Santa Cruz SBDCAptos, CA

“The SBDC is phenomenal, they brought up details that I would have never considered in starting this business, and I look forward to building our relationship and continuing with the SBDC in the future.”

Michael McKinney

BACKGROUND
Michael McKinney is a Retired Disabled Veteran of the United States Air Force from 1980-2004, who was injured while training for combat. He had a great idea to design a detachable front license plate for performance vehicles, so he came to the Central Coast SBDC in early 2012. Mike’s first goal was to create a system for those who want to maintain the look and character of a high performance vehicle without doing permanent damage to the front of their vehicle. The second was to comply with state laws of those states requiring a front license plate to be displayed at all times. It is very important for Mike to give back, so a percentage of all sales are donated to disabled veterans through such programs as the Wounded Warriors Project and the Disabled American Veterans Organization.

CHALLENGES
The first challenge was to begin the patent process, for which Mike met with the Central Coast Patent Advisor. who assisted him with a provisional patent. As the SBDC continued with the business plan development, the most difficult challenge was locating a good manufacturer, with the goal of a local business to build the part. The first choice did not work out, and with the SBDC's help, Mike found a Santa Clara manufacturer who could produce a quality product. Another challenge was the unit pricing, and reducing the cost of goods sold to get the margins at a realistic level for market acceptance. Lastly, Mike needed funding for the patent and to start the product manufacturing.

ACTIONS
The SBDC assisted in securing the provisional patent for the STO N SHO™, and reviewed the business plan over a few months to help Mike solidify his pricing, as well as to qualify for the SBA Patriot Loan. With this funding, Mike started his business, and he had prototypes ready for a test market at local car dealerships in the summer.

RESULTS
Mike completed his provisional patent, and he was able to develop a solid business plan that allowed him to qualify for an SBA Patriot Loan for $25,000. He started his business, hired a sales representative, created a website, and test marketed his product at the local Dodge dealership.  He also is finalizing dealer commitments with Mitsubishi and Ford, and other coastal representatives.  He plans to extend his sales into the 31 states that require two license plates, and serve the many high performance car customers who will value his patented design.

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Funded in part through cooperative agreements with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the California Governors Office for Business and Economic Development, and other private and public partners;  and nationally accredited by the association of SBDCs.