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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 Elizabeth@eliteinnovationsllc.com

 

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 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.

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Elite Innovations Ribbon Cutting with Mayor Bill Saffo

Elite Innovations Opens 2nd Location 10 Months after Grand Opening
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with Mayor Bill Saffo 9/3/2015

EI logo

Elite Innovations will host a ribbon cutting with Mayor Bill Saffo on September 3rd at 11:00am at the Chandler’s Wharf to celebrate their 2nd office space. Open to the media and public.

Please RSVP to: elizabeth@eliteinnovationsllc.com 

Headed up by local entrepreneur and champion for Wilmington small businesses, Elite Innovations, LLC. (EI) opened a second location in July in the Chandler’s Warf in downtown Wilmington, NC. El is a veteran-owned company that specializes in design, prototyping and engineering services. Just 9 months after Wilmington local and CEO Andrew Williams opened El, the company expands its business into a second office space in the historic riverfront downtown district. This second office space houses the growing staff including a Lead Designer, Sales Manager, Operations Manager along with a number of interns. The space also houses space to showcase EI’s completed products. “We have many new clients with various needs. We hope the new office space will allow us to take on more projects that do not necessarily need to utilize our MakerSpace prototyping services,” says Andrew Williams.

The company will maintain its flagship MakerSpace on 18th Street for the growing demand of their product development services as well as 3D printing and prototyping. In addition to expanding into a second office, the company continues to make its mark on the local entrepreneurial community through strategic partnerships with like-minded groups and businesses such as the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at UNCW, Cucalorus Film Festival, UNC Chapel Hill, Wired Wizards, TekMountain and many more.
I see our new space creating businesses, creating jobs and impacting the regional economy,” said Williams. “I think MakerSpaces are the new industrial revolution.” EI hopes to increase its impact by growing the company more in the next year by creating new businesses that will in turn, hire more Wilmington locals. CEO Williams is proud to have 4 full-time UNCW graduates, 2 contracted UNCW graduates and 1 CFCC graduate on his staff and hopes to hire more in the future as Elite Innovations grows.

The MakerSpace on 18th Street and the new office in Chandler’s Wharf are open for scheduled tours. Elite Innovations is also taking on new clients. To schedule a meeting, or for more information about the Ribbon Cutting, please contact Director of Operations, Elizabeth Wilson, Elizabeth@eliteinnovationsllc.com

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Startup Innovation Through Community Participation

Co-written by: Christine Williams

There is no doubt we live in a great city. Wilmington has been praised in many media outlets, getting kudos for its location, great food, University system and sense of community. Wilmington is just one of the great examples of how vital the surrounding community is to the success of local businesses, and vice versa, a mutual support system of sorts. For a locally owned company, a great relationship with the community can ultimately be a determining factor for success. This mutually beneficial relationship between a local company and the surrounding community is personified in education, outreach and community engagement. Here at Elite Innovations we think that is the difference between a good and a great company.

One of our biggest priorities here at Elite Innovations is to foster successful relationships in the community within Wilmington, starting with students.
Students are the future creative and innovators of our community and responsible for its acceleration and future success. A child’s mind is a great thing, ready to absorb information, ideas and come up with truly wondrous ideas.

This past summer we hosted many kids’ camps at Elite Innovation’s MakerSpace. One of the student and staff favorites was an “innovation lab,” challenging students to essentially “build a better mousetrap” car. Among the students was a group of 10-12 year olds from UNCW’s Engineering Camp, led by Kathy Ibbotson.

UNCW Engineering Camp Elite Innovations Makerspace

Our staff was blown away at the enthusiasm and creativity of the young engineering enthusiasts. The students, who were from all over NC, were able to use their skills to collaborate with one another and create functioning cars that were both impressive and entertaining. This collaboration and creativity can be seen in our community every single day.

One of the staples of the Wilmington creative arts scene is the Cucalorus Film Festival, now in its 21st year of presentation. Elite Innovations aims to strengthen ties within the creative community by teaming up with Cucalorus this year in a new and exciting branch of the festival called Cucalorus Connect.

