By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
It’s been about five months since Steven Pierson won the latest edition of the “What’s the Big Idea?!” competition with his practical but innovative device to help fellow pipefitters.
We checked-in with Pierson recently to see how things were going. For those who are not familiar with his invention, you can read an article that we did on his device called PipeFighters Square®.
“Things are really going great,” Pierson said, noting that the company is “gradually climbing in sales (as) pipefitters, industrial plants, and vocational schools are purchasing my product. Tennessee’s largest employer in chemicals and plastics has purchased some of the squares for its pipe fabrication shops which is a very good sign that it is only going to keep growing.”
He even noted that one person criticized the price, “but he bought one anyway and now his co-workers also want one.”
Pierson is using a variety of marketing tools to get the word out – social media, word of mouth, and people who observe other pipefitters using it. He notes the strategy is working with the invention being used “as far west as California,” and customers are waiting in Canada and Guatemala.
As far as manufacturing, Pierson uses a mix of subcontractors. They include JD Squared in Johnson City that cuts out the squares by water jet and the protractor plates and blades by laser; RMI Machine in Blountville that mills the squares; Master Tool and Die in Kingsport that bevels the protractor plates; Norco of Knoxville that anodizes the plates; Jimani Lasers in Oxnard, CA that marks the name and degrees on the tool; Varsity Trophy of Kingsport that laser marks the name PipeFighters Square® and made in USA; and Master Tool And Die that puts the centerlines on the blades.
“I sand the protractor plates, ream the holes, and bead blast the blades,” Pierson says, noting that these steps occur between the work of several of his subcontractors. “I then assemble them myself.”
He hopes to purchase a laser machine from Jimani soon to save on shipping time and create a faster turnaround.
Pierson says he has a waiting list due to not having as much capital as he would like, but it is building along with inventory.
As we noted in our original article, Pierson is not the typical entrepreneur, but he clearly is beginning to follow that innovative path characteristic of many entrepreneurs.
“I do have more ideas and will release them later when I am able to start the patent process on them,” he says.