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Inquiries about Inquiring

The first question anyone ever asks us is, “So what exactly do you do?” and after a long drawn out explanation of artist meet engineer, and prototypes and makerspace, they move on to their next question.  That very next question people ALWAYS ask is, “How do I tell you my idea?  What is that process like?”  Well, for all you inquirers out there, here is the beginning of the bright future of your idea…This idea is your baby, your creation, the fruition of many brainstorming sessions.  You may have been keeping it to yourself for years upon years.  We’ve had clients come in saying they’ve had their idea for over 30 years!  So what do you do with your idea? You don’t peel out of the lot after buying a brand new $60,000 vehicle.  No, you stop fully, double check both directions, use your blinker, and slowly proceed.  My point is you are not only cautious, but overly cautious.  Why would you let someone else take the wheel on your new shiny idea?

Sharing your idea with someone isn’t an easy thing to do sometimes, but we try to make you feel as comfortable as possible.  The first step we take to protecting you and your idea is a NDA (non-disclosure agreement).  If you are unfamiliar with NDAs, here’s the wrap:  It is a formal document in which after you sign, and Elite Innovations, LLC signs, then you can legally and openly discuss your idea with us.  This means that after the inquiry meeting is adjourned, we cannot say, “That’s a great idea, we are going to work on it and take credit for it.”  Your idea is YOUR property and a NDA helps protect that property.

The next thing we do to make you feel comfortable is be as transparent to you as possible.  When you sit down at the Client Inquiry Meeting, you will be sharing your idea with the CEO of Elite Innovations, Andrew Williams, and the Lead Designer, Jonathan Dineen.  You have direct access to two people who can help develop your idea into a tangible prototype and prepare it for production or sales.  In this meeting we encourage you to tell us the problem you are trying to solve, how you came up with the idea, what the idea is, and why you think it will work! This initial meeting is completely free, we do not ask for any money up front for these meetings. We encourage everyone with a well thought out idea to meet with us!

Many of our inquiries come from friends of friends, or someone we have met through local and national events, but we want to sit down and talk with everyone. We don’t want you to wait for the next big event to come up to us and tell us your idea. Call us! We want to sit down and see this shiny new idea you have! Inquiry meetings are completely free of charge, so what’s stopping you!?  Some of our competitors will require you to pay money to submit your idea via email to them, and then go through a vetting process.  We don’t do that. You can email or call our Operations Director and have a free Client Inquiry Meeting set up anytime! Contact Elizabeth at


What Happens at the Client Inquiry Meeting?

What goes on at a Client Inquiry Meeting? Let’s get into the process.  We schedule the inquiry meetings between 10am to 12pm every Tuesday through Thursday.  We always allot about an hour per meeting when we put you on our schedule.  We treat this meeting similar to a pitch (but don’t worry, you don’t have to have a 5 year plan or financial documents).  We will sit down in our office, and listen to your idea for about a half hour: what it is, what you have, what you need, who it’s for, what it’s solving, etc.. We then try and pick your brain about other things you may be thinking and not know it.  Then we’ll tell you how we feel about it, things we know you’ll need, obstacles which will need to be overcome, and how we can help.   We tell you as much as we can before a written contract is signed.  We cannot stay in business if we hand out our ideas for free.  After all the talking is done, you (as all of our other clients have done) will let out a huge sigh of relief and then proceed to tell us how nervous you were to just talk about this great idea and how you were worried someone would steal it or worse, you would see it on the market.  Then we tell you we will scope the project out, shake hands, and parts ways, hopefully only temporarily.

At the end of every Thursday, we scope out all the inquired projects from that week.  Scoping is our process of estimating how many hours is needed in each phase of the design process to make the product a successful one.  We break down each phase, add hours to areas which are vital and negate any areas that are not.   We then send this scope to you with the total number of hours we feel the project will take and where we are allocating those hours (transparency).  This will give you an estimate on the cost of your project.  We do not quote for the prototype initially until we are further into the project and have a firm idea of what we are producing, what materials will be needed and how it will be produced, all of which is done through your approvals of work done at each phase of development from our team. Upon approval of this scope, we generate a formal proposal and contract to be signed so work can begin.


