Christian Corley is a business leader, entrepreneur, product developer, inventor, innovator, and dreamer. He has a proven track record of turning struggling businesses from red into the black. He creates new products, like the PowerStick-53”, and brings them to market. His other strengths include implementing new technology, launching successful businesses, helping others achieve their dreams, and having fun doing it.
His goal in life is to help make people’s lives just a little bit easier. With over 25 years experience, he’s turned businesses around and started, built, and sold successful businesses. He consults both domestically and internationally, and he’s helped grow a Kansas City business from ten million to over one billion in annual sales. His passion is helping others take it to the next level.
Tinkered with stuff as a kid
Christian started his career early. “[I was a] tinkerer, yeah. And I would destroy stuff. I would take stuff apart. I wonder how that works, so you just destroy that. So now, all the parents out there … if your kids are destroying stuff, that could be a good thing. Okay? So, don’t shut ’em down too quick.
It took him a while to put that curiosity of how things worked into practical use. “Well, I loved math, in school. Which always kind of helps. But, mostly, growing up, it was not really … taking those ideas and doing anything with them. Just about eight years ago, a friend of mine said, “You know, these ideas you have, what are you doing with them?” Christian took an idea for a sports blanket that can carry your folding chair to games and created a Kickstarter project called Toasty Tote. He met his funding goal and later licensed the product. Then there was a request from his father.
Genesis of the PowerStick-53
“About three and a half years ago, my Daddy called me, he was out on his bass boat and said his cell phone was dying. And I’m a product developer, and I said, ‘Okay, Dad, what do you want me to to do about it?’ He said, ‘Well, there’s a port on the back of the boat, called the navigation light port, and that’s where, when you run at night, you put your nav lights in. That’s a 12 volt. Can’t you turn that into USB?’”
Christian went to work. He bought a running light, took the USB charger from his car, and in about four hours has a working prototype that had two USB outlets and a place to securely hold a cell phone for charging on a boat. He called it the PowerStick-10 inch.
“So, we took this to a real good friend of mine, his name’s Casey Scanlon, he’s on the Elite Series in BASS, which means that in the football world, he’s kind of in the NFL. So, he’s in the big league. So, I showed it to him, and I said, ‘Do you think we’d sell a bunch of those?’ And he looked at it and said, ‘Uh, yeah, but can you make this hold my GoPro Camera?’ Which is the action camera. So, we go from PowerStick 10 inch, to PowerStick, what’s called 53, because you can actually extend this all the way up to 53 inches, hold your GoPro, now you can go flying down the water. And the number one issue with GoPro cameras is the batteries only last about an hour or hour and a half.” By powering the camera through the Powerstick the battery capacity is no longer an issue.
“Once I had that first original prototype, now we need to start looking at manufacturing them. Well, we need to have better drawings, we need to have knowledge on electronics, and injection molding, and aluminum extrusion, and all these things that I didn’t know about. So, I got connected, a friend of mine said, ‘You should go to Inventor’s Center of Kansas City.’ I walked in there that night, and the first thing I needed was knowledge on 3-D printing. I had heard of 3-D printing, but I didn’t know anything. Well, that night, Stan Fernald was one of the speakers, and he was talking about 3-D printing, and showing how he uses 3-D printing in his business. And so, that’s when I realized, in order to take a product like this to market, you have to have a lot of resources, and a lot of people to really, give you that knowledge to take stuff to market.”
What it takes to be an inventor and entrepreneur
“I think it’s really important early on to find out what you’re really good at, and the things you’re not really good at, or even suck at. But, there’s a book called Strengths Finder. It’s great, because it tells you, focus on your strengths. There are so many people in the world, that are strong at other things, that you’re not at. And that’s why, I think the Inventor’s Center is so good, because it brings so many different people in different areas together so that you can really get rid of all the missing links.”
Christian thinks that networking and building relationships are some of the keys to success. “It’s so important, and people who are out of their own home office, on whatever kind of projects or jobs that you’re doing, or company that you own. If you’re a single person, it’s so important to get involved and get around other entrepreneurs and like-minded folks, so that you can say, ‘Hey, I’m having a problem with this.’ And they say, ‘”Yes, I’ve had that same problem, and here’s how I dealt with it.’…I’d say, the biggest thing, early on, was buying into the Inventor’s Center … trying to get more connected, so that we could get those answers early.”
Always keep your ears open for your next idea. Christian says, “if you hear someone around you, if your spouse gets angry or frustrated if your kids get angry and frustrated. If you’re in a coffee shop, and you hear someone kind of get frustrated, listen. Because I think that’s the biggest thing. …[I]f you just listen, to what the challenge is, and then start doing a little more research and see, hey, is there a solution for that? … Or, more importantly, if you have a problem, [or if] people … are having a challenge themselves … There’s no reason, in today’s day and age that we have problems that can’t be solved. So, there’s probably a product in there somewhere.”
Q&A With Christian Corley
To find out more about the PowerStick line of products, go to https://yolotek.com/. To find out more about the Inventor’s Center of Kansas City, go to http://www.inventorscenterofkc.org/.