Ladders are a common tool for construction workers and do-it-yourselfers, but ladders that are set up on uneven surfaces can lead to serious injury for professionals and laymen. Daniel Taylor, a junior business major at UTC, came up with a clever solution to the problem. The Ladder Levelizer first appeared at the 2013 UTC Elevator Pitch Competition and can now be bought in stores.
The Elevator Pitch Competition, sponsored by the UTC College of Business Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) Club, gives contestants the chance to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges within a 90 second time frame.
“I was happy with my performance, but I didn’t have much experience pitching,” said Taylor, who wore crutches and bandages during his pitch to demonstrate the hazard of using a ladder on an uneven surface.
Next, Taylor competed in the regional pitch competition, Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference (SEEC) in Tampa in 2014, and made it to the final round.
“I made it to the final five, but I know I could have done better. Now, I have a clearer vision for the company and how to present it to potential investors and judges at competitions,” said Taylor.
Since SEEC, the injection mold for the Ladder Levelizer was finished, allowing the product to go into mass production. The product is currently being sold at an Ace Hardware store in Lexington, Tennessee, and a few paint stores. Taylor is talking to other Ace Hardware owners, in Chattanooga and Jackson, Tennessee, to hopefully expand sales.
“The end goal is to get into a big box store, like Home Depot or Lowe’s. They’re harder to get into because you have to have a history of a lot of sales, tens of thousands, because they want to see a product with good sales and good feedback. We just need the exposure first,” said Taylor. “We’re hoping to catch the attention of someone who could get us into a bunch of stores, supply stores or smaller hardware stores, quickly.”
“Daniel is an amazing kid, who would best be described as relentless. He would not stop working on this idea. He regularly stopped in to see me and also Bev Brockman. He took all of our comments to heart, and regularly made revisions to his plans based on our input,” said Dr. Richard Becherer, Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Business and Entrepreneurship. “Daniel represents the next focus for our program, where we get more current students to start businesses while they are still in school. We need to get to them sooner in their academic career, and we need to help them find the resources they need.”
Taylor has also rebranded the item, originally called “Ladder Wedge.”
Taylor competed again in UTC’s Elevator Pitch Competition, which entered its second round on October 6. Though he was up against six other creative ideas, this time Taylor won.
“I’m a lot more comfortable with these competitions. I used to get caught up in the details of business, but when there’s only a minute and a half to present, I can’t skip over important things I might take for granted as obvious. I’ve learned to be more concise. So now I focus more on the need for the product and its potential,” said Taylor.
The runner up for this year’s competition was Doug Grindstaff, who pitched L.A. Mist, a booth that would provide customers with an even coverage spray of tear-free sunblock.
“We’re incredibly proud of all the students who participated in this competition at the local and regional level,” said Dr. Beverly Brockman, Department of Head Finance, Marketing and Entrepreneurship. “The students’ achievements reflect the support they received from faculty at UTC and from the entrepreneurship community in Chattanooga.”
Learn more about Taylor’s product.