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Bullets and Blurbs

All alliteration aside, we’ve been growing and expanding at a ludicrous pace as of late here at Elite. Our core group of five people is already accompanied a team of 10 contractors, freelancers, and interns in the software engineering, database administration, design, marketing, and videography fields. This blog is dedicated to highlighting what we’re up to right now and what’s to come in the next month or so in small chewable bites. I’ll take it chronologically since September to give you a taste of the speed at which we’re moving.

Elite Innovations Timeline:

    • September 3rd – Elite Innovations opens second location in the Chandler’s Wharf at 225 S. Water Street.

 

 

    • October 8th – Client Leah Sherrill nails her first ever pitch with her company, Special Pedals, and wins the Wilmington Discovery Forum. She is rewarded a chance to pitch at the Innovate NC Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh for $10,000 in the social entrepreneurship category. She was also awarded a spot to pitch in the upcoming Cucalorus Connect rocket pitch sponsored by UNCW’s C.I.E.

 

    • October 18th – Elite Innovations celebrates it’s One Year Anniversary in Wilmington, NC!

 

    • October 23rd – Technical Consultant to Elite Innovations, Emilyanne Atkinson, who also helped plan our grand opening last October, will be heralded for her tireless work ethic and dedication to her community at this year’s Wilma’s Women to Watch awards in the rising star category.   Emilyanne is not only working on the Origo project for Elite Innovations, she is also the senior database administrator at CastleBranch, and co-founder of Cape Fear Women in Tech.

 

 

    • October 28th – Andrew Williams, CEO, and client, Leah Sherrill, will both be pitching at the Cucalorus Connect Rocket Pitch. Andrew will pitch Elite Innovations, and Leah will be giving her second ever pitch of Special Pedals.

 

    • November 3rd – Student-only “Innovative concept” pitch competition (last year’s flyer) during UNCW’s entrepreneurship week. After the pitches are finished, Andrew will be introducing these young and hopeful entrepreneurs to Elite Innovations with a speech of his own while judges are deliberating. The winning entrepreneur will receive a 6-month free membership to the Elite Innovations maker space. Coincidentally, competing in this same competition is what got me in the doors at Elite Innovations just last year.

 

    • November 11-15th – Cucalorus Connect. Elite Innovations as well as our business development manager, Ed Hall with his company, Petrics, will be featured in the 10×10 program that pairs filmmakers with entrepreneurs. Elite Innovations is also helping on the planning committee of this five day event. Cucalorus connect will focus on entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, and start-ups: “Where artists and entrepreneurs collide.”

 

    • No Date to speak of –
      *Picked up two more awesome products out of the Greater Wilmington Area to represent.
      The Flag Tender clips your flags to the pre-existing rod holder on your boat in just seconds, and lets you fly your flags high, dry, and secure, even while underway.
      The Tub’n’Shower Shelf eliminates clutter from your shower in an ingeniously simple way. Watch a user submitted product demo video here. (It’s quite entertaining, trust me)
      *Product branding nearing completion on the TailGator. The TailGator is a truck bed extension system that allows the user to safely transport ladder racks, couches, paddleboards etc. The patented modular connection system in the TailGator allows the user to attach virtually anything to the mechanism, such as a Miter saw, and turn their truck into a mobile workstation.

 

EI Employee Highlights:

*Jason Gillikin and Andrew Keener are our rock star software engineers who are currently splitting time between 3 different projects: The latest version of the ORIGOSafe system, a personal project, and one that cannot be disclosed due to IP.
*Ken Zeiger is our web/app development extraordinaire. Chances are, if you want something cool to happen on your phone or computer, Ken can make it happen. He’s revamping the web interface for the latest ORIGOSafe revision in coordination with our Raleigh team.
*We have also just hired on a new designer, David Eidson. It’s cool because if you change his last name around, it spells Edison… Coincidence? I think not! Check out his portfolio here.

 

I’d love to tell you more, but at the end of the day, a lot of our most exciting news is still intellectually protected and cannot yet be spoken about publicly. That being said, I promise we’ll have a few more BIG announcements coming up soon. Keep an eye out for us, Wilmington – we’ll be around.

