Seth and Rachel Hiser are a husband and wife entrepreneurial team who founded a company called BioVivara in 2009. BioVivara develops vivariums (Latin for “place of life”) along with starter kits, accessories, and educational resources to promote healthy indoor habitats for exotic plants and animals. Their systems provide a framework for recreating the special environmental factors necessary to ensure thriving animals and plants. These enclosures are designed to emulate nature as much as possible, thereby enhancing plant/animal quality of life and owners’ enjoyment of their plants/animals.
Rachel and Seth are both homeschool graduates who plan on homeschooling their own children: Dietrick, 4, and Eliana, 2. The family lives in the Columbus, Ohio area. Seth’s background includes military training/deployment and product fabrication. Rachel has over ten years of experience in small business management, marketing, and consulting. The couple’s BioVivara business actually started out as a solution to a problem related to their favorite hobbies – Rachel likes to grow orchids and Seth likes to keep dart frogs.
Even though Rachel wanted to collect and enjoy orchids, as a busy professional and mom she didn’t have a lot of time to devote to their care. She had purchased a Phalaenopsis from a big-box store in the early 2000s, but it died. This is a common problem because temperatures and humidity levels in homes and offices often aren’t what a plant needs, or the temperature/humidity levels may fluctuate so much that the plant becomes stressed.
Seth had been keeping exotic plants and animals since he was a small child. He built and maintained many aquariums, palaudariums, and terrariums through the years. However, he was always frustrated with the constant compensation necessary to keep the plants and animals alive, along with the environmental challenges of recreating their habitat to ensure that they are thriving (not just surviving). Animals and plants live in complex natural ecosystems, which can be difficult to duplicate artificially.
Seth says, “I’ve been keeping herps on and off for over 20 years but being in the Army meant putting off a lot of what I wanted to do in the hobby. But being in the Army did have one upside for my love of animal enclosures: I discovered the dart frog hobby in Belgium while stationed with NATO. I had never seen vivariums like these! It looked like they had recreated a rainforest and set it in their living room. I was hooked.
When I got back to the States I couldn’t find anything to compare as far as design and function. I started making my own vivariums by retrofitting aquariums, then recreating what I saw in Belgium, the Euro Type vivarium. But, all the enclosures I created never felt quite right. They didn’t have the level of control I wanted.
So, I began doing more research, breaking down vivarium construction theory to the very basics. Then, I started developing prototypes that would have the level of control I was looking for, along with the beauty and simplicity of the European designs. My father was impressed enough with my work that he gave me free rein in his fabrication shop and BioVivara was born.”
Since the existing options on the market did not allow for the emulation of natural biotypes without extensive modification, Seth and Rachel began building custom enclosures, backgrounds, and vivarium accessories in 2008. They experimented with glass and acrylic in search of the ideal framework. To help fund their endeavors, they grew select hard-to-find plants, and sold them locally and online.
In 2011 they started working exclusively with acrylic due to its lighter weight, easier shipping, greater scratch resistance, and ease of customization. They continued to prototype comprehensive enclosure systems and began the process of patenting some of their low-maintenance innovations such as the patent-pending Water-Flow and Air-Flow System. The “flow through” system controls humidity, temperature and air movement while allowing a moderate pass-through of air from outside the vivarium.
In 2012, after two years of development, they launched their first comprehensive enclosures – the Miniature Orchid Desktop Vivarium and the larger Rainforest Emulating Vivarium – via Kickstarter.com, in an attempt to seek funding for materials and equipment needed to make the vivariums faster, with less waste, and at a higher quality for a reasonable price. (Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform for creative projects.) View BioVivara’s Kickstarter video here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/biovivara/miniature-orchid-desktop-vivarium
The Kickstarter campaign helped Seth and Rachel take their designs to the next level and make their products more widely available. They now sell Desktop Vivariums online. There are several different options available – buying a vivarium by itself, as a kit with background and substrate, or as a complete kit with orchid, background and substrate. The large vivarium was specifically designed for dart frogs, while the mini vivarium can be decoratively placed on a dresser, shelf, or desk. For more information, visit their website at http://www.biovivara.com and their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BioVivara.
BioVivara will be in San Diego from March 1-2, 2013, as a vendor at MICROCOSM. MICROCOSM is “a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of ecosystems through the keeping of naturalistic vivariums and aquariums. MICROCOSM is a new kind of event that brings together enthusiasts from a wide variety of interests–some of them the best specialists from their respective genres–in order to promote overlap between hobbies and celebrate the diversity of the planet on which we live. The two-day event includes lectures, excursions, workshops, a vendor sale, and a live auction. All proceeds will directly support amphibian conservation through the programs and grants of Tree Walkers International.”
Rachel Hiser’s Entrepreneur Club for Teens
In addition to being co-owner of BioVivara with her husband, Rachel runs a small consulting business from home. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from DeVry University with a BS degree in Business Administration, specializing in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship. Prior to starting her own business, Rachel worked as an office manager for Kresge Contracting, administrative assistant for Gramercy Place Condominiums, and communications coordinator for Lighthouse Counseling Services. Rachel’s experience also includes teaching homeschool co-op classes, tutoring teens and young adults, and professional training of others in a business environment.
A career girl at heart, Rachel says, “I’ve experienced so much and had to work for every success; nothing has been handed to me in my life…Since my mid-teens I was responsible for my financial well being. I started college at age 17, but because I had to work and support myself, I didn’t graduate until I was 25.” In the meantime she married Seth, her high school sweetheart and debate partner, at age 21. Rachel’s professional passion lies in small business development and she would like to get an MBA in Entrepreneurship, while her personal focus is on child development and homeschooling.
Starting in March 2013, Rachel is going to host an Entrepreneur Club for homeschooled teens! Are you a teen ready to explore the adventurous world of entrepreneurship? Or are you a parent with teens who are interested in entrepreneurship? Then this club is for you and your family! In this club, teens will learn what it means to be an entrepreneur, learn from real successful (and not-so successful) entrepreneurial stories, explore their own potential, and even gain feedback and support in starting their own business. Did I mention this club is 100% free?
Each month will have a primary topic, lesson plan, and discussion session. Students will have the opportunity to create short presentations, such as sharing their business ideas for critique and feedback, or presenting updates on what is and is not working for them. Presentations could be via a PowerPoint presentation or prerecorded video. Any student interested in submitting a presentation must contact Rachel at least one week in advance.
The first club meeting will be on Wednesday, March 13 at 1:00 pm CST. The topic is “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” – we will talk about what entrepreneurship is and is not, get to know each other, and share some resources to help you evaluate your skills and opportunities. This club will meet once per month, typically the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 1:00 pm CST. The meetings will last approximately 60 minutes. Can’t make it to the live club? Don’t worry, all meetings will be recorded so you can watch and listen at your convenience. Click here to join.