Getting a product to store shelves is not an easy task, even with a stellar idea. But with help from local companies and their own connections, The Free Wheelers are getting ready to share their game to the world.
We caught up with the ‘21 Make48 Madison winning team at DesignWisconsin. The team from Trek Bicycles; Ben, Nikki, Claude and Zach are the proud inventors of the new yet classic yard game, BocceRoll™.
If you haven’t heard, it’s a little known secret that Wisconsin is a hub for product innovation. Madison’s DesignWisconsin is a 2-day Industrial Design event with 14+ Wisconsin based-companies showcasing their latest products and designs in this mini trade show format on May 20th and 21st, 2022.
Presented by the University of Wisconsin-Stout Industrial Design program, UW-Stout IDSA student chapter and IDSA Milwaukee, DesignWisconsin attendees displayed their works and talked shop with local entrepreneurs. Wisconsin companies focused on innovation and design walked the floor and talked to the team about the progress of BocceRoll™ and how it came about.
Nikki is on the chair committee for IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America) MKE Chapter and helped plan the event. She was happy at how well the weekend went. “We didn't really know how it was going to go this year, given it was the first one, but it ended up being really awesome. And having Katie (Cappozzo) and Tom (Gray) there was perfect because we were able to introduce them to all the Wisconsin companies that are focused on innovation and design.”
The Free Wheelers had a BocceRoll™ display and event goers got to play the game itself with the first round of samples. The team received a first round of tooling samples and are working through a few different design changes. Nikki, Ben, Claude and Zach are hitting the next stages to get BocceRoll™ in the hands of those who want it. “We're very excited to have found the perfect supplier, Line Modern, who focuses on outdoor furniture and games in big box stores. They also can do short runs as well as mass production and have experience working with many kinds of materials.”
Working with their supplier, Line Modern, the team hopes to receive a next round of samples soon with final design changes. There are still a lot of unknowns at this point. Ben remarked, “we haven’t decided if we anticipate doing a pre-run before heading into stores. We've made some tweaks, but we're updating six prototypes so we can get them out to receive more feedback. We'd like it to be solid before we go in front of potential customers. We’re still making some refinements.” Even so BocceRoll™ is moving forward at a great pace.
Nikki and Ben believe that by the end of the year, they could be selling a certain amount of units. “In the first samples, our cups were 3d printed and the tooling will open up soon on those. We’re not sure what channel we’d be selling through, but it depends on a potential license with a big box store chain. It’s possible that we could bypass a Kickstarter campaign and go straight to store shelves.” The feedback and reaction surrounding BocceRoll™ has been very positive.
“We’ve heard how soon can we get it? We’ve had someone voice interest in being an investor with us and get us in the doors of major retailers. I think that’s when it felt real and when we felt, okay we can do this.” But they won’t be quitting their day jobs. “Anything can happen, this can change and who knows where it will go. But I think we're all kind of just hoping to find the right company that will license it. We're all happy with our jobs at Trek.”
In August, Make48 will return to Madison and Trek Bicycles will be the challenge host. The Free Wheelers have competed twice and have some advice to the next teams. “Build a team that has different skills,” Nikki offered. “I think that a lot of teams that I talked with picked their team based on being all engineers or something similar. I don't think that's a bad thing, but it’s nice for each person to tackle different tasks and have different areas of skills and passions. And I think that that's what really works with our team.”
Ben agreed. “I know that the premise of Make48 is to collaborate using diversity and different skill sets. The more diverse your group is, the higher number of ideas you'll get. It's exponential based on how diverse your group is and your way of thinking. So it encourages people to break out of the normal. If you're always with your engineering group, really reach out to people that are in different groups and it can help create a mutually meaningful, unique idea.”
Catch all the action last year at The Bodgery and watch how The Free Wheelers competed and took home first place at 2021 Madison-Make48 event https://youtu.be/UrTeWSPri2w