Cucalorus Connect UNCW CIE

Presented by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNCW, a strong and enthusiastic supporter of Elite Innovations, Cucalorus Connect’s inaugural event will be a conference that hosts the heavy hitters of the start-up community and those that are driving new business. Connect highlights “[the] artists of the 21st century,” Brawley has said. This concept includes start up owners, CEOs, programmers, technology creators, incubators and many other inventive job creators.

Makerspace Quad Copter Demo with Boy ScoutsBy positioning ourselves alongside of forward-thinkers like start-ups at UNCW’s CIE and the staff who run Cucalorus, we are aiming to drive new and unique ways of merging creative arts and business into the community.

A company can only be a strong as the community surrounding it. The community in which a company exists acts as its extended family, a mutual support system. The community holds a wealth of knowledge in different sectors and a great relationship with the community can ultimately be a determining factor for success for locally owned companies.

Strength comes in numbers and those numbers add up to collaboration within a community that works and grows together. The culture of a start-up is different than that of a franchise or company branch that may be opened. A start-up is, in its very nature, a labor of love, a passionate endeavor and full of enthusiasm. It takes a community with members of the same qualities to solidify the impact of these companies. We view the Wilmington community like one big company, everyone with their unique abilities and strengths, but all working together toward one movement. The consistent positive enforcement that we all give to each other breathes purpose into all of our missions in building an exciting business community and in turn, a thriving economy.

Here at Elite Innovations, we are proud to sponsor and be part of many great things happening in the community. Stay tuned to find out how we are drumming up some new exciting things in Wilmington and beyond.

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Small business Ideas, big business opportunities

Creating value by problem solving
Zap! Lightning has struck and you have just had your next big idea! An epiphany of sorts, or as Smee would say in the movie ‘Hook,’ “an apostrophe.” Congratulations! You have just identified a problem and found a possible solution. Better yet, you may have found a solution other people are willing to pay for. This idea may have come about when you were frustrated with something, or witnessed someone having trouble and thought of a way to relieve them of their struggle (also known as a PAIN POINT). Immediately, thoughts start running through your brain of different ways to build it and how much money you could make if the world bought your idea. You start thinking of friends and relatives that may be able to help you. As these thoughts continue to progress and sketches begin to emerge, you realize, this could get expensive. How much will it cost? Do I have the money to pay for it? Could I borrow money? Maybe I’ll take out a second mortgage? Should I get a loan? WOAHHHHH! Slow down.

 

There are some major considerations before thoughts of financing or production should ever be a concern. So take a deep breath and enjoy the new idea before you stress yourself into an early grave. Just keep reading and I will show you ways to analyze your idea to see if it may in fact be a business opportunity. Knowing the difference will save you time, money, and hair before investing into an idea that could lead to a financial dead end. I will show you some key elements that help determine whether you should pursue your idea as a business or let it go. We call this an Opportunity Feasibility Analysis. Now, let’s dive deeper into the difference between IDEAS and OPPORTUNITIES. Before considering financing your life away under the allure of potential riches, let’s ask a few level-headed questions first:

  • Do other people have this problem?
  • Is this a common problem?
  • Do people know they have this problem?
  • Do you have to educate people of the problem?
  • Is your solution the best solution for the problem?
  • Is the problem (PAIN) big enough for someone to pay money for a solution?

Seeing a pattern here? It all comes down to the problem for others and not just the inventors when turning an idea into a product for the marketplace. It can be very difficult to be objective about a subjective problem. It is important to understand the difference, and acknowledge that people are not frustrated by the same things in the same ways. Nor are people motivated in the same ways to make a purchase. So, as much as you may love your new idea, others may not agree with you. That is okay. That does not mean your idea does not have wings to fly. It very well could. That is why I am writing this blog today. It is to show you some ways to identify if your idea potentially has these wings to be a business opportunity instead of just a good idea. They are two very different things!

What’s the difference between ideas and opportunities?

To start, let’s first identify the difference between the words IDEA and OPPORTUNITY. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an IDEA can be defined as:

  • a thought, plan, or suggestion about what to do
  • an opinion or belief
  • something that you imagine or picture in your mind

Notice that each of these definitions have very subjective language. “An opinion or belief” is obviously a biased view. “Something that you imagine or picture in your mind.” Again, this is an internal thought. Looking at these definitions and knowing what an idea is, you can see that it is a very personal, internalized concept. If businesses only sold products the way the inventors wanted, then more than likely they would not do well offering what the customer’s want or need.

