So, I've decided to rock my way over to the casbah of Mike "The Pasha" W on Mifflin Street with a few compadres to try out a new product.
It's called 'The HoboHookah.'
Mike, a UW student and avid contemporary blogger, developed the new product along with a few entrepreneurial friends, including recent alum Trent K. When Mike said a few prototypes had arrived recently, I thought I'd take a test drive - I remembered seeing the original home -made Jagermeister model one infamous morning last spring...
Looks like the HoboHookah is slated for a big launch this spring - there's a schnazzy website and a healthy facebook group already.
Brad V: So what's so special about the HoboHookah? How is it any different from a normal hookah?
Mike W: That's a I'm not gonna say it's an insightful question - it's a Ok you've done a little hookah smoking in your life...here's a traditional one from Morocco, (shows hookah collection) you're probably gonna come back with this little blue guy. I'll consider that a victory. You might also come back with this big guy - good luck fitting that in your luggage. Good luck smoking that guy.
This is smoking right here (shows me a hobohookah) - and you can fit this in your little soccer mom bag here. You can fit in carryon. Put it on the airplane check-in - for all the assholes that bring that stuff on.
I roll around with this with the bottle - everything's in this bag that I need to smoke the hookah.
Trent K: I've carried this thing around internationally. You buy yourself an Absolut bottle. Wherever you land, you're going to have a party. You've got a party in a package.
Mike: You buy whatever bottle you want. A 2 litre of Coke - that's cool too. When you've got Stoli's in duty-free...
(I take a break to take a taste...) a discussion ensues about girls' giant purse sizes, Katie says she has a hookah case that feels like carrying a trumpet around, (HoboHookah works like a charm - has a
Trent: At the end of a party - you'll be able to find whatever body you need to fix onto your hobohookah and end the party...probably a dozen people tops, hardcore people...
Mike: The Hobo is for the party pioneers...the people who are driving the party...maybe they arrive on time, maybe they dont'...but you know when they arrive...it's the party pioneers that have the HoboHookah...they use that extra bottle they pull out of their coat pocket at the very end...we're gonna smoke hookah and watch the sunrise...because the party is not yet over.
Trent: This is alcohol 2.0
Mike: You've heard of Web 2.0. You've heard of Alcohol 2.0. This is Hookah 2.0. And that makes a nexus - Party 2.0.
Mike: A buddy, Surya, he's a graduate student in design at Carnegie Mellon. Some people are about design, he takes it beyond design to product experience. How do people perceive it? There's people who love hookah, there's people who love drinking. Some people know of these hookahs of Biblical - behemoth - proportions. The HoboHookah represents an exodus from that type of hookah.
Brad V: How so?
Mike: It's a junction made in heaven. We spent sig. time in North Africa. We've bought into that culture - we all have middle eastern hookahs. But we're all into the drinking culture here in Wisconsin. It's a very symbiotic relationship between hookah smoking and drinking - and we didn't know what it hasn't happened. It's the community aspect to the hookah - we're bringing this junction together. You have the idea of the Jaeger bottle and the idea of the hookah - we want to unite that. That offering, that glance - you get the decision of "Do you wanna glance? Or do you want to be the center of cool at the party?"
Brad V: Will it work with a wine bottle?
Mike: Done, son.
Brad V: What about the perceived harmful effects of hookah smoking?
Mike: You're smoking and smoking is "not good" for you. Shisha tobacco does not have nearly the chemicals or the concentration of cigarettes. We've looked into this. Ok, we know that this is not a health benefit. How can we make this less harmful to you? We're looking to explore that. We'll see what happens. Our ultimate goal is a net-positive for the world. We're interested in engaging what our customer has to say - every customer becomes a part of the community. It becomes about our constituency. The HoboHookah is the beginning, not the end.
Brad V: Do you have an expected launch date, officially?
Mike: The launch is Mifflin. At 543 Mifflin. You can come here and buy a HoboHookah with cash or credit card.
Brad V: So, can people pre-order now?
Mike: Yes. If they pre-order now, they're guaranteed a HoboHookah. In 100% effectiveness.
Brad V: Because...
Mike: We're being real with the consumers. What product do you buy out there that you actually feel the seller has been real with you? Even as a corporate customer, do you actually identify with that person?
Trent: This is a passion. We have a passion for the hookah. We've been to the Middle East and we know what's wrong with our hookahs - they're pretty shitty at the end of the day.
Mike: You can buy one off E-Bay. It's okay in the short term. But you don't know what's going on in the inside.
Trent: Inferior metals will retain flavor and stain. We designed it with a stainless steel central pipe.
Mike: It's designed for the smoking experience.
Trent: I live in Manhatten. I smoke in some high quality hookah bars. Why don't hookahs work as well as home shisha? It's because of the stainless steel pipe. All high quality shisha bars operate...you'll get the same experience as at a high quality hookah bar.
Brad V: Is the new product durable?
Mike: It's dishwasher safe!
Mike: Why pay so much for an inferior product? This can be your main hookah and your utility hookah. I would roll with this to parties in my soccer bag - when everybody's dying, I'm going to keep the party going and watch the sun rise over Lake Monona.
Trent: In the end, the bottle breaks, ok. The hose breaks, ok. As long as I have a hobohookah anywhere, it'll work. As long as I have a HoboHookah...girls are attracted to it. If you know the way of the Hobo, you can survive out there.
Brad V: What about people who are new to the hookah experience?
Mike: There will be a U-Tube series to help learn all this, like...
Trent: I can manufacture a hookah bowl out of an apple.
Brad V: Wow...cool...
Mike: We're going to have a few basic tutorials, a U-Tube series to teach people how to clean their hobohookah, etc. Right now, we're drivers of the community, but there's a point where we're going to be facilitators of this...for people who go off the beaten path, maybe party a little bit harder than most. Not everybody's looking for the status quo. These are party pioneers.
Brad V: Where is it manufactured?
Mike W: There's no answer to that right now. We don't have manufacturing secured yet. That'll be done in a week.
Brad V: What bottle would you prefer for the base of your HoboHookah?
Mike W: Whatever you want.
Trent: The Hypnotiq bottle. Or the Johnny Red bottle. It's got a great form to it. And the handle lets you carry it around anywhere. I'd probably slam it on a Jerry bottle, though.
Brad V: Bombay Sapphire sounds good to me. Neat idea, guys. Neat idea.