NORTH FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — What started out as a class project by Ayden Fowler and Lillian Goeckerman is now a massive business success, exceeding all expectations. Commah, a line of air fresheners, car diffusers, and essential oils is now sold online and at several local salons and businesses, and will soon have a spot on the shelves of Festival Foods.
The project was for a business class called IncubatorEDU, which prompted students to create a product that would serve as a solution to a common problem.
"I suffer from allergies, and I get a really bad reaction from common air fresheners," Goeckerman said. "And so we came up with the idea Commah, and it's an all-natural air freshener and it gives me no reaction."
The line of air fresheners, car diffusers, and essential oils is made with all plant-based ingredients.
The young entrepreneurs first worked their way into local businesses and salons, and eventually created a partnership with Festival Foods by making a connection with the natural foods manager.
Through the class, the students first developed the product, then pitched it to organizations that support IncubatorEDU, and eventually began pitching their idea at a UW-Oshkosh event and a statewide competition. This hard work paid off—in the form of thousands of dollars to support their business.
But now, Commah is independently making a profit for Fowler and Goeckerman, who have plans to further expand, with the support of their community.
"Our entire community is super strong," Fowler said. "We're in athletics, so people see us during sporting events and they're, 'like oh so what's happening? Like, what's new? Any new scents?'"
But the path to this success wasn't always easy.
"Being 17 years old, starting when we were 15, no one really takes you on 100% seriously," Goeckerman said.
And the students still have to deal with the realities of high school.
"We were taking a test. And I was done with the test and I was watching [our pitch] and out of nowhere it's just, 'Lily, what's that smell?' And I'm like, 'Oh no.'" Fowler said, referencing a line out of their business pitch.
The name "Commah" references the products' relaxation properties.
"At two in the morning, my sister came up with the name comm-ah because a traditional coma is a pause in a sentence," Fowler said. "So when you breathe in something you like, it’s like ‘ahhh,’ taking a moment to breathe."
The students received help to develop the scents from Fowler's grandmother, who owned a business where she made candles, soap, and scrubs. Fowler said she was part of the nationwide handcrafted soap and cosmetic group, of which the young entrepreneurs are now members.
Fowler said they plan to return the favor to grandma once they begin to expand further.
"I made a promise to my grandma that she would be our first employee," Fowler said.
In addition to grandma, Fowler and Goeckerman said they hope to hire high school students to work for them.
"High school students are really looking for experience," Fowler said. "So that's we're able to give them an experience, where they give us more opportunities. Obviously, you know, they'll get paid."
Teacher and mentor Kurt Wismer said Commah's success serves as an inspiration for other students.
"It just gets me so excited to be able to see them do these things, and see it come to fruition," Wismer said. "You know, they've got the hustle and they've got the grit, and they've got the drive to be able to put this together. And they're just great humans on top of that. So it's like a proud dad moment."
When it comes to the next steps for the team Commah, Fowler and Goeckerman said they plan to continue their business after they graduate. They said they hope to expand to all midwest Festival Foods locations by March, and eventually sell their products in Kroeger.
"The fact that we are younger, we'll show that younger entrepreneurs can do this," Goeckerman said.