Get on Our Calendar!

We love hearing potential ideas and we are as excited as you are to make these ideas into reality. We pride ourselves on being as transparent as possible during every process of the ideating, design and production phase. We have heard from so many clients that they wished they hadn’t put this off, they wished they had come to us sooner. So if you need it, here is your open invitation. Our door is open. We’d love to sit down, meet you and hear your new, shiny idea!

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The Elite Family

Jonathan Dineen Lead DesignerAndrew, you are our Father! (Darth Vader voice)

Being an employee of a small business is like being in a family. You have your head of household, the good kids, a rebel child or two, and a few who just come and go for dinner. We’re no different at Elite Innovations. We have our founding father, Andrew, who has brought his dream of Wilmington’s own product development facility to real life. And then there are the children (employees) who live in the house, (office) running around helping out our Dad, and from time to time nagging him beyond belief. [“Where’s Andrew?” Video] But hey, what’s any good household without a little chaos? Let’s call these crazy children Liz, Eddie, Jay, and Jonathan. We do as many chores as we can to help out our father, but occasionally we break a window throwing a ball around inside. Wisely, Jay and I have learned to throw a Koosh around instead, so we don’t get in any more trouble.


But let us not forget our extended family who is constantly stopping by for dinner. Let’s call these wacky members Jason, Drew, Emily, and Joey. The thing about being in a family is that you must sacrifice for one another, help each other along the way, and above all else, stand together. As with any family, disputes will arise, arguments will happen, but thankfully we have cornhole boards to settle any dispute. [“You Might Work for a Start-up if…” Video]

The Start in Start-Up

After developing and turning a profit from his first product, TacLace, Andrew set out to start a maker space. A maker space was not a new concept when he built it, but one had never before been built in Wilmington. Andrew originally wanted to build the facility in Raleigh, but with the incipient entrepreneurial boom he noticed in Wilmington, along with a strong local business school, and “a desire to give back to the community he grew up in,” Andrew made the decision to move from Raleigh to Wilmington. And thank goodness he made that decision, because otherwise none of us would be where we are today.

The Family

Eddie was introduced to Andrew back in June of 2014. Eddie had recently purchased a 3D printer for prototyping his product, Petrics Inc, and “was looking into starting a small maker space in the CIE” (UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) to benefit all the entrepreneurs there that were trying to start product based businesses. The CIE is where Eddie met Andrew and found out that Andrew had just signed a lease for a 6,000 square foot facility downtown to build just what Eddie had envisioned. “The timing was right for me to join his team and help build the product development resource the Wilmington community needed.” Eddie started on contract, and has now taken over the operations of the maker space as well as business development functions at Elite Innovations.

Jay was then introduced to Eddie through the CIE as well. Eddie brought Jay to the maker space and had him meet Andrew. This was all before Elite Innovations had officially opened its doors. Jay was currently working on a product line of his own, Fuego Lighters, and needed to begin the prototyping process. He earned second place in a pitch competition presented by tekMountain with the help of his first prototype that he built at Elite Innovations. For this, Jay was awarded three free months as a maker at Elite Innovations. Jay spent as much time as he could picking Andrew’s brain on manufacturing processes, prototyping, and any other product development procedures Andrew would explain to him. “I told Andrew that one day that I was going to work for him whether he liked it or not.” Jay said. This persistence paid off, as Jay proved his sales acumen as a commissioned sales rep for TacLace. As sales increased over the next few months, Jay earned himself a full time position through TacLace as the sales director, which has since led him to his current role as Elite Innovations’ sales and marketing director.

I myself first saw Andrew on the local news when a story broke about the maker space and I said to myself, “I need to meet that guy.” Time went by and I had forgotten about that story. I was currently half way through my final college internship when we had a need to quickly 3D print something locally. Since I was the only one who had any experience working with a 3D printer, my internship signed me up for the maker space, and I was able to use the printer and the space. This is where I formally met Andrew. Upon completion of my internship, my college requirements were finally fulfilled, and Andrew offered me contract work that I heartily accepted. One project grew into two, then four, and now all of the sudden after successfully designing a handful of projects, that our customers were thrilled with, I have found myself employed as the lead designer here at Elite Innovations.

