Be Your Own Inspiration: Hai Ninh Nguyen Modernizes a Vietnamese Tradition

hai ninh nguyen

Did you know that Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil and that coffee is a huge part of Vietnamese culture? Neither did I until I came across Hai Ninh Nguyen’s profile on Instagram.

I was looking for entrepreneurs who have experience manufacturing their own products when Ninh’s post about his modernized Vietnamese coffee press –called a phin– caught my eye.

A year of side hustling. Last year I started my second venture, my first physical product. It’s been a huge learning curve ever since and I learned how important it is to create prototypes before going into mass production. Fortunately, we live in a world were services such as 3dHubs or Shapeways can make our life so much easier. I created a blog post with all essential tools that you need to create a physical product. Follow the link:⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #design #designer #designers #designinspiration #designing #designporn #designerlife #designproject #industrialdesign #productdesign #designprocess #inspiration #prototype #3dprinting #3dprinted #vinabrew #coffeeset #ceramics #sidehustle #entrepreneur #entrepreneurlife #lifestylebusiness #instadaily #picoftheday ⠀

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Ninh’s Creation Journey
I love Ninh’s story about modernizing a product used in everyday life in Vietnamese culture and exposing those who aren’t Vietnamese to this important part of life in Vietnam.

Check out Ninh’s beautiful and informative post about the traditions of Vietnamese coffee, how the traditional phin works, how he assessed ways that the traditional coffee press could be improved, his materials testing and prototyping, and the tools he used to create the first version for marketing purposes.


Ninh’s How to Create Physical Products from Scratch
Ninh also developed this guide for creating a physical product from scratch (and it’s SUPER useful!).

“I created this article to help you design and manufacture a physical product from scratch and sell it for profit.

I will take my own product as an example to guide you through each step and cover as many aspects as possible so you can apply the knowledge to your specific product.

  • You will learn about each step of creating a physical product
  • You will learn how to prototype products
  • You will learn how to find manufacturers
  • You will learn how to communicate with manufacturers
  • You will learn how to order first samples of your product”

hai ninh nguyen

More Resources
You can follow Hai Ninh Nguyen on Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn.

If you are interested in hearing additional perspective on creating physical products, check out my interview with Jessika Jake of Rist Wellness, an entrepreneur in San Diego who learned how to design and manufacture her own wellness products.

Be Your Own Inspiration: Adi Diner, Engineering Project Manager


Adi Diner is a Project Manager at Spectra-Physics, an industrial and scientific laser company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Adi’s profile stood out to me because I wanted to highlight someone from the Eazl community with a science and engineering background. I also really liked how her passion for science was developed as a child because I think it’s something so many of us can relate to.

Check out Adi’s wise words about teamwork and perfection, which is applicable to you no matter what industry you’re in:

Ludell Jones: In 2-3 sentences, tell us about your career and what you do.
Adi Diner: I started my career designing lasers. Later, I advanced to leading a team of physicists, and now I work as a project manager at Spectra Physics. I lead a team of engineers from different disciplines (physics, mechanics, electronic and software). Together we turn an idea into a product: high-end lasers that are used in leading research labs. The lasers we develop are used in physics, chemistry, and biology research labs.

LJ: What inspired you to pursue your profession/industry?
AD: Since I was young, I have wanted to understand how things work. As a child, I wondered why natural phenomena occurred and invented new devices. [In] high school, I chose to do a research project in a real lab at a research institute. I was so excited when the theory I learned in class came to life in the lab.

LJ: What is one of the toughest challenges you’ve faced while building your career?
AD: When developing new products, there is a constant conflict between ‘perfect’ and ‘good enough’. There is always one more thing that can be done in order to improve the product further or make sure that it is as good as can be.

But as an engineer and a manager, I have to aim for perfection while meeting practical demands with limited time and resources. The different considerations must be adjudicated upon.

At the same time, I must balance the sometimes contradictory input of different team members. I found that, when working individually in the lab, it is hard to see the bigger picture; in most cases, an open discussion brings all team members to understand the limitations and to prioritize correctly.

