6 min read
Hudson Hale claims to be young and "really healthy". But when he signed Covid-19 in early September, it still took a toll. "I lost my taste for about a week and a half," said the 17-year-old high schooler from Portland, Oregon and creator of COVID Candies during a Zoom call. Behind him, Hale's laboratory-like basement work area is adorned with design sketches, a framed New York cover, and numerous neon green notes on a translucent dry eraser board. "And I felt very nauseous throughout, and I had a slight headache, always in the back of my head."
He wasn't alone in the Hale household. His mother, who had similar symptoms, contracted the virus as did his little sister. His father, isolated from the family, was the only one spared.
But the ordeal got Hale going. He claims to be "of course someone happier when I'm busy" and adds, "I can't really stand being busy and slacking in my own mind." He gets it from his people – mom owns a restaurant chain and dad runs a house construction company – but also admires famous innovators like Steve Jobs (in his crisp black hoodie, Hale is reminiscent of a mix of Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg). And he knew he couldn't sit idly after being lucky enough to get well again.
"I was actually sitting right here in my work area," he explains, surveying his constructively overcrowded environment. "And I thought it was a real shame I had Covid and was sick, and I really want to be able to help other people." He realized that the problem was figuring out exactly how to contribute. "I really didn't have any money," he recalls. "I've already volunteered for this other organization. I had a couple of 3D printers so I printed some face shields for the people at the front. But I felt like there was still something I could do."
So Hale started to develop catchy brand ideas around Covid that didn't seem insensitive or blatant. He was drawn to something alliterative and ended up on the hard "c" synchronicity of COVID Candies. (While Hale's product means "COVID" in all major cities, it's entrepreneurial style just capitalizing the "C".) At first he thought, "It sounds kind of stupid. I mean, they face each other. Nobody wants to eat with & # 39; COVID & # 39; written on it. "
Photo credit: Hudson Hale
Even so, he stated, "I'm young. I have nothing to lose, so I thought, 'OK, I'm going to create a candy brand.'"
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Inspired by the oddly coronavirus-shaped Japanese sugar candy kompeitō, Hale began creating illustrations for the packaging and the confectionery himself. Again, he recognizes his inexperience as a virtue, admitting that "the fact that I was a little naive has definitely allowed me to just dive upside down and make mistakes and try to figure things out."
One of the things that Hale immediately realized was that he couldn't do it alone. Surprisingly, he didn't rely on his entrepreneurial parents for advice. Instead, he recruited his friend, 18-year-old Ryan Westcott, whom Hale describes as "the kind of Steve Wozniak," for his Jobs-like idea generator. Of Westcott, Hale says, "He's like the technical person who is able to make everything work and make sure my ideas don't collapse."
Westcott has created a website that can accept most virtual payments with a quick click and streamline the ingestion and shipping processes. All of this was critical given Hale's goal to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from the snack, worth $ 12 per box, to research and response related to Covid. They work with three such organizations specifically – he didn't mention which ones – and Hale says that thanks to Westcott's site architecture, "The good thing is that when we sell, we don't stack all of our money and then donate it." After the sale. When someone places an order, their money is donated to these organizations directly after the purchase. "
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Thanks to word of mouth and local media coverage, the site has been inundated with more jobs than it can handle without the occasional delay. (After all, Hale and Westcott are both still juggling their studies in an unprecedentedly volatile school year.) For Hale, it's basically a real-time proof-of-concept that he can intuitively grasp and fulfill a market need. Or in his own words, "It's kind of a smoke test when we try to post ads on a social media platform. It tries to create them and just learn a whole lot of information about how to create them." Actually do something like that and scale it up. "
Having done this in support of a not-for-profit product that might have easily alienated customers straight away will surely give Hale some leverage as he seeks third-party funding for his next business. And like most 17-year-olds, he's already figuring out how to modify gene editing technology to reduce the spread and severity of chronic and fatal diseases.
"One of our closest friends in the family was just diagnosed with a rare blood cancer," he says. "I hope the technology evolves so that we can develop biotechnology and nanotechnology to really help people improve the quality of their cancer." I don't think anyone has to go through Parkinson's or blood cancer or anything that can change the quality of their life so that their only focus is just survival. Then humanity can thrive even more than before and so many more people can help create and discover. "