WindPax – Full Concept to Product Design of Portable Wind Turbines – Part 2
In the first part of this story, you read about how WindPax is building a manufacturing business from scratch and some of the challenges that go along with it. We’ll finish this story with showing how WindPax is changing how wind power is being delivered to the market and the drive needed to take this startup to large scale manufacturing.
Bringing Innovative Wind Power to Market
“I always say that the ideas are the easy part,” Chambers says. “The big obstacles are going from an idea to a product to market.” He should know, since WindPax has spent the past two years on that journey — and they now have a Spring 2015 product launch in sight. Their journey has included countless design iterations to produce prototypes that allow field testing and further evolution of the product, and that help create enthusiasm for WindPax among potential users and investors.
Along the way, WindPax executed a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised money while earning them more exposure. Chambers cautions would-be Kickstarters that “It’s not a type of thing that you just stick it up there and let it go. It’s a continuous job for 40 days. So you have to have constant communication with questions, comments, updates, and refining your text to what the users want. It’s a 40 day marathon of marketing for your product.”
His best advice for entrepreneurs preparing their own Kickstarter campaigns is this:
- Use a concise video that explains your product well.
- Include good visuals throughout your page to grab the attention people who are just skimming.
- Have rewards that are simple and easy to understand.
- Explore co-marketing with other companies who have the same customers as you.
- Work to get good P.R. coverage for your campaign.
In WindPax’s case, they earned a nice writeup from Gizmag that helped expose their product to the community of gadget enthusiasts who will likely be their early adopters. That kind of exposure — along with the money raised during the Kickstarter campaign — helped equip WindPax as it approached strategic investors.
Ultimately, though, Chambers believes that you must go ahead and make your own mistakes with Kickstarter. “It’s one of those things where you just have to do it to learn it,” he says. “I tried to do everything I could to prepare myself, but the first one is the one where you get all the experience and make all the mistakes.”
In Spring 2015, WindPax intends to launch its product line for the outdoor recreation market. Besides selling their goods via Amazon, they are also approaching big-box retailers to get their wind turbines stocked on their shelves.
Looking ahead over the next few years, Chambers is excited about the large impact that WindPax could have in the developing world. To that end, he and the team are designing their turbines so that people can use the center shaft and generator even without the turbine blades. So, for example, a user could attach a bicycle to the generator with a cord and generate electricity that way. He’s also optimistic about WindPax’s potential to help promote the “small energy economy” in developing areas, for instance by creating jobs for local turbine distributors in those countries.
The Need for Passion in a Manufacturing Startup
If you’re going to build a viable business, Chambers says, you have to be excited about what you’re creating, and you can’t be deterred by short-term setbacks.
”You make mistakes,” he says. “That’s where all the learning occurs. Failure is not a bad thing in these situations. Failure is part of the process. And we fail maybe daily, but that’s the learning part and then we know how to do it next time. Better.”
The passion that drives Chambers and his team to persist through all of those little failures comes from the desire to bring a useful product to fruition in the real world. “What motivates us,” he says, “is that we can basically take an idea and design it for someone to use — a product. So, that’s where we play in the machine shop and the garage, design on Fusion 360, 3D print, put stuff together, [make] prototypes. You’re basically taking an idea in your head, putting it into a model or physical device and testing it and taking it to market. But, in this case, it’s something that could impact over a billion people. That’s amazing! I don’t know who that wouldn’t motivate.”
It’s not enough to sit back and think about these things, either. As Chambers puts it, ”you can’t read a textbook to learn how to do it.” Along the way, you need to find the right people and hang on to them, and build long-term relationships for each facet of the business — engineering, business operations, marketing, sales, and so on. “If you don’t have that network around you,” he adds, “it’s very difficult to do it yourself.”
What if, despite all that passion and effort, WindPax were to fail as a company? Chambers doesn’t waste time considering it.
“The idea of failing has not crossed my mind.”