Now, let’s look at the definition of an OPPORTUNITY:

  • a favorable juncture of circumstances
  • a good chance for advancement or progress

If you notice, the definition of an opportunity is very different. An opportunity considers more than itself, but considers outside factors and conditions as well. “A favorable Juncture of circumstances” considers other variables that make something opportune. “A good chance for advancement or progress” shows the consideration of odds based on a situation.Business Opportunity

Now that we have identified the differences, let’s get back to your “million dollar” idea. YOU have found a solution YOU like, to a problem YOU have. That’s YOUR IDEA. As you think more about this idea, you feel it may be possible that others have the same problem and would buy your solution. That would make the idea an OPPORTUNITY in the marketplace. However, just because you FEEL that way (subjective), does not necessarily mean others do as well. Ideas happen all the time, while opportunities are much harder to come by. Opportunities, when talking about products or services, can lead to potentially staggering revenues and possibly leaving your day job behind. Business opportunities can make a positive difference in people’s lives, they can change the world, and they can create jobs and boost economies.

How to identify an opportunity

So, how do you know if your idea is a business opportunity? Well, you would perform what we spoke of earlier – an Opportunity Feasibility Analysis. To properly distinguish whether or not an idea is truly an opportunity, there are four qualities that need to be met; Attractive, Durable, Creates Value, and Timely. Let’s look at these a little closer:

