INVENTOR INTERVIEW – HAPPY FAT RINGS

The Backstory

I first started seeing Happy Fat Rings around March of 2019, after they were featured on Instagram pages like Garage Gym Experiment and the personal page of Donnie Thompson. At that time, I did not pay much attention to the product. In fact, I remember my first thought about them was actually about the name.

Why “Happy” Fat Rings and not just Fat Rings? Why are the rings “happy”?  I didn’t know . . .

My small obsession with a name made me interested enough to learn more. After several WhatsApp chats with inventors Rob and Julien, I learned just about everything there is to know about the rings except for why the rings were “happy.”

When my rings finally arrived from Spain it finally clicked. I swapped my standard rings out for these 36 mm monsters and the answer was right there on my very own face—a smile! The rings were never happy but you better believe the person using them will be!

~ Dylan Tellam
Director of Product Development

THE INTERVIEW

(with Rob Gannon & Julien Florent Malmont) 

What problem do Happy Fat Rings Solve?

Happy Fat Rings make ring training more comfortable and more efficient. Normal rings are too thin for most adults who start learning and training on them. They create painful bruises and chafing on the wrists and hands, as well as painful pressure points. Our wide surface makes the base of support much better for the “false-grip,” provides a great platform for pushing exercises, and the extra diameter works the hand and forearm muscles harder providing a more thorough workout. 

Why did you go with wood rather than plastic or metal?

We chose wood because it’s the best material for making rings. We believe in being as ecologically conscious as possible. Wood is more sustainable and eco-friendlier than plastic. Wood is also much lighter and easier to transport than an equally sized metal ring and provides some intrinsic benefits that the other materials do not. Wooden rings can be used with or without chalk as the wood grain provides a natural gripping surface. Your own hand oils help preserve the wood making them even better with time. 

Were Happy Fat Rings ever almost named something else?

Nope, Happy Fat Rings was our first choice! A stroke of inspiration. 

Can you describe your main customer? Who do they appeal to?

Our primary customers are fitness enthusiasts with a background in CrossFit and other niche exercise disciplines such as movement flow and gymnastics. Mostly young men and ladies who are looking for additional challenges to their physical development buy rings to use in their home gym or to bring with them when they train. We also sell to gyms but far and away or main customer is the home workout enthusiast. 

What was the “Aha!” moment that led to the idea of Happy Fat Rings?

Happy Fat Rings was an idea that was born through a suggestion from a friend. Our friend Juanpe from Reset Movement was lamenting the fact that there were no “fat-grip” rings available to purchase anywhere. He had scoured the internet looking but to no avail. We thought, What the hell?” There are fat-grip devices for everything else, why not rings? “We can make our own pair!” 

How long after you had the idea did you start to develop them?

We started developing the idea right away. At that time, Julien had a business that manufactured wooden furniture and we were sure we could produce a quality pair of rings through one of his furniture factories. 

How close is the final design compared to how you originally imagined it?

The truth is that the rings were very close to what we imagined. We had to produce several initial prototypes to make sure that the shape and finish of the wood was just right, but the process itself produced a quality ring quite quickly. 

Did you make the product for yourself originally or did you always intend to turn it into a business?

We initially developed them for ourselves and our friend. We got a great response from the people we shared them with and decided that it had the potential to be a successful product and business after that. 

Is this the first product you ever brought to market?

This is the first sporting goods product either of us has ever developed and brought to market. Julien comes from a manufacturing and sales background having made and sold furniture, so we had the benefit of his experience when we decided to move forward with the HFR business.

How long did it take you to sell your first unit? 

Considering we began with the idea in 2016, it took about two years before we had a serviceable product and web portal ready to sell to the public. However, we did sell some of our early prototypes to friends and workout partners almost right away! This gave us a lot of confidence that we were producing something useful and interesting.

If you were able to go back in time to the day you had the idea (knowing everything you know now), what is the one thing you would tell yourself?

Robert: In my case I would tell myself to be more insistent on getting everything started faster. Happy Fat Rings started as a side project; both Julien and I have separate careers. We worked on HFR in our spare time and so the process began slowly. I’d tell myself to just be more insistent and get our product out sooner. 

Julien: I would tell myself to think of the idea sooner! 

What was the most challenging experience of bringing the Happy Fat Rings to market?

For us, it was finding time to manage all the aspects of the business while also balancing our other career and family obligations. On paper, starting an e-commerce business focused on one product that no one knows about because it doesn’t currently exist sounds fairly simple. Actually learning how to develop a product, find a competent manufacturer, learn how to design and manage a website and e-shop, learn digital and social media marketing, and then actually provide customer support all take a lot more time than you initially realize. It’s been and continues to be a great learning experience despite the commitment that it has generated. 

What was the greatest experience of bringing Happy Fat Rings to market?

The challenge required to make HFR a functioning business has been a deeply satisfying experience. Learning that we were capable of producing a quality product that people are really happy exists has been a very powerful lever for building self-confidence. It really hit home for us when we began getting positive customer feedback. People love using the rings; they really appreciate the benefits and continue using them for the same reasons that we developed them in the first place. It has been excellent to receive validation from people you don’t know but who appreciate what you do. We couldn’t be happier. 

What advice would you give someone who is deciding whether or not to develop a piece of fitness equipment?

Don’t talk yourself out of it! It’s easy to think that your idea is stupid, useless, or silly when you begin thinking about the whole process involved in making it a reality. Don’t listen to those negative whispers, believe in your yourself and your idea. Also, get help! Don’t try and do everything yourself. Outsourcing tasks like web development and marketing can be costly, but they provide a level of professional aesthetic that you won’t get by doing it yourself.


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