Nuts, washers, screws and nails, all different sizes and kinds of fasteners; LEDs, resistors, switches, servos and other electronic components; ear plugs, zip ties, pens and pencils, labels and stickers, hooks, needles and pins — everything like that. Mark Zalme had an idea how to organize everything like that in transparent containers that could be mounted on pegboard in his garage in Asheville, North Carolina. Over 3-4 years, he developed this idea into a product called WallWerx, a workspace organizing system.
Mark is one of those people who obsess about ways to organize things. Putting everything in clear jars and hanging them from pegboards was his product idea. He wanted to use Mason jars originally and they still work but hardware stores told him that his containers needed to be plastic, not glass.
WallWerx consists of a clip that holds a plastic jar securely by its lid and attaches easily on a pegboard. The container is removeable and easily replaced. It’s a great idea for home workshops, craft rooms and especially makerspaces where all these things need to be found, used and put away by many different people.
In this episode, we talk about Mark’s product but we also learn about the process he went through to prototype, manufacture, assemble and distribute that product. This process wasn’t easy, and a lot of what happened along the way was unexpected; some of it was good, some not so good.
“I had a problem with my storage in my garage,” said Mark. He was exposed to CAD and 3D printing at work and he thought he knew how to make this product.
Mark started with 3D printed prototypes that he was able to show to potential resellers. He then decided to use injection molding to create the parts in the US. However, finding someone to create a tool for him and then make the parts was hard. He looked for manufacturers in the United States who would do the small-runs that he could afford but many weren’t interested in his job. Eventually he found a man in Utah who created the tool at a reasonable price and began making his parts. He kitted the parts in his garage and his daughter helpedout with shrink-wrapping the package. Now he’s trying to find ways to sell it in retail stores and from his website.
The pandemic was not a great time to start a new business, said Mark. But he did it. He wonders: if he knew back then what he knows now about what it would take to turn his idea into a product, if he’d do it all over again. His persistence has yet to pay off but he knows from initial feedback that he has made something useful. If he can get this far, he can continue to assemble and ship product from his home garage while keeping his day job. “I got a few orders,” he said, “and I’m still making cold calls.”
It’s been an arduous journey with lots of trial and error. He paused to reflect. “It’s been three and a half long years, to be be honest with you,” said Mark.
I’m sure he’d love to hear from people in our community interested in his product.
Credit: Photos provided by Mark Zalme
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