From Passion To Profits: How Two Midwestern Boys Turned their “Idea for a Travel Hookah” Into A Growing Global Brand

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In August 2007, two hookah-loving college grads launched the first hookah designed for the travel and party lifestyle. Just two and a half years later, the HoboHookah claims customers all over the world, including Antarctica.

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In August 2007, two hookah-loving college grads launched the first hookah built specifically for the travel and party lifestyle. Just two and a half years later, the HoboHookah claims customers all over the world, including Antarctica.

Conceived, designed, and sold by Mike Williams and Trent Krupp, the versatile pipe combined their love for hookahs with their passion for traveling and meeting new people. Unlike other hookahs, the HoboHookah didn’t come with a vase, freeing users from the extra weight and allowing them to slam their sleek pipe atop their bottle of choice—whether a Nalgene; liquor, water, and Coke bottles; milk cartons or 38L wine fermentation caskets—to enjoy an instant hookah.

Although initially rejected by hookah diehards, its durability, compact size, and simplicity made it a smash hit with college students, avid travelers, and especially women, all loving how easily they could sneak it to the party across town or the beach across the globe–and what a conversation piece it often became. It was featured on,, BuzzFeed, COED Magazine, and Lost At E Minor.

“The HoboHookah spread quickly because it naturally brings people together,” says Co-founder Trent Krupp.“Whether you’re a college student tailgating before a football game in Madison, WI or an adventurer flying solo through Cambodia, you can whip out the HoboHookah and within minutes attract a table full of people—all gunning to live the Dream without remorse.”

HoboHookah users have shared their pipes 14,421 feet up a mountain, on the glaciers of Antarctica, at a Thai Full Moon party and in the Amazon Jungle.

“That sharing led to the coolest part; logging orders from across the US and the world. We’ve shipped hookahs as far away as New Zealand, as close as Brooklyn, as south as McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and as crazy as Afghanistan. The HoboHookah goes everywhere, and the HoboHeroes who keep us in business know that all too well,” Krupp adds

But it was not always easy for these two Midwestern entrepreneurs.

“Trent was employed full-time and I was still in college while we were hand-building prototypes, raising start-up funds, and working with manufacturers in China,” says Mike Williams. “Then right after graduating and releasing the HoboHookah, I moved to Malaysia, so we spent the next year battling day job commitments and a 13 hour time-zone separation.

“But we had deep personal forces driving us. We’d both previously lived in Egypt, and it had a special place in our hearts. Each new customer meant more than additional revenue; it meant we could share a glimpse of that culture with another peer. Most people only experience the Middle East through overwhelmingly negative news coverage, so we hoped the HoboHookah would provide a reference point—however small—to help them think critically about the region and its people.”

The HoboHookah sold out in June 2009, and will be re-released with design improvements in late 2010. Building on the success of the HoboHookah, Mike and Trent released their newest “travel and party hookah,” the HoboNargile, in February 2010. Pre-orders sold out in less than 14 hours, with purchases from eight countries and an astounding 17 percent of the registered HoboHookah community.

They make a lively interview, and can answer questions like:

  • Why almost anyone today could grow a global brand out of their bedroom
  • How to launch your own business while facing the demands of your day job… and then transition to full self-employment
  • What small businesses should expect when working with Chinese manufacturers (and what pitfalls to avoid)
  • Why most people are dead wrong about what it takes to start a business (it turns out it’s easier than most people think!)
  • Specific ways small businesses can use social media to grow their sales without spending hours per day on it
  • Hookah trends in 2010 and how stricter smoking laws are affecting this growing industry

Williams and Krupp have spent significant time roaming the globe. Driven by these cultural experiences, they spent one year—armed only with a drill press in the kitchen and a desire to share the Dream—developing the HoboHookah, and unleashed it upon the world in August 2007.

In January 2009 Mike joined Trent at the HoboHQ in Jersey City, NJ where they now reside and develop new products for the HoboHookah brand.

For a fascinating interview and more information about what it really takes to build a global brand from your apartment, please visit or call Mike directly at 201 253 5812.


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Michael Williams
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