With a dad who was a serial entrepreneur, it is no surprise that Jeff Olson ’04 is one as well. It runs in his family.
“He was always chasing the dream,” Olson confesses of his dad’s entrepreneurial nature. “So, I guess it is in my blood.”
That spirit was instrumental in his recent invention and marketing of a new (and highly acclaimed) fitness balance board called the Pono Board.
It started when Olson entered the College as a freshman in 2000. He originally wanted to major in physical education, but after a few semesters, he realized that teaching or being a school administrator wasn’t what he really wanted to do.
Olson decided to change majors and moved to the School of Business, which he felt was a better fit for his curious and inventive nature.
“For me, the business aspect was more creative,” he says.
After graduation, the economics and business administration double major moved to the West Coast and started a company selling Rhino Shield, an exterior ceramic coating for houses.
“I had this opportunity to start my own business immediately out of school,” says Olson, who was the owner and marketing director of the company. “There was no one to teach me or show me how to do it. I definitely found that what I learned at the College was very valuable.”
Fast forward several years: Olson and his wife, Danielle, are running two successful businesses and raising a family. Like a lot of young couples, they soon began to feel overwhelmed from the physical and emotional exhaustion of keeping pace with kids and careers. It was time for a change.
Enter the Pono Board.
Olson had been thinking of creating a core-strengthening, fitness and anti-fatigue balance board ever since graduating from the College (a perfect marriage between his original interest in physical education and his natural business savvy). After tinkering with the idea in his invention journal for years, he figured it was time to put the plan in motion.
“The idea for the Pono Board was inspired by playing on the sand at the beach,” says Olson. “While moving around is a little harder than on solid ground, it’s energizing and fun rather than difficult and deflating. And since there’s no fear of falling over and getting hurt, people can think about their workout, exercise form, task at hand, mindful breathing, simply enjoying the present moment, or anything else they wish.”
With that in mind, the Olsons named their budding business Pono Ola, a Hawaiian phrase loosely meaning “balanced life.” And after working through several prototypes, the husband-and-wife team decided to bring their new invention to the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in 2016 to get feedback from the health and wellness crowd.
The reviews were great.
“It makes people smile and it makes people feel good,” he says.
More importantly, people started buying the board. A lot of people.
They soon discovered that the fitness community was not the only group attracted to the Pono Board. More and more people who use a stand-up desk have also come to appreciate the device. Users say it helps them prolong the amount of time they spend standing and strengthening their core without having to pay too much attention to their balance
After a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, the Olsons have launched the newest version of the product called Pono Board 2.0. This incarnation of the board is larger with twice the movement and twice the core challenge of the original Pono Board. The whole point, says Olson, is to create a “balanced living lifestyle, not just a balance board.”
Indeed, the anticipated growth of the Pono Board brand should continue Olson’s reign as chairman of the (balance) board for years to come.