LJ: What advice would you give to your younger self if you knew then what you know now?
AD: When I just started in the industry, after spending years in grad school, I felt I [was] supposed to have answers to everything. I wish I learned earlier that, even after many years in the industry, you do not need to know everything. Asking other team members and brainstorming as a team has proven to be an amazing way for all of us to learn and find innovative solutions.

LJ: What other people in your field do you admire and why?
AD: I admire people who have the passion and ability to take their own idea from theory to product.

Adi welcomes your connection requests on LinkedIn.

Be Your Own Inspiration: Estefanía Valero Merkt, Audiovisual Designer


Estefanía Valero Merkt is a freelance audiovisual designer located in Caracas, Venezuela. I became initially interested in her when I saw that she is working on conquering both the Audiovisual world and the motherhood world. I think this is something we can all relate to and, when we learn to manage our time right, are completely capable of pursuing multiple interests with passion and talent.

Ludell Jones: Tell us about your career and what you do.
Estefanía Valero Merkt: My work is mostly about creating written and audiovisual digital content. I am a Mass Media graduate, with a major in Audiovisual Arts. I’ve been a Post Producer and Editor for the last 6 years. Currently, I work as a freelance editor, gathering a small team of writers, designers and digital marketers. I also blog about motherhood and Montessori education.

LJ: How did you discover Eazl?
EVM: I found it on Instagram and was immediately attracted to the content, so I started following and reading periodically.

LJ: What inspired you to pursue your profession/industry?
EVM: I love to communicate. I believe a word (or image) can really help to change the world, and that’s what we need most these days.

LJ: Which of your creations are you most proud of and why?
EVM: I am especially proud of the motion graphics pieces. I first started by myself following some tutorials online, then I made a beginners course on After Effects last year and since then I’ve been producing a vast variety of videos and gifs. I feel I am still an amateur, but I would love to merge [these] animation skills with my video art creations and craft some magic.

Eazl Estefania Merkt
Estefania created a series of videos about pet care for Bienestar Dogourmet. Click the image above to view the series.

LJ: What is one of the toughest challenges you’ve faced while building your career?
EVM: Deciding whether to work for a company or by myself.

LJ: What has been the outcome of you deciding to work for yourself?
EVM: By being absolutely responsible for my business, I pushed my own limits without the external enforce of a boss and a 8 to 5 job. This made me acquire more discipline to help me meet my goals, both on a personal and professional level. I surprisingly started attracting the kinds of clients I wished to work with, just by standing to my core values and nurturing my interests. Now I have more space to devote to my personal projects and, most importantly, I have more time to dedicate to my 3 year old child.

LJ: What advice would you give to your younger self if you knew then what you know now?
EVM: Trust your processes. Crafting your own workflow takes a lot of trial and error, so don’t [be] so hard on yourself when everything seems to be failing. Just keep learning and doing what works best for you and your business.

LJ: What other people in your field do you admire and why?
EVM: I get a lot of inspiration from Marnie Craycroft (from Carrots are Orange), Dana Malstaff (from Boss Mom) and Evelyn Mezquita (from The Excitement Project and El Poder de Ser). I think they are all wonderful courageous women [and] great communicators with an exquisite taste for images and design, who share powerful messages to attract, lead, and –most important– to help their communities.

You can view some of Estefania’s work here.
Interested in having your talents and perspective spotlighted for the Eazl community? Drop us a line and we’ll send you more information! You can reach us at

Be Your Own Inspiration: Hannah Pikula, Digital Content Manager

Hannah Pikula

Hannah Pikula first caught my attention on Twitter when she gave us shout out for our Growth Hacking with Digital Marketing course. Like a true marketer, she reached out publicly when she saw something she liked that was helpful to her.

When’s the last time you gave a journalist or company some love for providing value? I challenge you to get over to Twitter or Facebook or whatever RIGHT NOW and share your positive feedback!