  1. Attractiveness: First and foremost, your idea needs to be attractive to your target customers who will buy your idea. You first you need to identify who your target customers are for this idea to work. The idea must also be attractive in the industry in which it is going to compete. When I say “attractive” I do not mean just aesthetics and a cool look and feel. I am also referring to the idea itself. Does it create excitement? Does it have an attractive price point? Will the quality and ease of use meet or exceed the user’s expectations? Is it unique? Does it have attractive features and benefits? Basically, what about your idea would make people want to buy it?
  2. Durable: Durability of an idea from a business standpoint means that it can last as a business. A PRODUCT and a BUSINESS are two very different things. Businesses create products, but a whole business built around one product that has little scalability is pretty much a dead end. A scalable product can penetrate multiple markets and sometimes industries with many ways to grow. A perfect example is the invention of the microfiber textile. Some may see this as just a rag for cleaning – thus just a cleaning product. But it can also be cut into the shapes for clothing, embroidered with corporate branding, and BOOM! Now that same rag is sold in the clothing departments with minimal change to the textile’s manufacturing and production processes. If you ever watch Shark Tank, the panelists are notorious for calling people out for having a cool product, but not a scalable business behind it. If the product is not scalable, thus having no way to expand into new markets with new product lines, or have multiple branding opportunities, they often recommend to the inventors to enjoy the ride while it lasts, sell as much as possible, and then get out. The Sharks rarely invest in those product ideas because they are often not business ideas that can grow and last. If they do invest, it is because they know they have the means to expand the product’s potential that the inventor did not think of. Some other traits of durability include replicability. Is it easy to replicate for the competition? Can they easily mimic your product and steal your market share tomorrow putting you out of business? Can your product be patented to protect against such a thing (that’s a whole book in itself)? Also, is the idea purchased as a commodity, sensitive to economic conditions, or is it a necessity unaffected by the state of the economy and disposable income (inelastic demand)?
  3. Creates Value: This is obviously one of the most important factors to generate sales. Your idea must create value in order for people to purchase it, thus generating revenue for your business to be sustainable. A big consideration here is the cost of the idea in relation to the value it creates for the customer. If it costs more than the value of the pain you are solving, then people will not want to buy it, aka willingness to pay. Recently, consumers have been facing this issue with high-end smart watches. They have a $700 phone in their pocket, so do they really want to spend another $200-$400 to read a text on their wrist? Is the time they save from having to pull their phone out of their pocket really worth $400? The watches do much more than that, but the mass market does not see things the same way as the innovators did. This is common in the early adoption stages, where products are looked at through a very simplified lens by the mass consumer. However, now that the prices have come down, more people are adopting this technology now that the price is beginning to match the perceived value. So, again, does your product create perceivable value that is affordable? Do some research and talk to people in your target markets. It’s amazing how much you can learn if you just ask the right people.
  4. Timely: Timely can get a little tricky as this is really an area of economics, demographics, psychographics, and various other externalities. Basically, this quality comes down to the question, “Is this the right time for my idea?” When analyzing this, it is always best to look at various trends. Major trends to consider are economic trends, social trends, technological trends, and industry trends. All trends can be looked up on google, but I will do a simple breakdown.
    1. Using trends for feasability analysisEconomic trends will be factors such as disposable income, unemployment rates, interest rates, spending, and other metrics that define how a country or region is doing financially. Obviously, it is hard to sell a premium commodity product to the mass market if the unemployment rates are high and people have little discretionary income. They will be more prone to buy the things they NEED and not the things they WANT.
    2. Social trends have to deal with things that are trending socially and culturally. This could be lifestyle trends such as a higher demand in organic products and a decrease in demand of fast food and processed foods. It could be clothing trends, exercise trends, yoga and smoothies, etc. There are TONS of trends, but often we observe them subconsciously and they become more apparent as we think about them in relation to our ideas.
    3. Technological trends are pertaining to both what technology consumers are buying, and what technological capabilities we have in society. For instance, James Cameron waited ten years to make Avatar because the technology wasn’t where it needed to be yet for the vision he had of his idea. A decade later when cinema technology was where it needed to be, Avatar was made, and became the #1 grossing movie of all time! Now that’s knowing the difference between an idea and an opportunity! 3D printers are another example of this. The technology for 3D printing has existed over 30 years now. However, it was not made affordable to the public until really the past 5 years when they were able to be less than $2000. The mass market and DIY communities did not have $10,000 – $1.5 million to spend on 3D printers. The technology improved, became more affordable and now the timing is right. Even Dremel makes a 3D printer now.
    4. Industry trends are very important to not only consider, but research heavily. To survive in an industry, you must know where the industry has been and where it is going to be. In business, people often, if not, overuse the corporate cliché Wayne Gretzky approach. For those of you unfamiliar, I’ll tell it, because it is good advice. For those who heard it 100 times I’m sorry. When Gretzky was asked in an interview how he always outperformed other hockey athletes even though there were many other players that physically tested better, Gretzky stated, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” He would be where the opportunity was. You can look at industry trends and see what other major companies in the industry are talking about and where they are going to be. You don’t want to create a product in a dying industry, nor do you want to make a product that has some of the same mistakes the industry has made in the past. If you are the first in your industry, try to find out if other companies have thought of it but cancelled the project. Find out why if you can. Sometimes you may be lucky enough to have a new product that they have not thought of yet. It’s rare, but it does happen, regardless of what some skeptics say. Research is absolutely critical.

feasability analysis

Research, Research, Research

In order to assess these qualities, much research has to be done. Don’t worry, it can be a fun process. Especially when I provide you with some great free resources to get you started. I would recommend using www.SBA.gov. More specifically you can check out the Small Business Administration’s marketing guide to help you get started with your market research. Some additional sources are:

I hope this has helped you get a grasp on how to identify if your next “million dollar” idea has the potential to be a full-fledged opportunity worthy of capitalizing upon. At Elite Innovations we help people every day on their path to turn ideas into opportunities, and those opportunities into real-life products. Helping our clients along this path at the right pace is a critical part of the process to help ensure their success (and ours for that matter). And remember, sometimes an idea on its own does not meet all the qualities of an opportunity, but with a few adjustments, the idea can have wings to fly and become a business. So go, young entrepreneur, and create your own opportunities. Entrepreneurship is not merely a replacement for your day job, but rather a way of life. It’s the difference between a pipe dream, and crossing off every last thing on your bucket list. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I can promise that it won’t be boring. And if you ever need a helping hand along the way, you know where to find us. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

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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.

Koosh

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

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Open for business

Hello Wilmington and surrounding areas! We are pleased to finally be open to the public and are super pumped about the maker we have working in the space. We are already impressed with the ideas being developed in the space and feel pretty strongly that the Wilmington Makerspace is going to help folks get these ideas to market.

