When procrastinating from studying in the library, Garrett Raab and Terran Ray shared their annoyances with their current engineering notebooks and all the ways it could be improved. It was there they began the early stages of their product design that would later lead to their creation of Enki Notebooks.
Raab, a software engineering major from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and Ray, an industrial engineering major from Ashburn, Virginia, met during an introduction to engineering class their freshman year where they were placed in the same lab group.
Both rising juniors, they went from study partners to friends, and now, business partners.
"We just began discussing all these failures we've noticed," Raab said. "Roaring Springs, the company that made the notebook we were using, does a legal pad version of the notebook. The adhesive at the top made it where if you start folding the pages back they start falling off."
The pair said they had seen pages all over campus and in the trash from the legal pad notebook, They thought that a spiral-bound version would be much easier to use, keep and organize.
"I love solving problems," Ray said. "It's why I'm in industrial engineering, finding a better elegant solution to an annoying issue."
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Pictured: Terran Ray
"It is such a simple thing that I think will make a huge difference because before this I was carrying around my papers with a binder clip so everything wouldn't fall apart," Ray said.
Ray wasn't the only one who resorted to using binder clips to organize their work. Raab had even seen a professor holding together one of the Roaring Spring Notebooks with binder clips. After that, they both realized they could solve the problem.
"It was a long process in terms of finding a manufacturer," Raab said. "First of all finding one that would take us seriously because we don't really have any reputation and that was why we kind of strayed away from American manufacturers because we had no previous credibility."
Ray said he went through about 47 pages on Amazon just looking for better design notebook. They later used Alibaba, China's biggest commerce company.
"We really wanted to emulate as much as we possibly could from the engineering paper the students were so fond of, but they just hated the fact it was so disorganized," Raab said. "We kind of created our own design really. We sent all the designs over to the manufacturer and basically had them build it from scratch."
Raab and Ray both put their money into the project. Shipping things from China is very expensive they said, especially if it is things in such small quantities. They had to have three to four samples shipped to them before they agreed on a quality product.
"The process was them sending over a sample and us being like 'Okay, you did all of this wrong, please change it' and then sending over another sample until we got what we wanted,'" Ray said. "Then it goes into mass production where we had the 1,000 units ordered."
They started the process in February, and it took almost three months until they received a product they were happy with. The shipment took another month, and during that time they began coordinating with the Auburn Bookstore.
"Terran and I were sitting in the library toward the end of the school year, and we were like eh, what do we have to lose," Raab said. "At this point we have a sample we can show if we need to and the worse thing they can tell us is no and then we can move on to the next person because we weren't going to give up no matter what."
They went in right when the store was about to close, Ray said.
"They thought we were joking at first until we showed them the first sample and then Katie Lee [bookstore director] took us in the back and we pitched our idea to her," Ray said.
Raab and Ray then got into contact with Leigh Ann Rowell, the supply buyer for the bookstore, and on July 14 the first shipment of Enki Notebooks arrived.
The name, Enki Notebooks, was Ray's idea.
"I kid you not, the idea for the name and logo came to me in the shower one day," Ray said.
Enki is the Sumerian god of writing and knowledge, and their logo is the ram, one of Enki's symbols.
Not only will Enki Notebooks be sold in the bookstore but Raab and Ray also have their product for sale on their website. There they display their slogan: "Designed by engineering students, for engineering students."