This is the fifteenth in the series of interviews conducted by the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation about small business entrepreneurship in our area.
The Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation offers entrepreneurial services,
one-on-one business planning assistance, training, mentoring and operational assistance to existing local small businesses and startups.
I recently sat down with Nick Morgan of Formable Grabber to get his view on the life of being a small business entrepreneur in the Alleghany Highlands.
Nick Morgan can be reached at this time by calling 434-298-4722 or email
What made you take the leap of becoming an entrepreneur?
There are a couple different directions I can go with this.
One is being able to change the community, being able to grow and inspire others to take the gamble and start a small business in this area specifically.
In the grand scheme of things, I like doing things my way and I prefer taking the risk of not having an immediate award such as a paycheck from a traditional form of employment.
How did the idea for your business come about?
My partner, Homer Warren ran into a situation where a set of keys keys were locked on the floorboard in a Toyota pickup truck and at the time there was no product on the market to reach the keys, so I started developing one.
We fixed all of the short comings of the current auto unlocking tool which has not changed since 1998 and inadvertently fixed everything wrong with the mechanic’s grabber which has been the same since 1957.
The Formable Grabber has ended up going into many different markets that we never dreamed before when we set out to just focus on Auto Unlocking! We have clients using our tools in all sorts of industries now such as aviation mechanics, diesel mechanics, auto mechanics, occupational therapists, and even housewives picking things up out of their reach.
Tell me about the product/services you offer?
It is currently patent pending both Domestically and Internationally.
There are no other truly formable reach tools on the market and that is the whole premise of the company, Formable Grabber.
How do you advertise?
I do Facebook and Instagram daily.
I am going to start partnering with various YouTube influencers. I have figured out this is one of the best ways of reaching a bigger audience right in the middle of who we are trying to target.
Other than that, car shows are excellent because we can put our product in their hands, they understand it immediately and they end up purchasing it.
What are your plans moving forward?
I plan to expand manufacturing here, I am not going anywhere. I am here!
We have the international patent pending as well which will help protect us from now into the future!
We are going to slowly expand into different markets.
First target audience is auto unlocking so we will do trade shows. We will be doing expos in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Dallas, Texas.
We will also be doing the states of Maryland and Florida.
I need to figure out how to get into occupational therapy realm of things.
For the trade shows and events, I will not only be taking tools for auto unlocking but also tools geared for occupational therapy to help disabled people who need to pick objects off of the floor or other places where they may be out of reach.
I will be looking in to something where quadriplegics have different attachments where they can use their artificial hands to pick up small things. Point being, we want to continue to expand and solve problems to help people make day to day life a little easier.
You can pick up something as small as a pepper seed with this tool.
I do not want to grow too fast.
Eventually we will get into big box retail and do places such as Tractor Supply, etc.
I want to target specific audiences for now and just do direct sales.
Later on I will probably pick up some distributors and grow accordingly.
That is the plan!
Where do you plan to do your manufacturing?
Here! I plan to make all of it here.
People in the tool industry see a much higher value of a product that is American made versus one that is imported.
When timing is right we’re planning on expanding into some of the major retailer’s, but for now our current plan is to stick to a direct to consumer market and as we can expand and grow to hire staff we will keep up with demand and grow accordingly.
Being the number one winner, tell me your experience going through The Gauntlet program?
It was a lot more hours and way more involved than I was really expecting it to be.
I met all sorts of different people that have various outlooks, such as other entrepreneurs who have already been through the program, and people within the community who look at things from different angles.
I didn’t necessarily need to pivot; I already had a plan as to the direction I was going.
The networking and contacts built through The Gauntlet was awesome.
It made you do a real rational business plan and not something that was a pie in the sky.
You were not doing something so far out in left field where you were going to sell $30M dollars the first year; no one is going to do that, not even Apple.
The general just of things is that it’s a really really well rounded program; I enjoyed it.
It was absolutely worth it for the contacts alone in addition to everybody who stepped up and supported it.
I have already emailed some of the people who gave out the in-kind prizes and just alone what they offer is really valuable.
Martin Veldsman, a contact through The Gauntlet, has done packaging engineering will be helping me out with my product packaging. His in-kind was $5,000 worth of time, which is fantastic.
I have a good idea of how to go about the packaging but getting his point of view on how he has done things in the past will help me a lot more.
I have done retail packaging but having someone who has done a lot more than I have is really valuable.
The $5,000 in-kind for legal assistance I will be receiving from Will Hall of Beacon is fantastic as well.
I have an interview with Fox News and then I will be working with several people on my business strategy, all as part of my prize package.
I know where I need to go, but they will help me culminate things.
This is really cool that it is growing to the point where we have talent here.
Talking with Stephen Moret of VEDP at the Business Appreciation and seeing his vision on several things was fantastic.
I wish we could get the support in this area like northern Virginia and other larger areas but that is not going to happen so we have to do what we can do and expand and grow our own community on our own.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become an entrepreneur?
Do not be scared of failing, taking the risk is very well worth it, but it has to be calculated.
Reach out to business owners in the community and ask them questions. How did you go about doing it? How did you do this? Is my idea feasible? Do you think I can make money doing this?
You need to decide what it is you want to create a manufacturing facility with 25 jobs or do you want to open a food Franchise.
I have been an entrepreneur on and off pretty much my whole life.
I worked for other people and wasn’t very happy, I was just doing my time so I could go do what I wanted to do.
Sometimes you have to do that when you are building something from nothing, you do not have a choice and then you can finally cut the ties and go for yourself.
You have to understand that with the other there is no insurance and no benefits.
You have freedom but then you have to work 80 hours a week so you can cruise later on, it all depends on what you want to do.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to have multiple companies and several manufacturing facilities.
I want to get in to philanthropy as soon as I financially can because there are enough charities out there that have good intentions, but a lot of overhead and I do not believe in that. I do not like it.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur?
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Brian Patrick Cork, an entrepreneur from Atlanta.
In 2008 he wrote a quote about me when I had to do an elevator pitch within 30 seconds and you had to sell it.
The quote he wrote about me was “it takes a panache and a level of moxie, that DNA, that charisma, to do what it is that we want to do, which is change the world, and that is what entrepreneurs want.”
And it stuck. I would say overall that quote is probably the most inspirational thing.