BYU students earn $56,000 off backpack design


What began as a simple, sophomore-year sketching assignment has become a full-blown business venture fueled by the power of collaboration at BYU.

    The backpack's design is inspired by the students' childhood fascination with flying. Photo courtesy Daniel Shirley.
The backpack’s design is inspired by the students’ childhood fascination with flying. (Photo courtesy Daniel Shirley)

Industrial design students Aaron Puglisi and Daniel Shirley teamed up with accounting major Greg Christopher to run a Kickstarter campaign for their “Jet Pack,” a backpack inspired by a childhood fascination with flying. The team reached its $17,000 goal in just two days and ended up raising a total of $56,000.

“Initially, it was just a backpack,” Shirley said. “I mean, we were not thinking business.”

The wild success of their campaign caused them to reconsider, and Tessel, a company with the design aesthetic based off of nostalgic childhood memories, was born.

“We went for it … and it was a pain for about seven months,” Christopher said. “It was horrible.”

The team described its Tessel work as a full-time job.

“We started a year ago, getting ready for this, and we haven’t been paid yet,” Puglisi said. “It takes effort.”

The team described its experiences as invaluable, regardless of the company’s success.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to just put into practice what you’re learning in school and then go beyond it,” Christopher said.

Tessel teamed up with departments all over campus to optimize its enterprise. It has pulled talent from the photography, graphic design, web development, film and music departments at BYU to form an intricate business collaboration.

tessel group small
Industrial design students Aaron Puglisi and Daniel Shirley teamed up with accounting major Greg Christopher to create and market designs that bring back the essence of childhood for the practical adult. (Photo courtesy Daniel Shirley)

“Let’s all learn something from this and get some real experience,” Shirley said.

The team encourages students to take advantage of the resources that BYU has to offer young entrepreneurs.

“If you ever want to start a business, do it now,” Christopher said.

The design blogs that Puglisi has been following since he was a freshman are now publishing his design.

“It just goes to show that, as students, we can do stuff that competes in the professional world and we should not be afraid to step out there and try it,” he said.

Students can see the Jet Pack and the team’s other designs at

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