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Entrepreneurs launch products with a little help from RCBI

Staff report

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — For years, Dr. Greg Crews attempted to make a better feed bucket for horses. He found the help he needed to bring his concept to life at the Robert C. Byrd Institute in Huntington.

Bryan Shaw, director, the Ten50 Business Accelerator program at Robert C. Byrd Institute speaks during Demo Day on Wednesday in Huntington. Members of RCBI’s first entrepreneurial class of TEN50 pitched their business ideas during the event.
(Photo by Sholten Singer)

Less than two years later, his buckets are being sold across the country and he’s making plans to expand his product line.

“This would not have been possible without RCBI,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for greater people to work with, no doubt.”

Crews, a Huntington dentist, is a longtime horse owner.

“Every morning I would have to go out and feed my horses, and every morning their buckets were broken or knocked off the fence or laying in the mud,” he said.

Crews said he was purchasing replacements two or three times a year.

“I knew there had to be something better, but I looked and looked and couldn’t find anything,” he said.

Crews began working with RCBI in March 2016 when he pitched his idea to RCBI staff members.

“I received early-stage funding assistance from RCBI that allowed me to work with a great RCBI engineer, Ron Cabacar, on designs for my bucket,” Crews said.

Together they developed two prototypes that were produced on a Fortus 3-D printer at RCBI.

Crews took those prototypes to a horse show in Louisville, Kentucky, and showed them to other horse owners. Their input helped him decide which design to put into production.

“I had the idea for a couple of years, but couldn’t get anywhere with it,” he said. “With RCBI’s help, I am now able to actually sell my product.”

PTI Inc., a Point Pleasant company, is producing the buckets, which are made of high-density polyethylene that resists cracking and is weather resistant, according to Crews.

“The buckets are designed to easily lock onto any type of fencing,” he said.

Sold through feed stores and online, the buckets are now in use on farms as far away as Alaska, Texas and Washington, Crews added.

“They are extremely strong and durable,” he said. “It’s the best feed bucket in the world. It’s more expensive but well worth it.”

Crews runs his company, Lock-N-Load Feed Systems, with his son-in-law, Nathan Davenport.

On Wednesday, Crews was among the first group of entrepreneurs to participate in RCBI’s TEN50 – West Virginia’s Business Accelerator.

“This event is the culmination of three months of intense mentoring to turn startup concepts into solid business operations,” said Bryan Shaw, TEN50 director. “TEN50 at RCBI drives innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting entrepreneurs and their early-stage companies.”

Shaw said TEN50 is affiliated with the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), and Crews plans to continue to draw on the global resources of GAN now that his time with TEN50 is complete.

Crews already is making plans to grow Lock-N-Load by expanding his product line to include buckets for small livestock. He wants Lock-N-Load to be a name that is easily recognizable.

“I want to be branded,” he said. “I don’t want just one bucket. I want a line of products.”

The Currys are social entrepreneurs who are passionate about health, education and the environment. They are the founders of Healthy Kids Inc., an online seed-to-table meal planner, and Project Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to spread health and nutrition programs to low-income families and communities.

Like Crews, the Currys received assistance from the Agricultural Innovations program at RCBI.

“Start a Garden is an online gardening platform that promotes nutrition by helping teachers and students grow and maintain school gardens,” Mandy Curry said. “We are pitching our next phase in technology, which is a teacher app to help them start gardens in the classroom.”

She said the goal is to get Start a Garden into 20,000 classrooms in the next three years.

Rob Jenkins gave a presentation of his company, RoadSpan Systems.

Jenkins has more than 25 years of experience with computer networking and software development. He said his company will manufacture and distribute wireless school bus transponders and intelligent bus stop signal lights designed to give motorists advance warning of active school bus stops.

“I want to make it safer for schoolchildren to get on and off of school buses,” Jenkins said. “This technology is especially important in rural areas that have blind curves and sharp hills. It will allow motorists to know a school bus is stopped even before they actually see the bus.”

Jenkins says the TEN50 is a fabulous program.

“It offers all kinds of expertise and all kinds of support,” he said.

A new class of entrepreneurs will begin in June, RCBI officials said.

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