When I walked into the KinetiGear, LLC, makers of BoXZY, headquarters I knew I was in a unique space. There were mechanical pieces and parts everywhere and the people looked energized and happy. BoXZY is a 3D printer, CNC Mill, and Laser Engraver in one made to help fill a gap in the industry. As a client of Enterprise Bank I was granted the opportunity to visit the headquarters and speak with one of the founders, Joel Johnson. After a tour of the headquarters itself I sat down with Joel, who started the business with his brother Justin, and talk about their experience creating BoXZY from the ground up. Joel and Justin have experienced extreme success with BoXZY earning the title of Pennsylvania’s Most Successfully Funded Tech Campaign on Kickstarter and Pittsburgh’s most Successfully Funded Campaign. I decided to start from the beginning and ask Joel what is motivation was to become an entrepreneur with his brother. “I always say that being an entrepreneur is who we are,” he replied, “I don’t think you just suddenly say you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s just us.” Joel continued to tell me about how he and his brother would constantly be evaluating their surroundings, asking themselves how they would sell certain products or make a profit off of them. Since they were kids they have been indulging their entrepreneurial spirit and challenging themselves until they came up with the idea for BoXZY. “It was actually an extended process,” Joel explained as he started to tell the story of BoXZY. Joel had decided to help his brother run a contracting company and started talking about small business issues and education’s link to it. Then they started investigating local maker/incubator spaces such as Tech Shop and noticed the three things that were most used in those spaces; 3D printing, CNC milling, and Laser engraving. And that was how BoXZY was born.
I had to find out more about their process creating BoXZY completely from scratch and how they would describe their entrepreneurial journey. “It was wonderful… and horrible, all of the above,” Joel explained, “I was a psychology and philosophy major and I had to learn robotics.” He further explained to me that Justin was the inventor out of the two of them, but both of them had a lot to learn before they could launch BoXZY. Joel also told me about how their different view points coupled with their sibling competitiveness fueled their processes. “Conflict is not bad, it’s not the kind of thing that should leave a stain, it’s the kind of thing that should come to a conclusion and a solution,” Joel said while describing how their brotherly competition stays friendly and always gets resolved. This way they are able to continue to be partners and keep their relationship in tact. While Joel admits that their journey through creating their company wasn’t perfect, he chooses to see mistakes as feedback and information about their environment. Sometimes through mistakes you learn more than you would have if you had “done things right”. “The one thing I would do differently is use an experienced contractor in situations where I don’t need labor. Mistakes in labor can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars before you even know what happened. A mature contractor can stabilize a lack of experience,” Joel explained.
Joel’s favorite item that they made using BoXZY? “It’s not going to sound cool, but it’s a utility knife. It’s super pretty, super personalized, and it’s definitely my favorite.” Joel explained that they have made a lot of different projects that he is really proud of, but he is most proud of the diversity of the projects. They have participated in artistic projects such as paintings, gear sets, and fine woods. A big part of what Joel and Justin do is go to Maker Faires to network and show off what their product can do. “Maker Faires have… people from art, crafts, robotics, someone making their first product for Kickstarter,” he explained. It’s an incredibly diverse network of people coming together to learn more about how they can make what they love. The intellectual capital exchange is Joel’s favorite part of the Maker Faires because they inspire Joel and Justin to create better improvements. What is Joel’s advice for those looking to become an entrepreneur? “Avoid venture capital, think of yourself as a small business, interrogate your environment and your life for resources,” he said. He says also to take advice with a grain of salt, as advice is uni-directional. Instead of having someone tell you the path you should take, you should have someone who challenges you constantly. “You need to be brutal when you look at the resources available to you,” he continued.
Joel and Justin found Enterprise through well-placed connections in the industry. Joel explains that he knew someone who received a loan from Enterprise and were happy with their experience. Joel then went to his financial advisor to talk about if Enterprise was the right choice, which we were. Joel only has nice things to say about Enterprise and his experience with us as a whole. “They’re partners with us in the process and have consistently overcome obstacles,” he explains. He explains the process as adaptive and flexible with Enterprise focusing on their needs as a small business. He says that while many organizations said they would help, no one ever really lived up to what they said until Enterprise.
After my discussion with Joel I went to discuss their success with their Relationship Manager Randy Davidson. Randy is incredibly proud to be able to witness the success of Joel and Justin with BoXZY. “My first impression of them is that they were highly intelligent and high tech,” Randy told me. He continued to talk about how they had a great vision for their future and the future of BoXZY. When Enterprise and KinetiGear, LLC met, KinetiGear was still in the start up phase but was growing rapidly. Enterprise was able to provide an SBA loan to Joel and Justin for inventory purchases and working capital. Throughout the process Randy describes Joel and Justin as very cooperative which led to a smooth process. Randy also mentions working with Hadley Pratt, the Head of Corporate Services, with which he has developed a good, strong relationship. “Joel and Justin are headed in a really strong direction and I’m excited to see how they continue to grow in the months and years to come.”
To learn more about BoXZY please visit http://www.boxzy.com/.