Since introducing the Centipede Portable Work System in June of 2013, inventor Ed Adkins and his partner Keith Fyhr have been building anticipation one supporter at a time. An innovative product concept with broad appeal, they pursued a crowdfunding strategy that inspired confidence in nearly 300 individuals to fund a proof-of-concept production run. With factory produced samples in hand, they engaged supply and distribution partners to arrange an international commercial launch that will see the Centipede™ Sawhorse and Centipede™ Support XL available in some of the world’s largest home improvement retailers less than 2 years after it all began.
“I thought about products and design all the time, especially for the woodworker industry,” Adkins, Centipede Tool’s inventor, said. “After toying around with this idea for years, a light went off and we had it. We knew we had a great product and had to take the right steps to protect it and get it to market.”
In 2007, Adkins applied for the first patent. For any new company or inventor, applying for a patent is a critical first step in protecting your intellectual property because it excludes others from making, using or selling that new invention during the life of the patent. Shortly after, Adkins linked up with his marketing guru, Fyhr, and they began their journey.
First, they had to identify their customer and create the prototype. Who was going to buy this product? “In the early stages, we were focused on this technology as a tool in the contractor and hardware markets. This makes our typical end user a professional builder or a home owning weekend warrior,” said Fyhr. “However, the potential customer is anyone who would find utility in a truly compact and portable table base that has a functionally limitless capacity – it supports pretty much anything that can fit on it.”
Finally, it was time to start the crowdfunding campaign. “We knew that in order to be taken seriously in our industry and by our potential retailers, we had to have something more than a hand crafted prototype and a ton of gumption,” said Fyhr. Centipede Tool started with an IndieGoGo campaign to test the concept of crowdfunding a product into reality by accepting orders for the product under the assumption they’d be able to pull it off. IGG had options that were not all or nothing propositions – so even if they didn’t reach their goal, the company would still receive a significant portion of the money raised. Raising significant funds, the team found a factory to work with them, but still needed to raise additional capital to fulfill all of the IGG commitments with the margins available to them at the time.
“There was no question that we were on to something. So we decided to double down with a second crowdfunding campaign to get our business off the ground. Kickstarter is an extremely popular platform, so we started our second campaign in 2013,” continued Adkins. Mid-campaign, Home Depot called. “It was well past 10pm, and I rang Keith immediately. It was no longer a matter of if, it strictly became a matter of how. We were more determined than ever.”
Between the two crowdfunding campaigns, orders through a PayPal shopping cart on their site, a prize from a social media contest held by their bank and an entrepreneurship contest held by Purdue University, Centipede Tool did it. Fast forward two years from the start of their crowdfunding campaign, Centipede Tool is now in 2,300 stores including Lowe’s and Home Depot.
But, like any new business or concept, there are always struggles to overcome to get to the top. Issues they had to work through were cost of transit for a lightweight product, but with a large footprint, a supply chain strategy that includes assembly of components into finished products in North America, and being prepared for big box audits of a new factory. To any new business who hits a snafu, Fyhr says that if you really believe in the product you are putting forward, your team can overcame anything with perseverance, patience, and being open and flexible to cutting intended budget from other places to make things work.
“To those companies toying with the idea of crowdfunding, go after it. Follow the standard crowdfunding advice – talk to everyone. Submit your project to every list, let every blogger even loosely related to your product or industry know about you – more than once. You cannot self-promote enough, as no one is going to do it for you,” said Fyhr. “Come up with a way to develop fresh content on a daily basis to keep your audience engaged in the process, you need to generate news.”
Some tips from this team on finding your path to success? If you have a product or service you believe in and are prepared to work endless hours to make it happen, don’t take no for an answer, and when no is the answer, look for others to ask the question to. Some will share your vision, many will not. Ignore those who cannot see past their own doubts and find a resource for guidance where you lack strength – such as a trusted attorney – and take their advice, even when it feels contrary to expectations.
“The guidance from Lucas and Fuksa Khorshid LLC in setting up our partnership was instrumental in helping us define our entity and bring our earliest investors on board. The team’s continued advice gives us a resource to turn to when we consider the implications of major decisions.”