A storage rack fit for a gym
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” A local inventor and his wife are busy marketing their recent innovation, a very specialized gear rack, in the hope they can break even or make some cash before somebody else starts making a cheap copy and undercuts their sales.
They have to hurry, inventor Peter Holman said, because they were unable to obtain a U.S. patent on the rack.
“I know I’m going to get copied,” he said, adding he believes he can keep ahead of the competition and make a sufficient enough profit to move on to the next enterprise, whatever that might be.
Inevitably, cheaper copies will be made, though not as aesthetically appealing. Even if they are less expensive, Holman said he’s hoping his sales won’t tank.
“There’s nothing out there like my rack,” Holman declared, adding he has made 25 sales.
Holman, 38, and his wife, Bianca, have sunk approximately $30,000 into the contraption, which Peter invented about a year ago after casting a critical eye at the clutter that accumulates on the floor of physical therapy centers, fitness centers and other venues for working out.
A physical therapist and martial arts expert, Holman said he was working with a client at a local gym about a year ago, looking through the usual array of ropes, rubber bands for stretching muscles and other physical therapy gear, when items started falling off the overloaded weights rack they were hanging on.
“I thought, there has to be a better way to store all this stuff,” he recalled. And when he got home, he started sketching out his ideas for a multi-purpose rack designed specifically for the things that physical therapists, exercise therapists and others use in their work with clients.
“There’s a huge need for all this functional training stuff in gyms,” he explained, but all too often it ends up being tossed on the floor.
Hence his invention, the Functional Training Rack, which is manufactured in five different models by All Around Fabrication in the Denver area ” the firm also packages the finished racks and ships them to customers.
Bianca, who provides marketing savvy and models on brochures and the website [functionaltrainingracks.com], is a personal trainer.
In the early stages of the enterprise, Holman contacted a fitness consultant, who he said had worked with such giant equipment makers as Stairmaster and Nautilus, to seek advice about pursuing further development of his idea. But the man’s fee, $15,000, was about the same as the amount Holman had already sunk into the project, and Holman balked at laying out that much money.
Holman said he also went to a patent attorney as soon as he finished the designs, but was told a patent application would be a long shot.
“He said, ‘I’d love to take your money, but it wouldn’t be right,'” Holman said. The attorney maintained that there are too many racks being made and sold, for storage of all kinds of gear and goods, for his to be unique enough to warrant a patent.
Reactions from other physical therapists spurred him on, although Holman concedes that going the next step “was kind of a leap of faith.” He started buying materials and, with the help of 3-D Iron Works in Basalt, working nights and weekends, he built his first prototype and garnered more encouragement from friends.
Realizing he could not afford to base a business on the output of a Basalt welder working part time, he found All Around Fabrication, run by Dan Frase in Denver.
After drawing up designs for variations on the basic rack, and with Frase’s help in refining the kinds of materials that would work best, he took his dream to the next phase and created four prototype models that suited different needs. Holman contacted exercise gear manufacturers to round up enough stuff to hang on the rack for prospective buyers to see how it works.
By early March of this year, Holman was able to load four prototypes into a U-Haul van and drive himself, Bianca and their 18-month old infant to a huge trade show in San Diego, Calif., where he set up a small booth next to such giants as Technogym, which Holman said had spent $1.5 million on its displays.
Holman seemed almost surprised when he said that “people were pretty impressed” with what he had done.
A man from the Fitness Together franchise organization ordered two, he said. And a man flashing a card bearing the name of Gold’s Gym in Yerevan, Armenia, ordered four, Holman said, adding, “they were sent out today … I’ve got my first international sale.”
But the surprise of the day came when a man named Brett Fischer walked up to the booth, took a look at the racks “and wrote us a check right there, saying don’t let anyone else take these, I want all four,” Holman said.
With five rack models, available in silver, black and white and selling at $449, Holman said last week that he views Functional Training Racks, LLC as a sideline, a source of “supplemental income” to help his family meet rising costs of living and improve their stake in the local economy.
He also has other inventions up his sleeve that he declined to discuss, and he hopes to find distributors to sell his products in retail outlets, which would shave his profits but mean a quicker increase in sales.
“It’s been eye opening,” he said of the last year’s experience. “I think I’ve learned a lot as a businessman, and I have this sense of accomplishment.”
Although some have wondered why he has not made a deal to have the racks made in a foreign country to save on costs, Holman proudly notes that “they’re made in America, using American steel, and I plan to keep it that way.”
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