For Adam Gibbs and Nick Bongi, the idea was born out of their shared passion for fishing. Since they were children, the two 18-year-old friends have taken an annual trip to the Gibbs family’s vacation home on Sanibel Island in Florida.
“We were fishing down there one night, and we were on a dock,” Gibbs said. “We just noticed that everyone was fumbling around with flashlights, or using their iPhone’s light.”
Flashlights fell into the water from time to time. Everyone struggled to tie knots, unhook fish, and grab gear in the darkness.
“We decided just to throw a light into the tacklebox itself, and it kind of grew from there,” said Gibbs, who is a business student at Northeastern University.
A relatively simple idea pursued by two teenagers became a kind of classic, start-from-scratch American business story — or at least the first few chapters.
The experience has turned into a two-year venture for Gibbs and Bongi, who both live in Westborough. It has led to a Kickstarter campaign for their invention, the FISHinc. ProGlo+ tacklebox, which has a detachable, waterproof, tubular LED light that can also charge a smartphone. The campaign, which ends March 4, has so far raised about $14,000 of a $30,000 goal.
The friends have been working through real-world business issues to get the product closer to market. They filed a patent application and contacted a Chinese manufacturer. So far, they have received two wholesale pre-orders and almost 30 individual orders.
“We want to start selling directly to the consumer from our website, immediately,” Bongi said. “We want to get it in small tackle shops, we want to go to Walmart, we want to go to Dick’s, we want to go anywhere possible. If we are able to get our funding, we want to blow it up.”
Gibbs and Bongi have been working without any financial backing so far. Prototypes were developed with $5,000 they raised by selling personal items on eBay.
Understandably, they have been keen to create awareness of the product and funding for the venture. Gibbs even responded to an open casting call for the reality-television investment show “Shark Tank.” When he didn’t land a spot on the show, the pair turned to Kickstarter and its crowd-funding platform.
Gibbs and Bongi have gotten some other kinds of help along the way: Bongi’s father worked with them to prepare preliminary plans for the device, which they took to a computer-aided design professional who helped them draw it up.
And a neighbor helped them build the first product.
Along the way, their enthusiasm for their product and hopes for the business have never wavered.
“We want to take this as far as we can bring it,” Bongi said. “We want to continue working on it after college.”