career

The Fuel Can – Production

Rockstar

So when I received the prototype of The Fuel Can from the 3D printer, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was incredibly exciting to see the idea turned into reality. It also brought me to the next crossroads. The printed prototype cost was almost $200, therefore to bring it to market, I would have to adapt the design to mass production and find a factory that would produce it in a cost effective, high quality manner.

I started my search with no preference on whether it would be produced in the US or another country. I do prefer US made products, but if the market won’t bare the price, I realize some things are more effectively produced oversees. In this decision I took several factors into consideration that I have learned from importing products for my other business:

Foreign production:

Pros

-Generally lower cost.

-Higher quantities are generally more easily acquired.

Cons

-Language and cultural barriers to communication.

-Difficulty in traveling to see facility and check up on production.

-Payment terms place most risk on purchaser.

-Perception of quality by vendor is not the same.

-Perceived lower quality in the market.

-Timeframe involved in product production and development.

-Shipping/importing, time in transit.

-Import fees/duties.

Domestic production:

Pros

-Communication with company is generally easier.

-Travel to visit facility is easily done.

-Payment terms are more convenient. Credit cards can sometimes be used.

-Perceived value in the market is better.

-Generally lower lead times from ordering to delivery.

-Many times, lower quantities are possible to start smaller.

Cons

-Pricing can sometimes be higher. (customs, duties, and freight should be considered)

-Some vendors charge a premium to “inexperienced” customers.

So I started the process by reaching out to several (about 15) Chinese vendors through Alibaba.com and about the same number of domestic producers that I found through a Google search. I received responses from about 5 foreign and 5 domestic vendors.

It was interesting that of the foreign contacts, it quickly narrowed down to two vendors as some said they could not produce The Fuel Can. One vendor immediately put forward a price. This was somewhat suspect to me. It was a low price and either they were not taking all things into consideration or they just really understood what it would take to produce the can, but it didn’t feel like they knew everything they needed to in order to quote that quickly.

The US vendors were even more interesting. Two stepped out saying that it could not be produced. Two said that it could be produced and they threw out wildly exorbitant prices for molds and finished products. There was only one US factory that took the time to really understand the product and put out a number that was significantly higher than the Chinese vendor, but seemed reasonable taking into consideration the benefits of working with a US company.

I decided that if this would work, I would prefer to work with the US company. I set up and appointment and the next week I got on a plane to visit the factory in order to hash out final design requirements and verify that the vendor was legitimate.

The visit went very well and I took the rest of the weekend to discuss the offer with my wife and decide if it was a fit for us. Two days later, after talking with some other manufacturers and determining that the pricing was inline, I accepted the vendor’s offer and moved the project forward.

That brings us to today. We have finalized design requirements and are moving forward with mold production. Upon completion, we will receive prototypes from the molds. If all is good, we will move forward with the initial production run.

It has been interesting to me that this decision has been the hardest part of the process. In the past leading up to this point, the investments have been significant, but spread out over time. This was the first time when we really had to dig deep inside and decide if this was going to happen, or if it would be another unfinished idea. That moment where you have to put a significant financial amount on the table to see your product come to life is a hard one. From that point, the commitment level changes. It no longer is a “will this work” situation. It turns into “this will work, how do we make it happen?”

I have a lot to learn in this process and journey. I hope something I share here will inspire and help someone else who is trying to make something happen. I hope I can use this to make sure my decisions are sound and that they are moving us towards seeing this project through. I will continue to document the decisions and steps I am taking to do this.

The Fuel Can

Coca Cola

 

Sometimes I just see things differently from other people. I was that kid that ran with scissors, swam immediately after eating, and played too close to the electrical outlet.

So, now I’m that guy always looking to use things in a way other than their intended use.

I was with a church group of teenage boys helping a neighbor clean up a fallen tree in his yard. As I looked at the gas can for the chainsaw that was being used, I had a brief glimmer of clarity, and that is when The Fuel Can was conceived.

I jokingly laughed with the boys as we imagined people drinking out of gasoline cans. As far as we were concerned, we might as well have just discovered penicillin. The thought of seeing this at car races, car shows, air shows, and similar venues was fun to think about.

It easily could have ended there. How many times have you had a really good idea, and said to yourself, “maybe someday I could do that”? That night I decided to follow through on this one. I wanted to show the boys what it looked like to carry an idea like this through to finished product. I wanted to show them that when there are obstacles to your success, you plow through them and find a way to make it happen.

I am an entrepreneurial type of person. My wife and I own and operate a couple of businesses. We manufacture and sell infant special occasion clothing (christening gowns) on our website http://www.OneSmallChild.com, and I run a general contracting business in our town. My passion in these businesses is developing something from nothing. I enjoy making things happen. When I come up with a new idea, it is difficult to redirect my thoughts. So you can imagine her reaction whenever I start a sentence with: “So get this…” This was no exception. She kind of dismissed the idea at first and I dropped it for the night. I had a hard time sleeping that night and I could not let it go. The more I thought about it, the more I saw the path to make it happen.