Hannah specializes in managing digital content in Plymouth, Michigan (Detroit area), is genuinely committed to being a good marketer, and has good vibes all around.

Check out our interview with Hannah below to learn more about her experience in marketing, including the biggest wins and challenges in her career.

Ludell Jones: Tell us about who you are and what you do.

Hannah Pikula: I am a Digital Content Manager at Qualigence International, a recruitment research and talent acquisition solutions firm.

We help our clients build talent-led businesses, and our marketing team is tasked with telling the stories of how we find the right people for the right positions. It’s my job to create, measure, and define B2B inbound marketing strategies.

LJ: What is your strongest marketing skill and why?

HP: I can be very empathetic, and I think that makes me a stronger writer. I make it my business to really understand our audience’s challenges and opportunities before I even think about marketing anything to them.

If I can’t understand their worldview, pain points or aspirations, any copy I write will fall flat!

LJ: Have you completed any formal marketing training?

HP: I have my bachelors in Broadcasting Communications, and I’m looking to get started on my MBA soon!

Between major education milestones, I’ve relied a lot on Eazl to keep things sharp and develop my interests. Advanced Management Training had the most profound impact on my personal and professional life because it directly challenged how I communicate.

I review my notes from that class when I know I’m about to have a big day or major meeting!

LJ: What is your biggest marketing win thus far?

HP: Seeing my team at Qualigence churn out quality content that is carefully branded to serve our audience is a huge win. It’s a balancing act, being organized and intentional with your content calendar while staying flexible.

Being in the talent acquisition and human resource space has been a natural fit for me. I’m empowered by people who invest in themselves and believe the notion that human capital is the ultimate way to achieve business goals.

Talent professionals are always looking for ways to bring the absolute best out of the workforce and help them contribute to the zeitgeist. How powerful is that? I’m lucky I get to tell that story.

LJ: What is one of the hardest marketing challenges you’ve ever faced?

HP: Probably realizing that no matter how carefully I plan phases around a campaign launch or a new asset, there will be new information that will change the course slightly.

And usually, that information that comes through at the last minute is the best bit of insight into the consumer.

For example, that CTA is actually not clear at all, and 62% didn’t even click it and where they went next shows they are confused about what you want them to do. Weeks of planning and research can actually hinder your perspective. Roll with it and listen!

LJ: If you could go back in time and give your younger self marketing advice, what would you say?

HP: I’m in my mid-twenties, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I have lots more to experience and learn!

1. Listen carefully. If you’re thinking about what you’re about to say in response, you’ve missed the shot with your audience. Marketing is not about the marketer.

2. Stop searching for the “end” of things. Gaining skills and insight doesn’t really have an “end” date, like a semester or a quarter. Celebrate small victories in the progress of your campaign, and accept open endings.

3. Get out of your own way. You don’t pick what happens to you, or who likes you, or who doesn’t – but you do get to choose how much it impacts your life. If you let any unnecessary negativity dictate your personal or professional inner-narrative, you’ll be stuck.

You can connect with Hannah on LinkedIn and she welcomes your invites.

Be Your Own Inspiration: Jessika Jake of Rist Wellness

Jessika Jake RistRoller

Jessika Jake runs Rist Wellness in San Diego California. I was intrigued by her work initially because I have been using a traditional foam roller on my back for years (and swear by it). Jessika popped up to say hello in our marketing mastermind group and I knew immediately that I wanted to featured her due to her experience with manufacturing a product –something that seems so difficult and complicated to those of us who have never done it.

Ludell Jones: Tell us about your business and what you do.

Jessika Jake: Our business is Rist Wellness, and our product is the patent pending mini foam roller, RistRoller®. Our products and services are designed to help people feel awesome, so they can do awesome. Just like traditional foam rollers, ours help massage out tight spots, especially in the wrist, hand, and forearm.

LJ: What inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?

