Our latest podcast episode features the owner of Mercury Wheels. We talk about what led to starting a business, shutting down an apparently successful sales channel, and why you add rosemary to a gin and tonic.
Listen now on Soundcloud!
A friend asked how this company got started. I initially answered with the story about the product itself, but driving home I realized the true origin went back further into history and truly had nothing to with The Warmfront.
In the late 90's I was working as a software engineer in Boulder. I bought this journal at Eddie Bauer to keep lists of songs and movies I liked and didn't want to forget, and started recording ideas for inventions in it.
I was traveling for work and was at Stapleton Airport - probably pre-wireless - and took my company laptop out of the gigantic suitcase that housed it to look like an important businessman. I was probably playing Solitaire.
I was struggling to create a spot on my lap for this clunky piece of machinery, squeezing my knees and other sensitive areas together with little success. The laptop almost slipped off, it was uncomfortable, hot, etc.
After the trip, I wrote this entry in my journal: Laptop strap / leg holder. My little engineer brain was creating a laptop bag that would fold out into a lap desk of some sort. At the time I was disorganized, lacking focus and confidence, and forgot about this.
A few years later, I'm on another business trip and open up Skymall. What do I see for sale in there? My bag/desk idea. The product description sounded identical to my concept.
I hated that feeling. But it was actually the start of my personal growth and maturing. Instead of thinking my idea was stolen, I recognized that I had done nothing with my idea. I resolved that I would design something else and finish it. I didn't know what, how or when, and the Warmfront was still a few years away, but I wasn't going to let an invention sit in my journal and fade away.
P.S. If you look at the first entry in this journal, you'll see Flashing CHMSL. Full geek disclosure, that stand for Center High Mounted Stop Light. You know those brake lights that are in the middle of the liftgate or rear window on cars? That is the official name.
In the 2000s, it was a new invention. I thought they would be more effective if under heavy braking, they would flash. Take a look at some of the newer cars when you're stuck in traffic - the lights start flashing.
Thoughts and hopefully inspirations from the Warmfront.