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Elite Innovations at Amazon Inventions Tour

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you know that we attended The Amazon Inventions Tour this past weekend in Atlanta. The Amazon Inventions Tour was two days packed full of prestigious speakers imparting wisdom on ambitious entrepreneurs hungry to score a deal with either Edison Nation or Amazon.  Edison Nation is not so different from us here at Elite Innovations.  Edison was created “to help everyday inventors turn their product ideas into real products on retail shelves worldwide.” Sounds similar right?  The biggest difference between us and Edison is that they’ve been in the game since 2001 when Enventys was founded with a mission similar to that of Edison’s.  Seven years later in 2008, Edison Nation was born.  We work in close conjunction with Edison and enjoy this friendly relationship within the industry.  In fact, Edison extended to us the original invite to the Amazon Inventions Tour in hopes that our flagship product, TacLace, would be the perfect fit for Amazon. We were thrilled at the invitation to come pitch our shelf-ready product to the heads of Amazon LaunchPad at the tour.

TacLace is a rapid boot lacing system developed by our CEO Andrew Williams, and his bunkmate, Pete Foster, while the two U.S. Marines were deployed in Afghanistan.  TacLace streamlines the process of lacing boots with just three easy steps: pull, cinch, and wrap.  This quick and easy process makes lacing boots up to 80% faster!  When you’re in a situation like Andrew was the night he came up with the idea for TacLace, every second counts.  While walking to the shower in flip flops and a towel, Andrew hears a jet sound fly overhead.  This was followed by several explosions roughly 100 yards away.  Unfortunately, two U.S. Army Soldiers were peppered with rocks, shrapnel, and debris produced by the blast.  After grabbing his flak jacket, kevlar, and weapon; out the door he went.  By the time he arrived at his destination, he lost one flip flop and tore the other in half.  He and Pete then devised their first prototype for Taclace, stitched together by a local Afghan national. The saying is so true, “necessity is the mother of all invention.” Andrew and Pete took a grave necessity and turned it into something that could potentially save lives.

pcw

But the speed isn’t the only benefit of TacLace.  TacLace ensures that your boots will stay tight and secure all day long without having to stop and re-tie several times per day.  The user will no longer be troubled with the hazards of dangling laces.  Though this product was invented for military and tactical use, TacLace now enjoys about 55% of its business from a combination of hunters, hikers, and construction workers.

On to the pitch.  What was the difference between pitching to Edison Nation and to Amazon?  As advertised, there were three different “lanes” of market readiness presenting companies fell under.  The first two lanes are Edison’s bread & butter.  Companies that had a great idea, but were not yet ready for global expansion pitched to Edison Nation.  The third lane, or as we called it, the fast lane, was where TacLace fit in.  Lane three had a functioning product with proof of concept through steady sales metrics.  Lane three pitched directly to Amazon executives acting on behalf of their new platform known as Amazon Launch Pad.

amazon lp

Amazon Launch Pad is designed to accelerate the growth of established product based start-ups through mass exposure.  This marks the first time Amazon has acted as a buyer, as opposed to their more well known middle-man role. The Launch Pad team hand picks products that they like with intentions of marketing them and acting as a re-seller for these products.  The perk for us?  Amazon has hundreds of millions of customers.  They can reach more people in one day than just about any small business can in a year.  Needless to say, we were pretty excited for this opportunity.

The format of the pitch allotted for ten minutes in the room, two and a half of which was dedicated to “set-up time.”  Andrew walked in the room and said “I understand we have two and a half minutes to set up, but I’m not going to need that much time,” took off his Oxfords shoes, put on his boots, and in less than a minute later, he was TacLaced up.  They were hooked instantly (the judges I mean).  By the time Andrew got to the part of his pitch where he explained how perfect TacLace is for “you viewed this, you might also like” in regards to the tactical clothing market, the hunting gear market, or the $10 billion footwear and accessories market, the Amazon team cut him off.  They were practically foaming at the mouth.  “Give us a minute” they said, and sent him out of the room.  A few minutes later he was greeted back into the room with “We love TacLace, we love your story, and we love you! We’re in!”

