PAUL FLORES-CLAVEL/COURTES PHOTO
After years of growth spurts, you can only withstand sleeping so many nights in a too-small-bed. Adam Wisco ’22, a varsity hockey player measuring in at six feet “and a quarter,” hadn’t given much thought to the inconveniences of snoozing in a twin XL prior to founding Bigg-A-Bed, but there was one thing that was for sure: “It definitely wasn’t nice.”
“Then I got a girlfriend,” he said. From there, he came up with the idea to create an extension piece that would hook onto the side of the school-provided bed frame to accommodate a full-size mattress. Countless dorm room conversations, hours of research and one $1,500 grant later, Bigg-A-Bed, Middlebury’s new student-run bed extension company, was born.
Wisco’s initial vision started out last April with nothing more than a hockey stick and some bed measurements. Using those measurements, he created a design in which the proposed hockey stick extension would slide into a 3D printed attachment piece that would hook onto the side of the bed frame.
Then, he did what any good entrepreneur would do: He sought the input of his potential buyers, who seemed more than enthusiastic about the idea. His floormates were the first to be consulted.
“It was all I talked about for a very long time,” Wisco said. At the same time, some of Wisco’s peers were pursuing similar, competing ventures, like Middorm, an affiliate of Roomie mattress rentals, and Rockefeller Beds, a company with origins at Dartmouth College.
Upon gauging that there were plenty of students who would jump at the prospect of sleeping in a bigger bed, Wisco took the design to the Makerspace in the Freeman International Center and printed out a plastic prototype for the attachment piece.
Equipped with his prototype, Wisco decided to take the idea to the Innovation Hub. He applied for a MiddCHALLENGE grant, a highly competitive application for students hoping to fund their business or social entrepreneurship ideas.
Wisco was accepted as a finalist and took his hockey stick prototype to pitch his idea to local entrepreneurs and alumni. They liked what they saw and awarded him a $1,500 honorarium to support preliminary expenses, under the condition that he submit a log of his progress each month.
Wisco then tested more than 30 different designs, using the money to experiment with different kinds of attachment piece prototypes. He spent up to four hours a day working on the design towards the end of last year and through the summer in search of a model that best incorporated simplicity, safety and cost efficiency.
“At the time, I was like, ‘okay, I guess I need a bunch of broken hockey sticks,’” Wisco said.
He began testing the hockey stick model out on his own bed, but Wisco soon discovered that while broken hockey sticks worked well in theory, they were all built differently, and were too expensive to manufacture in mass quantities.
“I had to think of what else I could use that was strong like a hockey stick, but that you can get in custom quantities in relatively uniform size,” he said.
By the end of the year, Wisco found a local company that would make custom cut metal to replace the hockey sticks as the extension piece. The only problem was that the metal didn’t fit his original attachment piece prototype.
“Inch by inch, I had to adjust the design of the hook to fit the metal piece,” he said. “At that point, if people asked to buy one, I could have said yes because there was something tangible that could go on beds and that people could sleep on.”
By mid-April, Wisco’s roommate, Paul Flores-Clavel ’22, began to tackle the advertising aspects of the venture. Bigg-A-Bed promotion posters soon lined the halls of dorms and academic buildings all over campus.
But the design was far from complete. Over the summer, Wisco continued to work on the evolving model at home in Canada, even as he started taking orders in July.
“I didn’t want to make people bring their own full-sized mattresses, so we came up with the idea to use foam to put on top of the metal extension,” he said. Wisco then found a company to custom cut foam, another to mass produce the hooks, and one to cut the wood for the support beam that would sit on top of the metal.
By that point, Flores-Clavel had revamped the informational website that Wisco created in the spring into a business from which buyers could choose from a wide array of options.
“I wanted to give people customizable options for their bed,” Wisco said. “You can buy just the frame, the foam and the frame, a topper, no topper, or you can rent and store the topper with us for any semesters you want. We wanted to adjust the product to what each person actually wanted, rather than saying, ‘Here’s what we’re giving you and you have to deal with it.’”
Due to his Visa restrictions, Wisco cannot do any work for the company while in the U.S., so he appointed Cathy Han ’22 to manage and run the business. Fyn Fernandez ’22 is in charge of deliveries, pickups and making sure everything is in order at the company’s on-campus storage container.
At this stage, Wisco is hoping for enough sales to help offset the research and manufacturing costs that went into building the company. Aside from the MiddCHALLENGE grant, Wisco funded the project entirely himself
“I tried to price it so that it would cover most of my costs, but I underestimated,” he said.
“When I’m home for breaks, I’m going to see what we can do better for next year, and how we can streamline the process,” he said.
So far, 50 people have ordered the company’s bed extension in some form.
“Someone else’s parent posted the company website on the parents’ Facebook page, so I’m just excited to see that people have really taken to the idea,” Wisco said.