JJ: My daughter Jade’s love of traditional foam rollers sparked this idea. While traveling (part of) the world with Semester at Sea, she was elated to announce to me that she made a friend with a foam roller. All the news she was delivering to me was incredible: regularly teaching yoga to a class of 80 students on the deck of the ship, running a half marathon in Ireland on a whim, sleeping in the desert, riding a camel.. and then, “Mom, I have the best news!!” (This said in a voice that would make someone proclaiming “I just one a million dollars” sound calm.) “I made a friend with a foam roller!!!” She hadn’t packed one for her 3.5 month journey and being able to use one made her life. This made a light go on in my head, thinking, “foam rollers must be magical.” With aching wrists, I decided I needed one too.

LJ: What is one of the toughest challenges you’ve faced while building a business?

JJ: Time. I had a full-time job and was freelancing as well. There came a point where I had to say no to all of the freelancing. I am still working full-time at an awesome agency, but I still wish I had more time to devote to RistRoller®.

LJ: How did you learn how to manufacture a product and what’s your general take on it?

JJ: In deciding to go for it and manufacture our product, we did a lot of research and received a ton of foam samples from manufacturers in the US and overseas. Sites like ThomasNet were very helpful, as was simply Googling, and also, if a manufacturer was not a match for what we needed, asking if there was another company we should contact helped us get even more referrals.

We learned more about foam than you would think is possible. We learned more about the process as well (molds vs. extrusion). We also did a lot of testing and got a lot of feedback. In creating a product within the world of health and wellness (where we naturally find ourselves), we were so fortunate to have so many testers at our disposal.

My favorite story involves two testers who told me their foam rollers exploded — albeit, not in a dangerous way, it was an air bubble that made the foam pop (something I would never think to look out for)– but there we had it: exploding foam rollers.

For apparel companies, there is an excellent resource called the Higg Index, where pre-competitive research is collected and guidelines are set in the way of sustainability. For us, having a safe product, causing the least environmental harm, fair labor, and quality were all key. We live in California, where we have Prop 65 to abide by, so I always ask about those standards when vetting manufacturers. I always ask for safety reports and about fair labor. I have received TUV SUD, SGS and other certifications in the way of safety reporting.

The factory safety and fair labor inquiries have come back with different types of documentation, as well photos. On-site visits are always an option, and we have been toying with that. I have always been a consumer who avoids products that are tested on animals, and who tries her best to buy products that are made under fair conditions. Also, items that are not bad for the environment.

I was naturally concerned about these things when creating our product. At the same time we were starting up RistRoller, I purchased a yoga mat and was surprised to see a warning on it that it contained chemicals known in the state of California to cause cancer. A lot of our partners also make children’s toys (and thus have strict standards), but this little warning got Prop 65 on my radar as well.

We also strategically have 3 manufacturers — one in the US and two overseas. We would not want to be in a position where if our manufacturer ceased to exist, RistRoller would cease to exist. I have learned that sometimes you try out a new manufacturer who sends you gorgeous samples and weeks later thousands of unusable foam rollers could arrive at your door.

I have learned that you could work through quality issues with the right partner. I have learned that some partners “just get it” off the bat. Though our manufacturers say we can send back defective rollers for replacements, we have found this wasteful (never took anyone up on this) and instead have what we call the “Island of Misfit RistRollers” which get donated to medical/health groups. For those that have really minor issues, we use them as samples or give them away at events.

Find a list of Jessika’s recommended resources for manufacturing a product at the end of this post.

LJ: What advice would you give to your younger self if you knew then what you know now?

JJ: I’d have so much advice to give myself.

