learn about what it means to give more than they take.”
While IEs are constantly focused on process improvement, Manfre also stressed the importance of the process when managing a company and developing products.
“Just enjoy the process, don’t stress too much about the finish line. Being exposed to an entrepreneurial environment provides huge growth, both professional and personal. Appreciate the journey,” he said.