I’ve worn a lot of hats. I grew up in Central Missouri on a small acreage outside of a small town. It wasn’t big enough to be a farm, but we were surrounded by farming families, and I had the opportunity to help them during the summer while growing up. Then it was time for college, which didn’t sit to well with me, so I joined the Army and did a 4-year stint which gave me a chance to see a little bit of the world outside of a small Midwestern town.
After the service, I moved back to Missouri near the city and started taking jobs based on how much I could make, not how well I liked them. I worked for a couple of railroads, then moved over to construction, worked as a pipefitter, and eventually ended up welding on the pipeline. When work started slowing down, I started a heating and cooling shop in a rural community near where I grew up.
Out of all of this, I learned one very important thing: Things are heavy, and I am tired of picking them up.
The Problem: Inefficient Moving and Hauling
About eight years ago when I started my HVAC shop, I looked around for a way to effectively and efficiently move material from the shop or supply house to the jobsite. I didn’t find anything. I had a skidloader and tractor with a front end loader. That worked okay, but they were never in the right location, so we ended up picking up things that we shouldn’t, just to get the job done.
And, that tractor and skidloader? They were expensive yard ornaments that were not being fully utilized to their potential and they affected my bottom line negatively due to the overhead.
I looked at a lot of machines, seeing if I could modify them to suit my needs, and came up with nothing. At that point, I decided that I would design a machine that could lift heavy loads, would always be available, and would not interfere with the primary mission of the truck I was putting it on, which is to haul things.
Trial and Error: Beyond a Bale Bed
Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back now I wonder what took me so long to figure it out. There was a lot of trial and error in the process. You don’t learn anything from doing it right the first time. Every mistake is a chance to learn, and I made a lot of mistakes. I built a quarter scale model of a truck bed, and I tried this and I tried that.
Friends would come by and say “What are you building?” and I would tell them. They would say “Aww, that’s just a Bale bed”, but that was not what I was building. A Bale bed design just wouldn’t work at all. It could not have the lift capacity that I needed, because the pivot point is on the back of the truck bed, so I had to figure out how to move that forward. The arms were not strong enough to support the forces I needed for lift, and they had no way of keeping the forks level automatically.
I didn’t stop there. I was tired of looking at ugly flatbeds on trucks that looked like some kid from high school designed, and I was tired of putting everything valuable in the cab of the truck when I stopped by the gas station, just so I could go in and use the restroom. It had to have some USABLE secure space to store things.
So I made drawings, made assemblies out of scrap metal, made little arms that I would screw to the workbench and move them around by hand to make them operate, and I started to formulate a plan. As the plan improved, I started spending a little more money each time to build a better machine.
A Working Prototype
Eventually I had a ¼ scale working prototype that was designed to lift 100 pounds, and it did lift it, and still does. We get it out every couple of months to remind us of where we started.
At this point, I knew that I had the fundamentals down, and if I could get some full size working models working, this would be a product that would improve almost every blue collar job out there. I could make a real difference in helping people.
So, I sat down and wrote a business plan, and I got in my truck and took my quarter scale model around to a lot of people to try and raise some money to build the full size prototypes. I was lucky enough to find three men that were friends and business partners that took the time to listen to me and could see the potential impact of a product like this. Their background wasn’t much different than mine, and they had been successful in business enough that they had the funds to invest in this project and get it to this stage with working, pre-production models.
Bringing Bristow Beds to the Market
That brings us to today. Right now, we are talking to interested corporations about producing the product. It is a slow process, but we are working through it. Our problem now is that this is a totally new product. There is nothing like it out there that can compete with it.
Even large corporations are hesitant because there isn’t market data available for them to “run the numbers” and see if this is a product that they want to invest the time and money in to bring it to market.
This is where you come in. I am asking for your help if you see the value in this product. Please fill out the contact information so that we can show these corporations that there is interest in this product and it is worth bringing to market.
You don’t have to fill in the comments section, but I would like for you to, if you have time. Tell me how this product would improve your life, your job, your business. Ask me question about the product. Ask me how it works, ask me what it can do. We have filed several patents on it because there are so many “new” ideas involved, but I will answer whatever I can. If there is a video you want to see, tell me and I will see about getting it done.
Help Spread the Word
And please share, share it with your friends, your family, and your co-workers. This is American Ingenuity at work, now is your chance to help us make it a reality.