Student company finds the building blocks for success
December 23, 2014
For three Park City High School students, it all started when they raised their hands.
Mike Wong, a local engineer had been brought in as a mentor in the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies program, which allows students to work on semester-long business projects for real-world clients. He pitched his idea. A colleague had been working on using a triangle shape to build domed buildings, and he wanted to work with a group of students to dream up what else could be done with the shape.
He made just one guarantee: He would show the students in his group how to take something from the idea phase to market. At the very least, it would be a hands-on glimpse of how to be an entrepreneur.
"It was about how do we take this shape and turn it into something cool," he said.
Gates Lamb had just joined the program because he’d long been interested in engineering. His hand shot up, along with two other students, Paige Dabell and Mina Berglund, who have since graduated and gone to college. Now, more than a year later, they, along with Wong, are cofounders of a burgeoning business after turning the triangle shape into a plastic, Lego-like building toy.
"It’s crazy for me to think if I hadn’t raised my hand or not thought about taking (PC CAPS)," said Lamb, now a senior. "I wouldn’t be here, and it’s definitely been the greatest journey for a 17-year-old to take. I couldn’t have asked for anything better in a high school classroom."
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After developing the product while in the PC CAPS program — Lamb describes it as a process of tireless trial and error — the toy is on the market. Dubbed IKOS — a play on the word icosahedron, which is the geometrical term for a sphere made out of triangles — the toy is being carried by the local toy store J.W. Allen & Sons. Wong said they also recently sold more than 100 packages at the Park Silly Sunday Market Holiday Bazaar.
"That has been a great feeling," Wong said. "It’s been a really good response. Kids seem to enjoy it."
Before selling the toy, Wong and the students received a patent for it and also registered the business, called IKO, as an LLC. Then they turned to Kickstarter, which allows the public to back start-up businesses, for money to actually make the toy, eclipsing their goal of $21,000 by more than $5,000. That was a big step because it showed their product was something people actually wanted.
"If it doesn’t fly on Kickstarter, then maybe we’re off," Wong said, adding the toy is made from sustainable material.
Marketing the product in earnest will begin after the holidays, Wong said. To Lamb, there’s one key aspect of the toy that will make kids eager to get it in their hands — unlimited creativity.
"If you think about it, kids build with Legos just straight up and down," he said. "They don’t think about anything else. But with this, when you start building with it and playing with it, it’s almost intense. It can go anywhere. We wanted to spark creativity."
For more information on the toy, visit ikotoys.com.
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