  1. Go to the dentist 3x a year. Prevention is key. You know those fillings and crowns you get? Well they give out in a couple decades… and then? You need a bigger filling, and if it is too big, you get a crown.
  2. Watch your sugar. All those things that are packaged to look healthy really aren’t.
  3. There is a “crest of youth” that we ride until our 30’s, maybe 40’s… and beyond that, if you are not taking care of yourself, the data shows that it will be a steady decline over the next decades. BUT, if you do take care of yourself you can actually compress morbidity (illness, aka “suck”), so that instead of having a slow decline, you can compress all that suck into one steep sendoff… probably a decade or so after the average lifespan. You can live young ’til an old, old age. (Of course I find this out when I am 45.)
  4. You are worthy. You are just hanging onto notions of a child that are incorrect. Go hang out with a dog, and then just see what you think of human judgements.
  5. Bone mass peaks at 30 for women. [Of course I find this out when I am 35.]
  6. Connect with your values and purpose. Let these guide you. You really don’t need to sell out. Once you sell out, it is hard to un-sellout.
  7. Stress and overwork are really, really bad for humans… worse that you think. Go Google that, and calm down, and stop working so much.
  8. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s most certainly wrong.

LJ: What other entrepreneurs or companies do you admire and why?

JJ: I really like following the story of Puravida. This company also freely shares eCommerce strategies with up-and-comers. They go out to Shopify events, and speak at colleges. I see parallels in their story and ours and greatly appreciate all of their help.

I also loved Blake Mycoskie’s book Start Something that Matters. It is about TOM’s shoes. Btw, TOM stands for tomorrow, and not someone’s name. Anyway, I think this book should be made into a movie. His story is inspiring, comical, and impactful.

Find out more about Jessika’s company at

Jessika’s manufacturing resources:

Build Your Own Twitter / IBM Watson Bot (No Coding!) with Eazl

ibm watson

Join Davis Jones from Eazl and Tanmay Bakshi, IBM’s 12 year old programming wizard, and go from zero to intermediate in your ability to use IBM Watson, your “artificial intelligence brain in the cloud.” During the event, you’ll get access to a brand new Twitter Bot interface designed by Davis and Tanmay. After the live event, the replay will be only avilable for a paid replay. Click on the video below to learn more about what Watson is and how it works:

During this event with Davis and Tanmay, you’ll learn how to:

  • Set up an IBM Bluemix account
  • Launch a Watson service (we’ll be working with the Natural Language Classifier)
  • Copy and then integrate the Google Sheets/Watson interface we’ve built
  • Use Twitter’s advanced search functions
  • Train Watson to automatically find Tweets that are meaningful to you
  • Automate the tool to “listen” to Twitter for you all the time



We can’t wait to unveil this new Twitter / Watson Bot and we hope you’ll join us! To find out more about Eazl, visit our YouTube channel at

Be Your Own Inspiration in 2017

be your own inspiration eazl

If you know someone who deserves a shout out (even if it’s yourself), fill out one of the forms below and we’ll see if we have a way to make it part of our ongoing movement of appreciating those who do the hard work.

Be a featured entrepreneur
Be a featured marketer
Be a featured professionals

Why submit one of the forms above?

  • Inspire others and share your experience
  • Increase your brand reach
  • Deepen your relationship with the Eazl team for potential future partnerships

There’s no denying the celebrity worship culture that exists in our world today and it bleeds over into the celebrity entrepreneur world as well. How many articles have we read about Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, and Gary Vaynerchuk this year? How many MORE of the same will we continue to support with our clicks and our bandwidth?

It’s honestly exhausting that all of our praise goes to just a few at the top.

We want to spend the beginning of this year recognizing those who work hard without personal branding being the focal point of their hard work. These people should be appreciated and they have some lessons to teach but we don’t know who they are because they are too busy trying to provide value in whatever way they can to the world and communities around them.

And some of them are trying to tackle complicated issues that don’t come with instant success or gratification.

For the next few weeks, I –and the team here at Eazl– will be spotlighting people in our community (both physically and online) who we think are doing great things and deserve a shoutout. Some of these inspiring individuals are entrepreneurs and others are contributing their talent to companies.

I want to make sure we are encouraging the people around us to spread the love instead of supporting those who are already clearly supported in their work.

Be on the lookout for content that encourages you to be your own inspiration for the next few weeks and happy creating in 2017.