This is our first of many blogs that will cover a range of things. We will keep everyone up to speed on finished projects, specials, events, and even some industry insight on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). We like to brag about the insight we have in the space including Engineering, Electronics, Upholstery; the list goes on! Our goal is to help Wilmington people turn their ideas into a reality.

See some preliminary Makerspace products:

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1. TacLace – Fastest Boot Lacing system on the market!

TacLace is the ultimate boot lacing system allowing boot wearers to get their boots on in about 10 seconds. This was developed by Andrew Williams, the makerspace owner, and was developed during a deployment in Afghanistan. See more at TacLace.com or on the Makerspace website.

[one_half]TacLace-Coyote-Tan-Larger[/one_half][one_half_last]TacLace - Coyote Tan Larger[/one_half_last]

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2. ORIGOSafe – No texting while driving. No problem!

THE solution to distracted driving. ORIGOSafe is an ignition interlock system that requires drivers to dock their phones when operating their vehicle. Removal of the phone sounds an ungodly alarm and deauthorizes that phone to the vehicle, requiring the user to contact their administrator for reactivation. This was invented by Clay Skelton out of Roanoke, VA and developed by Andrew Williams of the Wilmington Makerspace. See more at DriveORIGO.com or the Makerspace website.

origo-safe-cover

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3. R3MP – Rapid Removal & Retention Magazine Pouch

A tactical product for rapid magazine transition. Great for military members, law enforcement, or competition shooting. Also invented and developed by Andrew Williams of the Wilmington Makerspace, but not yet available on the market. See it on the Makerspace Website.

[one_half] R3MP[/one_half][one_half_last]R3MP-proto[/one_half_last]

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There are many more ideas being developed within the space, but due to Intellectual Property protection, you’ll have to wait to hear about them!

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ORIGOSafe – THE Solution to Distracted Driving

How many times do you see the news and see yet another tragic accident due to the dangers of texting and driving? Unfortunately it appears a bit too often. So what is the remedy? Obviously policies and/or Mom and Dad saying “no texting while driving” don’t seem to work. The answer is that we need a technological solution that removes the “accident causing” behavior of today’s driver.

The Solution: ORIGOSafe – watch and see how it works

Why our solution works

There are three distractions a driver faces: Visual, physical, and audio. The two that cause distracted driving accidents are visual and physical, i.e. staring and your phone screen and/or interacting with it. Let’s take a step further… How do you eliminate these distractions? It’s easy, just remove the phone from the drivers hands! That’s EXACTLY what ORIGOSafe does. It’s a docking station that requires the driver to dock their phone in order to operate the vehicle. Removal of the phone activates an incredibly obnoxious alarm and then deauthorizes the phone to that vehicle. This requires the user to call their administrator, whether it’s Mom or Dad, or it’s your fleet administrator. The system can be administered manually using the keypad on the device or syncing the device via blue tooth using the ORIGOSafe Administrator app installed on an iPad.

ORIGOSafe

The makers behind the invention

This technology was invented by Clay Skelton of Roanoke, VA, but developed by Andrew Williams, a Wilmington local and owner of the Wilmington Makerspace. ORIGOSafe can be seen at DriveOrigo.com or at the Makerspace where you can demo the equipment. The ORIGOSafe was developed using a lot of resources much like those found in the Makerspace, another reason the space was created in Wilmington, to help folks along the development process for inventions much like this one. This was an exceptional project as it incorporates the full gambit of “making” including: design, injection molding, circuitry, programming, and web and app development.

The device has been well received in the commercial trucking fleet. The recent claim-to-fame comes from a trucking company who submitted their yearly report. Installing ORIGOSafe in their vehicles dropped their accidents from every six weeks to zero accidents in an entire year! If that’s not a testimony, I don’t know what is. If you are interested in learning more about ORIGOSafe, visit their website at www.driveorigo.com or you can purchase the ORIGOSafe here. The Wilmington Makerspace can be located using the details on the Contact Page.

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Unlocking Hidden Brain Secrets

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

[blockquote text=”Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.” show_quote_icon=”yes”]

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

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Iceland’s volcano timelapse

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

[blockquote text=”Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.” show_quote_icon=”yes”]

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.