SEMA Member News—May June 2011
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Invis-A-Rack is a permanently mounted cargo-management system that can hold up to 500 lbs. of material or equipment.
When not needed for a load, it easily folds down out of sight to preserve the look of a personal-use truck.
SEMA Member News: Where did the idea for Invis-A-Rack come from?
Donny McCall: I owned a small construction company for a time—too small to afford a business vehicle. So my personal truck doubled as the business truck. I could never bring myself to purchase a ladder rack because I knew that it would turn my truck into a work truck. One day while driving from one job site to another, the idea hit me.
SMN: What did you do once you had the idea?
DM: I first decided to have a patent search done. The search came back feasible for utility patent protection. I submitted a provisional application and started shouting from the mountaintops. I looked at every bureaucracy I could think of for help with business development but, unfortunately, I had to go it alone. I built a prototype and used it on my truck and in my business for about two years while I was gathering information and talking with anyone I could think of to possibly bring it to market. I even submitted the idea to a few big-name companies in our industry, but all either passed or never returned my contact request. A happenstance conversation one day brought the business to the forefront again. Another man and I put a business plan and investment package together and started beating the streets. This was two years ago. Since that time, two men—with strategic help from investors but little manufacturing experience—created a product and business that has the potential to do good. I believe, in my small little way, I can do my part to put Americans to work. My goal is to help my family, my church, my community and my country.
SMN: Was the SEMA Show the first place you brought Invis-A-Rack?
DM: SEMA is the first place we brought Invis-A-Rack for public exhibition. I have been showing it in its current form for about a year to retailers, reps and just about anybody I can. We were not prepared for manufacturing or sales until 2010 and have only had product available for sale since September 2010.
SMN: How was your 2010 SEMA Show experience?
DM: Our Show was amazing. You never know how you will be accepted with a brand-new product by a brand-new company. Most companies work the entire year on what they’re going to do for next year’s SEMA Show. After an investor stepped up at the last minute and provided funding for us to go, we had about two months to throw everything together. We drove from North Carolina non-stop for 32 hours pulling a trailer.
One of the benefits of having a moving product is that you can catch peoples’ eyes during the process. Some buyers came looking specifically for us, but most were just wandering the aisles. I don’t know how many conversations I actually had, but we estimated that we raised and lowered the Invis-A-Rack about 600 times over the four days of the Show. By the end of the week, Invis-A-Rack garnered the Popular Mechanics Best New Product of the Year, a 2010 SEMA Global Media Award and the award for the TORA Best New Product Over $500. I certainly had hoped to have a good showing but was blown away by the independent validation we received from different sources.
SMN: Do you have anything exciting planned for 2011?
DM: We are in talks with a couple of manufacturers about possibly partnering and helping each others’ exposure. Depending on sales, we may also be able to fully develop some of the other accessories we have planned for Invis-A-Rack.
SMN: Do you have any advice for anyone else with an idea?
DM: Tenacity. I could probably help someone avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made and prepare them for some of the obstacles, but nothing has beaten walking my own path. Maybe with the mistakes I’ve avoided because of advice and explaining mine, the person I hope to help may produce something in half the time it has taken me. I’m no success story…yet. But I am proud of my accomplishments and praise God every day for the opportunity to do His will in my life.