To increase the speed and range that a family-sized group can flee to safety in an emergency situation
I participated in a local "Great Shake Out" earthquake preparedness program in April of 2012. At that same time, my wife and I discovered that we were expecting twin boys. I was struck with the realization that I would not be able to rapidly leave our neighborhood in an emergency with my family *and* our emergency supplies. That week, I started designing the StowCart. At first it was hand drawings on paper, then 2D drawings on my computer, then physical prototypes in my garage made out of pressed fiber board, wooden dowels, plywood, and duct tape.
After nearly two years, a patent application, several prototypes and over 20 major design iterations, we finally have what some call a minimum viable product (MVP). This MVP is a full-sized, functioning aluminum prototype. The prototype works great. I used it to haul a couple hundred pounds of sod in my neighborhood. I also pulled my wife and daughter up and down hills around the park near our home (as a means of conducting informal testing). Unexectedly, most of my neighbors want one to take their kids on walks with. This was exciting for me because I wanted to make something that was helpful for many tasks and could be used often (not just for emergency response).
The work was starting to pay of. As of November 2013 we were really close to a "retail-ready" product. The challenge I faced next was knowing how to get it made in large numbers, raising some capital, and getting it in to the hands of people. At that time I knew nothing about any of that. I knew I needed a rapid education so I applied to the Technology Commercialization Master's program at the University of Texas. To my total shock, was accepted! I was also very lucky once I started the program because I was able to use the StowCart in several of our group projects in class, including a marketing plan and a business plan assignment. At the end of fall semester, we actually won the semi finals and came in second place in the final competition in a business plan competition with my piers in the program. After the competition, one of my professors told me that I was "in love with my product". I responded that I'm actually in love with solving the problem.
Myself and a small group of students are heading to Atlanta in February to compete in the Georgia Tech "Georgia Bowl" business plan competition. The goal of that competition is to improve our pitch and presentation skills, spread awareness about the product, meet people, and hopefully win the competition. There is a small cash prize that we desperately need to help pay for manufacturing our first 10 for testing. The design is greatly improved from the aluminum prototype and had advanced to a stage that requires me to move this project out of my garage and into the world.
When conducting end-user research, it was abundently clear that future customers did not want to buy a device that was ONLY for emergencies. For that reason, I designed the StowCart to be the optimal egress device for emergencies and also a great multi-purpose hauling device for home & garden, outdoor recreation, small-scale farming, and more.