By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
We first met Alex Adams about a year ago, soon after he won the “Growth Category” in the Boyd Venture Fund competition hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).
In our inaugural article, we talked about the many interests of this Mechanical Engineering major, including developing a safe, lower cost hammock for college students and others. Later, Adams placed second in the “Spring 2013 Vol Court” competition as he continued his entrepreneurial pursuit.
When we caught-up with Adams just before Christmas, it was hard to believe that his company – Xada – had only been selling its inaugural product for about six months. The hammock was designed to provide a low cost, safe and easy-to-setup device for college students.
“Our online marketing and sales are going well,” Adams said. The existing hammock can be purchased at http://www.xadagear.com/, Amazon or eBay.
The perpetually smiling and energetic student entrepreneur has a number of other plans in the works, ranging from product improvements and new manufacturing and sales channels for the hammock to a possible new product.
“I’m planning to use the hammock as a promotional product,” Adams told us. His idea is to provide a branded product, perhaps in a company’s primary color, as a giveaway. Adams visualizes retailers of boats, campers and other outdoor products as ideal targets and welcomes input from those who could offer assistance or guidance.
Another change involves incorporating a different polyester material for the rope, in this case something called Dynemma. Adams explains it is thinner and stronger than what he is using now, making it possible for the hammock to be even more lightweight.
This could be an advantage for hikers and those who walk a distance to a camping site.
“We’re still working on our camping (hammock) model,” he adds.
Xada is also looking at ways to increase flexibility in ordering through another manufacturer. Adams says he wants to be able to order runs with smaller quantities, a change that would allow him to serve niche markets, particularly in terms of number of hammocks ordered in a certain color.
As far as the new product he is considering, Adams would only describe it as a “unique” 3D dog bowl.
Now a UTK senior, Adams graduates in December 2014. What’s next? He says that question is on the minds of his parents.
“I’m thinking about the MBA program with a focus on entrepreneurship,” Adams says. “I like the business stuff and don’t just see myself as an engineer.”
For now, the self-described tinkerer and builder is working as many hours as he can on growing Xada.