Amazon lp2

We are extremely honored and humbled to have been chosen by the Launch Pad team, and we can’t wait to see how this new relationship pans out for us.  We will be posting about this topic again in a few months as a follow up to this post, to report back how things are going.

(See the weekend recap on Edison Nation’s blog here.)

a and jay

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The Entrepreneur Mindset

“Living a pipe dream with tunnel vision”

I’m standing on the bow of my mega yacht, a salty breeze blowing my hair back into a form only the ocean air can. I glance to my right and I see the adoring smile of the girl I knew before the spoils of riches took us in circles around the globe. It’s the same smile I saw in a small apartment when we sat up late at night talking about all the things we wanted to see in this world, pondering “What else is out there?.” I raise my glass of scotch that’s as old as I am and we toast to never-ending adventure. I think of my parents. They’re living in a house that’s paid off, driving cars that are too. They’re finally retired. My Dad is playing his newly local golf course today, his swing is ten years younger without the weight of a mortgage on his shoulders. My Mom is on the back porch reading a book that’s been collecting dust on the shelf for years, patiently waiting for her to thumb through its pages. She flies through the story, imagination soaring with the words on the page, and she doesn’t have to stop once from cover to cover with worries of what she needs to prepare for Monday morning. I take a sip of my scotch and it burns against the salty air. The burn warms my chest and I swell with pride. The kind of pride a man can only feel who has dared to reach for his wildest dreams, and can finally touch them.

Screen shot business plan startCracked Computer Screen

I can feel my eyes blinking and my vision corrects itself. I’m sitting in my 10×10 bedroom/office in sweatpants staring at my busted computer screen. A freshly cracked Bud Light sits next to my computer. The screen reads “Business Plan” centered atop the page, and two lines below, that incessant cursor blinks it’s condescending blink. I laugh, nearly to the point of hysteria. I’ve read stories of great entrepreneurs; moments like these are the ones they remember. Hopeless moments saved only by faith in oneself. The sight of my computer screen is pretty pathetic, and I haven’t made any progress yet…but somehow I have a smile on my face, and I know that I will.

While trying to decide what I wanted to write about for this blog post, I kept coming back to the term “thought leader.” If you’ve ever heard a marketing expert speak about the key to blog writing, then it’s a near guarantee that you’ve heard the term. So naturally, I googled it.

Thought leader

NOUN
one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential.
(Oxford Dictionaries)

Then I thought that a successful entrepreneur gets the distinct opportunity to see both sides of that definition. An entrepreneur is told that they’re crazy, that is until they’ve made it big. And then all of the sudden, they are Marshall Law on whatever subject they speak upon in the business world.

Entrepreneur

NOUN
a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
(Dictionary.com)

And then by chance, I saw the following clip of Jim Carrey giving his famous Commencement speech at Maharishi University with the closing quote that will give any human not made of stone the goosebumps. “I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which, was that you can fail at doing what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”
And with that quote, I found my revelation – the reason I kept coming back to the term thought leader. It is because an entrepreneur is a thought leader before, during, and after his/her successes. Literally. An entrepreneur thinks of a way to solve a pain point for thousands, maybe even millions of people. They then spend years of their lives afterwards, obsessed with this thought, and the implementation of how to properly alleviate every single person associated with this pain point. It’s almost certain that someone else has previously had this same idea, but they didn’t have the discipline to follow through with it. They weren’t a thought leader. Look at our buddy, Geoff Fox, CEO of Flippze. He is making serious waves, being mentioned by Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Inc.. His company is “the Craigslist for colleges.” He provides a safer platform for transactions that originate on his site by getting local businesses to host the transactions in the safety of their facilities. There’s no way you can tell me that Geoff was the first person to ever have this idea. But he is a thought leader by nature, and that drove him to put himself in front of any local business who would listen. He’s now in 32 college towns with Flippze, and that number is only going to grow. Which leads me to the point of my entry today.