Liz was living in California in August of 2014, managing film festivals, when she got a call from an old friend. Andrew informed her all about his new business, and that he had decided to open the doors in Wilmington, NC (Liz’s favorite city from her days as a double major at UNCW). Later that year, Liz’s husband was informed by the Marine Corps that his job would be taking him back to North Carolina at a nearby base to Wilmington. Liz immediately called Andrew, and explained in excruciating detail every single way she could both make and save Andrew money. When reviewing her resume, which after her interview was mostly a formality, Andrew said to her, “You went to the Burgundy School of Business and that reminds me of Ron Burgundy!” A few witty one-liners later, Liz became a part of the Elite family. So in part, Liz has Will Ferrell to thank for getting her job. She is now the Director of Operations at Elite Innovations.

We all have come to make Elite Innovations our home. Though we often poke fun at the way we each ended up working here, every one of us had to work extremely hard to put ourselves in the opportune positions that landed us here. We all owe it to Andrew for having faith in us individually, bringing us together as a team, and making us a family.

Meet the Elite Innovations Team

There is an Eye in Team

Famous poet and writer Maya Angelou said, “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Our individual backgrounds are all astonishingly diverse given the fact we are a ‘small start-up’. However, this gives us a substantial advantage over our competition. Our family includes a Mechanical Engineer, an Industrial Designer, a Sales and Marketing specialist, a Program Manager and Department Coordinator for film festivals, a Business Development Guru, a pair of Programmers, a Database Administrator, and a Videographer. These diversified backgrounds are the roots that have planted Elite Innovations in such a strong position in the product development industry. Not only do our family members wear different hats, we also see through very different lenses. I mean this in the sense that we all view problems very differently, but thanks to our aforementioned resilience, we all come to thorough conclusions. On the rare occasions we all agree on something, it’s always interesting to look back and see how different the roads that led to one ultimate conclusion were. This, though it may sound time consuming, is absolutely vital to the product development process here at Elite. In the world of product design, almost everything begins with what we call a “pain point.” Though we may all see the same pain point, the source of the perceived pain is almost always varied throughout the family. Two minds are better than one. But at Elite, we have at least ten pairs of eyes and five creative minds look at every single product that enters our doors, and this paves the best possible path to a successful product. We all get together to ideate and discuss our paths at what we call ‘family dinners’ where we all gather around a table and feast on the problem at hand. After emptying our plates of ideas, comes the sweet taste of dessert. Once we have brainstormed sufficiently, we get to do the fun part. Implementation. Putting our plan into action, and turning local inventor’s ideas in fully functioning products ready for the store shelves.

A Family that Plays Together Stays Together

Positech CEO Brian Maschler was quoted saying, “When I look at my wife and three kids, I don’t just see a family—I see a tiered personnel structure composed of four valued team members who share common goals.” If a family can be represented as a business, then the opposite can be true as well. And if a family that plays together, stays together, then the tighter a business is, the more likely it is to not only survive, but to thrive. In order for a small business to be successful and grow, it is paramount that you surround yourself with valuable, hardworking individuals who care more about the greater good of the company, than they do of their own general interests. This does not mean they need to be purely selfless. It means they need to understand that as the business grows, so will their careers, and they must be willing to make those sacrifices.

A TIGHT Knit Group

Literally. There is a very important term in small business, and the term is ‘small’. As money is a factor in everything, we at Elite don’t have our own individual offices with glass walls overlooking a lush forest on the 100th floor of some famous office building. We have to start out at the bottom, and start small. There is truth in modesty as we have learned. Despite just recently moving our offices into a second location, our family members still work within 20 feet of each other with no walls or barriers between us. And even though this stirs the pot sometimes, we realize that it is beneficial that we work so closely together. It sparks the collaboration which fuels our success that ultimately benefits our clients and our city.Downtown Wilmington NC