The next day I was on the phone with attorneys trying to figure out if I could patent the idea and insurance agents to see if it could be covered by a product liability policy. After each call, I was more excited and determined to make it happen. By the end of the day, I had a clear path to put together all the legal details and I had hired a freelance designer to develop the first design for prototyping. Now all I had to do was convince my wife.

With a few conceptual conversations and getting her input on the design, she was in. I had her blessing to move forward and make it happen. A week later we had the design and 45 days after that, the patent was filed with the U.S. Patent Office. Another week and a half went by and I had a 3D printed prototype in my hands. It was an amazing feeling seeing a tangible result from the crazy idea that sprang up as we were busy helping a neighbor.

Now with pride and hope, I am presenting this product to the world. My hope is to see The Fuel Can in the hands of millions of people like me across the world that look at things just a little bit different. Please help me bring this dream to reality.

Balancing It All

So I’m that guy trying to find balance in chaos.

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance

I’m sure everyone is just like me in thinking that life is chaotic. The hardest part for me is trying to find the balance in all the different aspects of my life. The ambitious part of me would spend 24/7 working on my projects and developing my businesses. The family man in me would love to stay home with my kids all day and develop those relationships.

I grew up with less than perfect examples of balance. My father is a farmer and in that profession the demands of the farm generally take control. There is no way to maintain a 40 hour work week throughout the year because the needs of the farm are much greater during certain times. He did try to balance that by involving us in the farm labor and spending more time with the family during less demanding seasons.

My mother is a business owner as well. She started her business when I was 3 years old out of our basement. Through the years it has grown into a business with about 30 employees that I currently manage. It has always been a big part of our family. My mom even likes to refer to it as one of my siblings. Unfortunately, as we grew up, it was the favored sibling and it received much more attention and care than the rest of us.

As a result of my childhood and role models, when I reached adulthood I had no concept of balance. Throughout my childhood, the careers of my parents came first and on many levels I can’t fault them for that. It taught me how to work hard and I had many opportunities to grow through working with them in their businesses. But looking back on that, I want to live a more balanced life.

My roles are many, I’m a husband to a beautiful wife, and we have four children ages 10, 4, 20 months, and 5 months. Professionally, I’m a part owner and general manager of the business my mother started when I was 3. I also own a general contracting and real estate development company, and I try to fit in selling some products on Amazon on the side. Civically, I serve on a board of trustees for a public charter school in our community, and I’m a volunteer leader in my church of a group of young men ages 14-16. Sometimes I feel like I have A.D.D. as I switch roles throughout the day. There is always a problem that needs attention, or a challenge to overcome. With all the demands on my time, it would be easy for me to focus solely on my work and neglect the important parts of my life.

To overcome my tendencies and maintain balance, I try to schedule out my day and structure it to meet all the needs of myself, work, community, and my family. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and focus on myself and my personal development. I meditate, read and write. Exercise is also a big part of my morning. I’ve found that if I don’t get it done in the morning it won’t happen.

When the family wakes up, I usually have my personal things done and I’m able to help my wife prepare the kids for the day and we sit down together as a family to eat breakfast. I help clean up and I leave for work at around 8 o’clock.

At around 12 o’clock I’m usually able to come home and eat lunch with my family. Then I’m back at work until 5:30 when we have dinner together. My office is close enough to my home that my commute is generally walking, so throughout the day I have the chance to see my family and sometimes we all load up in the car and go run errands for work together. Some evenings I have activities with my youth group or board meetings for the school, but most are spent at home with my family. Saturdays are always reserved for family activities or work projects around the house, and Sundays are set aside for church and visiting extended family.

This schedule has been working well for us and I think it is helping maintain the balance in my different roles. I’ve found that the most important part of the scheduling is living in the moment. For example, when I’m with my children, I can’t let my mind drift into work. I have to be present in every moment whether it is with my wife and children, at work, or in a board meeting. If not I’m neglecting another part of my life and losing the balance that I’m trying so hard to maintain. I’ve found that being present is both the key to balance as well as the hardest part.

In the end, what is really important? At my funeral, I don’t think anyone will talk about how great I was at business or how many houses I built. What they will talk about are the relationships that have been developed. They will talk about the fun vacations we went on together. They will talk about the lessons they learned through example and conversation. They will talk about the memories of eating meals together as a family and spending time together.

Life is too short. Children grow up fast. Providing an income and meeting their physical needs is an important part of being a father, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of spending time together. Finding balance between these roles has been one of my greatest challenges, but I have found that it is also very rewarding.