Two Western Students Create their Own Binding Business0
Masters student Persefoni Lauhon and undergraduate senior Alex Woodward are part of Western Michigan University's Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering. After taking an entrepreneurial engineering class together, they are also business owners.
The duo created E-Z Bind, a redesigned chain binder used in the heavy trucking industry to secure large equipment and parcels on flatbed trucks and trailers, as part of an assignment to redesign a current product to improve safety and usability. The assignment morphed into a business with the help of WMU's Starting Gate program, a start-up business accelerator open to students. (For more information on Starting Gate, please read our previous blog.)
A Concord native, Woodward came up with the idea to redesign a chain binder based on personal experiences with similar devices while hauling antique tractors all over the Midwest with his family.
"Dad always warned me to keep my face away from the binders as I was using them growing up, but after a family friend got hurt using one, I knew why there needed to be a redesign," Woodward said.
Lauhon, a Gobles native, said she was initially skeptical about redesigning this type of device because she was not familiar with its uses or problematic history.
"I was convinced once I realized all of the injuries and deaths that are caused by these devices that are used so often," she said.
Other chain binders are often ineffectively designed and dangerous to use, the pair contends. To combat the tendency for binders to spring open while being secured, E-Z Bind features a locking mechanism to prevent unexpected releases. The redesigned device also features an extendable handle, allowing the user more leverage and easier maneuvering while eliminating the need to augment the binder with an inferior handle.
Lauhon described E-Z Bind's evolution and goals at Starting Gate's Investor Day event on April 11. The event is designed to showcase student businesses to members of the local business community in the hopes of gaining exposure, feedback and ultimately funding.
Woodward and Lauhon are seeking $100,000 for E-Z Bind's initial investment. The funding would enable them to complete additional product safety testing and market research in addition to securing a patent for their third prototype. The second prototype currently has a provisional patent, Lauhon said.
"There is nothing else on the market like E-Z Bind," Lauhon said. "Based on projections, the market is growing and going to continue to grow."
For more information about E-Z Bind, visit www.E-Zbind.com.