Many people are naturally interested in the origin of company names, so I thought I would start this blog with that story first. When thinking up names for the company, Victor chose VelaRosa because the product related to candles, and the Portuguese word for candle is “vela”. Victor was born in the U.S. but his parents were born in Azores Portugal, on the island of Terceira. The term “Rosa” was his Grandmother’s first name. He spent a few summers with his grandparents in Terceira as a child. Needless to say, he was very close with them. So, there you have it, VelaRosa.
In Victor’s third and final year of his MBA, he and his family got the awful news that his grandmother, Rosa, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was moved to a nursing home where Victor would visit her, hear stories, ask her questions about his grandfather, and sometimes do school work while sitting by her bedside. She passed away two months before he graduated in May 2006, which made the name VelaRosa that much more special for him. But to balance this sad news, we had our first child. She was actually due on the day of Victor’s graduation.
In need of design help
After all the class projects one of the many things that was missing a realistic prototype that looked like it was something you could buy off of a store shelf. This is when Victor sought out a few design firms and one that he liked was based about an hour away. So, in December 2005 he received the first proposal from the design firm. For the next six months they worked together to develop a formal design for the first-ever fan-based candle fragrance diffuser, that automatically extinguishes the candle. While this was going on, he was also holding a full-time job, and communicating with potential customers.
The early summer of 2007 the United States Patent Office granted Victor a utility patent! Basically, a utility patent is a series of “claims” that explain how your invention is unique and not obvious to anyone in that field of work. If you haven’t experienced the patent process first hand, I’m here to tell you that it’s NOT easy… it’s like a tug-of-war between an expensive patent lawyer and a patent examiner. You’re paying the patent lawyer to get you the broadest patent claims possible, while the patent examiner is a government employee who’s incented to reject as many claims as possible. These two go at for many rounds of review and feedback until the claims are accepted by both parties. In the end (usually about 2-4 years), you hope that the claims you’re left with, are unique enough to get a patent.
Just after the patent granted, Victor set out to find a customer who could license his invention. With the help of his design firm, he was able to get a contact at Dial (yes Dial, as in Dial soap). He met with a Babson classmate to prepare a presentation for Dial and before you know it, he was flying out to Arizona to pitch his idea in October 2007. I was so nervous for him and very proud, regardless how it turned out. Well… it turns out Dial was interested enough to ask for a one-year option on his invention. What’s an option? It’s basically an agreement that promises to pay you a certain amount in exchange for a year of “kicking the tires” on your idea. In this case it was Victor’s prototype that they poked and prodded. I can’t get into the details because it’s considered Dial’s intellectual property. But I can say that in the end, Dial opted to not pursue this idea because it was too expensive for their target market.
They say the life of an entrepreneur is like a rollercoaster and this ride with Dial brought us on some of the highest highs, and the lowest lows. It would be about 10 years before Victor would again pursue his candle passion. Those 10 years were pretty much occupied by taking care of our two children. That pretty much catches you up with where we are today!
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