It's a magical thing when an entrepreneur creates a product that comes out of a personal need. Last August, Christopher Stoikos discovered a problem. A couple weeks later, he had a product idea. Six months after that, he has nearly a quarter of a million dollars in crowdfunding and offers from some major retailers on the table.
Isn't being an entrepreneur totally badass?
Chris has a passion for a lot of things, but mostly for solving problems. As a kid, he'd immerse himself in a good jigsaw puzzle, meticulously testing each piece on all four sides before moving onto the next one. It was no surprise to his parents that he would grow up to become an entrepreneur who now solves grown-up puzzles-mostly as they pertain to technology and construction.
Chris is obsessed with making things work better. It's what makes him tick. So when he found that his toolbox was seriously lacking the cool factor, he completely gave up sleep and set to work on the first smart toolbox.
His major beef was with the technology. Like most craftsmen, he was used to working on sites that had little access to power. What if he had to charge his cell phone? What if he needed an extension cord? What if he was working off specs on a tablet that needed to stand up? What if he wanted to blast some motivational music? He couldn't believe that toolboxes today didn't have the features to make that possible anyplace.
He figured that if he had these issues with standard toolboxes, other people did too. So he called his friends in construction and interviewed guys who worked at Home Depot and Lowe's to see what their biggest on-the-job problems were and how the toolbox could help. It recognized that it was important that he ask them their opinions in person so he could get their true reactions by seeing their faces and gauging their interest.
Once he felt like he wholeheartedly understood his audience, he brought on some buddies to help him with the prototypes for an Indiegogo campaign. The product (aptly named "The Coolbox") features Bluetooth speakers, an LED light, dual handles, a whiteboard, wheels, a retractable power cord, a three-way splitter, a rechargeable battery, a USB charger, a tablet stand, and a magnetic lid.
After only a couple of paid Facebook ads, the product went viral-ending up in Indiegogo's newsletter and homepage (because of the amount of funding pouring in), as well as the press. The Coolbox currently has nearly $250,000 in funding-nearly 500 percent of Chris' goal. Not only that, his team was approached by industry leaders Dewalt and Black and Decker, who hope to buy the product, as well as Lowe's and Home Depot, who want to distribute it. The first Coolboxes will be available this summer.
Chris credits the product's initial success to truly knowing his audience. "Create something simple that people love and start there," he advises. "Do all the groundwork necessary to make technology and people come together-that's when true excitement happens. The formula has changed-the hard work has not. "