Some of the most successful businesses start with a simple sketch, perhaps made at the dinner table or in a garage.
For James Pollex, the idea for an accessory to enhance a tablet’s portability started as a scribble before church one morning.
“I have always been an inventor and when I was little, my mother always told me to make my own fun,” says Pollex, chief design officer for TecDriven. “TORCHGRIP started when I put my ideas on paper, and then built the product around that.”
His first sketch was of a simple handle that would attach to the back of an iPad or tablet using a strong adhesive, but one that could be easily removed to transfer to another device. The goal of the design was to create a product you could use one-handed without feeling like you would drop or break the tablet device.
Pollex drew a sketch for a device that has many different functions and is ergonomically correct so it would be a “one size fits all” type of product.
The result was TORCHGRIP, a product that resembles a sundial gnomon and attaches to the back of any tablet device or case. The handle is pitched so the iPad can be held in multiple ways and can rotate freely.
Pollex applied for a patent in 2010, and the company solidified its design and launched in 2015. Joined by his partner, Bryan Kopesky, the pair are working to raise the product’s profile.
“We are currently cutting teeth with this product,” says Kopesky, chief operating officer for TecDriven. “We have sold a little over 100 TORCHGRIPs, and right now our marketing is basically word of mouth and done through our Facebook page. Once we officially release this product to the markets, this product will soar and it will soar quickly.”
Each TORCHGRIP sells for $59.99 which includes the ring, grip and adhesive and is currently available for purchase on the TORCHGRIP website.
TORCHGRIP is designed for anyone looking to get a better handle on their tablet accessory. The “one size fits all” handle is designed to accommodate any size hand so any customer can have the feeling of control when using the product. The base attaches to any surface using a special 3M adhesive, so transferring the product from one device to another is possible.
Currently, the tablet accessory market builds stands into the case which houses the actual device. When a tablet manufacturer changes the design of its tablet, the size of the cases change as well.
“The reason TORCHGRIP is so sustainable is because the product can be used on the first generation iPad and it can also be used on the latest version as well,” Pollex says. “If you buy a case with a built-in stand for your tablet, and you decide to buy the newest generation product, that case becomes useless because it will most likely not fit the newer product.”
Networking and partnerships
For TecDriven, it is all about making connections and working with businesses within the state. Whether it’s a company that makes the packaging or the plastics manufacturer that creates the actual handle, Wisconsin businesses are incorporated into each product that is sold.
“This product represents not only something that is made in the USA, but is made right here in our own backyards,” says Pollex. “Wisconsin Plastics for example, manufactures every TORCHGRIP that we sell. It is partnerships like these that make our product exist.”
Pat Clusman of Innovationedge, who works closely with TecDriven and is also a customer of TORCHGRIP, says the ecosystem of partners is important to the business model the company outlined.
“The success that TecDriven and TORCHGRIP has will eventually trickle down to Wisconsin Plastics and other various companies,” Clusman says. “So the more success TecDriven has, the more success other companies will see, so TORCHGRIP is a shared opportunity for many companies.”
Keeping everything local is one important mission behind the company and because of the product’s design, it may have a chance of
“Apple has actually called us to inquire about the product,” Pollex says. “We want to be fully ready before we sit down with them and discuss the possibility of putting this product on the shelves in Apple stores.”
For businesses just starting up, oftentimes the primary goal for the company is to focus on revenue generated by the new product or service.
Helping others is what brought the partnership of Pollex and Kopesky together, after meeting during a mission trip a few years ago. For them, TecDriven’s success is measured beyond the number of sales, since giving back to various charities is integrated into the business model 1they execute.
“Charity is something this business was founded on,” says Pollex. “Ten percent of profits go back to charities and that is extremely important to us and will never change.”
TecDriven works closely with several nonprofit organizations in support of local initiatives.
“So they not only aim to do good business for themselves, but they are also enhancing the businesses around them,” Clusman says.