Following through: Local entrepreneurs forging ahead with innovations
Published 12:00 am, Sunday, January 14, 2018
Inventing a product is one thing; developing it, bringing it market and sustaining it is another.
Challenges may arise in marketing, raising capital, manufacturing, selling or deliveries. Even the most bullet-proof business plan may spring leaks.
It’s a reality Connecticut-based Pakayak is experiencing. A team of four state residents, including Danbury resident Phil Miller, developed a kayak that breaks apart into four pieces that nest into each other and may be carried like a backpack. Interest is high, sales are coming in, but problems in the manufacturing of components have slowed delivering the product to market.
Pakayak’s Doug Mackro said the team thought of everything and had the launch planned down to the last detail and “completely out of nowhere something happens. Something you never even thought of.”
Many entrepreneurs and inventors have experienced the same thing. For some, it is enough to make them pull the plug on the project. For others, it is a learning experience that will only make the company stronger down the road.
The Danbury area has had its share of inventors launch products in the last few years. Here is a look at how some are progressing:
When Hearst Connecticut Media first met up with Pakayak in the summer of 2016, a prototype of the bring-anywhere kayaks was fastened together and team members took it for a spin on Candlewood Lake. It’s Kickstarter program was wildly successful, raising more than a half-million dollars.
The first Pakayaks off the production line were to be reserved for Kickstarter supporters. Unforeseen troubles with the manufacturing of certain components have delayed those deliveries, however.
Mackro, while frustrated with the delays, is not discouraged.
“We’re still in the game, as they say … just walking the slow path to get it out there,” he said. “It’s been a long, difficult process, but that’s inherent in startups. That part of it is no fun.”
The Pakayak team wants to be sure everything is perfect before delivering the product.
“That would be like selling someone a car that doesn’t start,” he said. “You don’t want to do that.”
Mackro is confident Pakayaks will be hitting the water throughout the globe soon. “We have customers all over the world and they’ll be getting the kayaks in their hands in a few weeks,” he said. “We’re incredibly close.”
Create A Castle
Kevin and Laurie Lane of New Milford launched their sand- and snow-castle building system last summer and the business is moving ahead swiftly. Hearst Connecticut Media met with the Lanes in June and they had just formed an LLC and production was in its early stages.
They have since filed for five design patents, which are pending approval. Two utility patents are under way, as well, and will be filed following the approval of the design patents.
While New Milford remains the home base of Create A Castle, the Lanes see Florida as a place of growth potential and have been marketing the system there. They met with retailers at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach and hope to start selling the system there this year.
The exposure helped the company sell 300 kits in two months. It has built sales teams in beach areas of Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida and California.
Create A Castle will also be a vendor at Pier 60’s Sugar Sand Festival, a 10-year sand sculpting event that attracts more than 120,000 visitors each year. Create A Castle will also be a vendor at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpture near Boston this July. In early fall, the Lanes will be a vendor at the Neptune Festival at Virginia Beach.
Kevin Lane said he is working with New Milford to host a sand sculpture event in his hometown. To show the system’s versatility, the Lanes created snow sculptures in downtown New Milford following the last snowfall.
“We plan on building on the (New Milford) Green after each sizable (snow) storm,” Kevin Lane said.
The Lanes are thinking globally, as well, and are working with Torquay Toys, a company in Australia to open a retail channel there next summer. Create A Castle continues to work with local toy retailers to expand their distribution in the state.
Cross Culture Kombucha
Danbury-based Cross Culture Kombucha is also moving full-steam ahead. It was available in 13 locations in the state when Hearst Connecticut Media profiled the business in August. It is now found in 31 locations, expanding its reach to places such as Greenwich, Bridgeport and Mt. Kisco, N.Y.
Founded earlier this year by Ian and Liz Ceppos, Cross Culture Kombucha is working on securing its own location in Danbury where the fermented tea drink will be produced. Liz Ceppos said the location will also include tastings and a small retail component. They hope to be open in the spring.
Cross Culture Kombucha also launched a new flavor in recent weeks — Black Assam and White Peony — with a few more in the works.
The Cepposes continue to believe strongly in their hometown and their product is available in three coffee shops in downtown Danbury: Mothership on Main, Pour Me and Barrister’s. At Mothership, customers may bring in a refillable growler to take home.
“It’s been busy, but super exciting,” she said. “We’ve seen a big increase in demand and accounts.”
Kevin and Ankana Carpenter meticulously designed Aura Glass, a stemless and spill-proof wine glass, before introducing it to the world. The unique glasses balance on a stainless steel ball instead of a stem. Sales have boomed since Hearst Connecticut Media spoke with the Carpenters in the summer of 2016.
The Danbury couple recently started selling the glasses on Amazon, The Knot, Tastemade and other e-commerce venues. The glasses are also sold at various retail locations, including Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk.
“We had a fantastic run during the holiday season,” Ankana Carpenter said. “It was off the charts from what we expected.”
The next development for Aura Glass will be different colored balls. Currently only in silver, they will soon be available in rose and gold. A six-pack of glass — two of each color — will be included in the new development.