The three traits that I believe every entrepreneur must have to become the thought leader of a new and successful business, which in turn becomes the thought leader in the industry.

  1. Faith
  2. Tenacity
  3. Humility
  1. Entrepreneurship for DummiesFaith: I do not mean in the sense of religion. I simply mean faith. An entrepreneur must have faith in themselves and in their company. Though the portrayal of an entrepreneur is sexy and laid back, the reality is not quite the same. It is a life of long nights and personal sacrifice that can only be justified by undying faith. An entrepreneur will have to learn more in a short period of time than they ever expected. Accounting, financial projections, website design, you name it. All the stuff you thought you’d get to hire somebody for, being the boss, you’ll end up doing yourself in a dimly lit room by yourself. Our CEO, Andrew Williams, has a tower of those little yellow “For Dummies” books. He tells us he would spend days on end sitting in Barnes and Noble with nothing but a notebook, a pen, and the next “For Dummies” book in line. Put simply, Andrew says
    “I had to. So I did.”
  2. Tenacity: In the words of a friend and mentor, Chuck Whitlock, “people buy my passion.” If you’ve ever met Chuck, or heard him speak, then you’ll understand. His genuine excitement for the topics he speaks upon are absolutely infectious. When he speaks to you about his business he looks you directly in the eye, squints a little bit, and always has a sly grin on his face. You can feel the passion behind what he says. In sales you hear the term, “people buy the person, not the product.” And that’s just to get somebody to decide between something mundane like DirectTV or cable. To convince an investor that you’ll work relentlessly for as long as it takes, and the world that your invention is worthy of their money, you had better be excited when you tell them about it. You had better be sharp. You had better be tenacious.
  3. Humility: The first two traits seem somewhat obvious. But the third you don’t hear about much. When you tell someone you’re an entrepreneur, they’re instantly intrigued. You can even hear the ooh’s and ah’s from time to time. That’s great, and it will make you feel good, but here’s the problem: If you talk to enough people who pat you on the back without any real feedback, it’s easy to let a hint of apathy slip into your voice when you describe your business because you feel that you’re just going through the motions. This is dangerous, because as an entrepreneur you have to be on the ready and express all three of these qualities at all times. As an old boss of mine used to tell me, “You never know who’s sitting across the table from you.” So stay humble, and keep at it. Because the second you think the world owes you something just for working hard, you’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

What success really looks likeThe path of the entrepreneur is never straight and never easy. The strength of each of the above three qualities will be constantly tested. There will be times where you feel absolutely hopeless, and just don’t understand why you haven’t yet hit a breakthrough. In those moments, remember that nothing is owed to you and you signed up for this. Hold strong to your faith, even if you can’t find a good reason to at the moment. And finally, take the advice of a marathon runner whose name I cannot recall, and have never been able to find online. I remember it vividly when he was interviewed. He said, “I couldn’t breathe. My body was going numb. And then I had a thought that I’ll never forget. ‘I can either quit, or I can run harder.’ Every stride I took after that thought was longer, faster, stronger. That was the first time I ever experienced runner’s high. I was laughing as I crossed the finish line.” This man believed in the power of the idea. Certainly, he was not the first runner to have this thought. He won’t be the last. But he was a thought leader, and because of it, he had a profound realization about his craft. He found a way to finish his race faster than he had previously thought possible, and felt proud afterwards because he had earned his way to the finish line.

At Elite Innovations, we understand the struggles of entrepreneurship, because we’re entrepreneurs ourselves. This is our veteran CEO’s third business that he’s started. He has sold one, and the other is the cash cow fueling Elite Innovations. Three of our employees also have businesses blooming under the Elite Innovations umbrella. When you bring product ideas to us, you’re not just getting hourly employees plugging away from 9-5, you’re getting Elite certified faith, tenacity, and humility going into every aspect of the product development process. So the next time you take a moment to drift off and dream of the life you want to see for yourself and your family, know that we’re right there with you. Know that we want it just as badly as you do. Know that we won’t stop until we get it.