ABiz Columns

Lift Horse - An Inventor's Story

by Pete Prados

Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.

When you shake the hand of Wade Clement of Morse you realize that the gentle giant in front of you is sincere, hard-working and a great representation of the entrepreneurial spirit of Acadiana. His story of creating a product out of necessity and bringing it to market years later is also indicative of the collaborative DNA represented in our Cajun innovation culture.

Wade owns an HV/AC company and as a jack-of-all-trades is called upon to help people in a myriad of other ways. Ten years ago on a routine A/C installation job, a heavy unit slipped from the truck's ramp and severely gouged the face of his partner, landing him in the hospital. Having near misses and back strains from previous jobs like this one, Wade knew that there had to be a better way to lift heavy objects including vending machines, gun safes and appliances in his work trucks. That's when he started welding and tinkering in his shop. The result - an electric dolly with an imbedded hoist and custom channel ramp. Lifting large and small heavy objects was now a snap. More important, the lifting was safe.

Everywhere he went with the home-made unit, others in the same field as Wade wanted one, too. Knowing that he could not afford to start another business, manufacture large quantities of units and continue to work his other businesses, Wade succumbed to the lure of a national invention submission company.

"It all sounded great in the beginning" says Clement. "I paid the fees, almost $8,000, and two years later did not even get one company to invest in our product. That was pretty frustrating because everyone that I showed the unit to wanted to know where to get one."

One of Wade's friends suggested contacting LEDA, which he did, and LEDA suggested that he contact InventureWorks, my Lafayette company that helps entrepreneurs and just happened to be holding a business pitch event scheduled during the first INNOV8 Lafayette in 2012.

When we met Wade and saw his invention, we knew that he and the product were both winners. We immediately added Wade to the list of pitches at The Vault, and a local investor decided to start the process of getting the product refined and ready for sales.

InventureWorks' Industrial Design team modified the design, then brought it to a local Engineering Company, WMD2, which confirmed structural and weight limits plus provided initial engineering drawings. The next step was to find a manufacturer who could produce Serial No. 1 in all aluminum.

Begnaud Manufacturing was the clear choice, and its team came through, tweaking the design to its manufacturing process and adding new elements that made the product even better.

The first units of Lift Horse are now being demonstrated and sold through InventureWorks and a small sales team.

"I am so excited to think that others will finally benefit as I have," Clement says. "I've learned so much though the process of bringing a product to market and couldn't be happier with the final results."

To learn more about the patent pending product, check out www.lifthorse.com.

Pete Prados is co-owner and chief idea officer at Lafayette-based InventureWorks, which provides resources, consultation and partnership opportunities for entrepreneurs, inventors and business owners ready to launch the next big thing. Contact him at [email protected].

INNOV8, Lafayette's annual festival of innovation, returns for its third year April 23 - 30. Read more about it at innov8lafayette.com. The Vault, an annual pitch event for individuals or companies with a viable business plan and a good team in place to drive the company/innovation forward, is April 29 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Entry/voting chips are $10 at the door. Additional voting chips can also be purchased to "chip in" more crowdfunding dollars for the contestants. Three types of pitches will happen this year: quick pitches, for students and start-ups (proceeds from chip sales go to these winners plus a bonus check from the Acadiana Entrepreneur Group); nonprofit pitches, vying for up to $50,000 each from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority; and for-profit pitches, including the winner of Cajun Code Fest, where no deal is too large for deal makers in the audience and on stage.