A group of engineering sophomores are getting first-hand experience about what it means to be entrepreneurs. The design project they began for their ENGI 120 class has become their business—and they’re quickly discovering the challenges of running one.
Materials Science and Nanoengineering major Renee Li and Mechanical Engineering majors Harrison Lin, Griffin Palmer and Juan Pablo Luna are members of the design team called Life Made Easy, and have created the Longboard Holster. The device clips on to a longboard and has an adjustable cross-body strap, perfect for the Rice student on the go.
The team designed the prototype in the fall of 2015; by 2016, they’d tweaked the design and offered the strap for sale.
“When we made the first batch of them, we sold out in under two hours,” said Li.
The team used their updated design in last spring’s Engineering Design Showcase, and received the award for Best Gaming, Creative, or Innovative Technology. They obtained a provisional patent and are currently working towards an LLC status.
“We definitely have a roadmap for going forward,” said Lin. “First, filing our LLC, and then doing some outreach to manufacturers so we can make the holsters in bulk. We’re also looking at a Kickstarter campaign.”
Lin says that the group is dealing with the myriad details of organizing a company: permits, licenses, taxes, registrations. In addition, Li says the team continues to improve their prototype, including looking at different materials that would be stronger and longer-lasting, and finding ways to ensure the strap doesn’t twist and get tangled.
Both point out that Rice’s culture of collaboration and the university’s commitment to entrepreneurship has been instrumental in helping them succeed.
“Being in this environment has been great,” said Li. “We had students who were so helpful as beta testers, and our professors were supportive.”
Lin credits Matthew Wettergreen for his guidance and advice, and notes that Brian Barr, the junior Chemical Engineering major who heads the Rice Bike Shop was helpful.
“Really, though, at Rice, you find this spirit of give-and-take that you don’t see in other places,” said Li. “That’s made a difference as we’re building our company.”