Cone Safe, LLC - Knob Noster, MO
- Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020
When George Owens was working as a supervisor receiving truckloads of product, he realized how complicated and dangerous backing up a truck could be. He developed an idea for a product to make this process easier, and his company, Cone Safe, LLC, was born.
To create his flagship product, SpotterCone, Owens started experimenting with garage sensors and traffic cones, and slowly added elements to increase the safety of his invention. He worked with engineers and talked to other truck drivers in order to invent and build a “vehicle backup assistance system.” SpotterCone is a pair of red and green traffic cones which use sonar to detect when a truck is in position. The cones project a laser line on the ground to help drivers align their trucks and back up straight every time. Along with these features, the product is durable and built to withstand any weather or environmental condition. They can also be charged in a car or truck, making sure truckers always have them available.
“[SpotterCone] might be considered ‘over-engineered’ for some people. But I work in an oil field, so I needed it to be as robust as possible. Every single time, it’s got to work,” Owens explained.
After developing his product, Owens realized he needed some help making this invention into a business. He had heard of the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and was intrigued by the possibilities. At an event through the Learning Force at State Fair Community College (SFCC) in Sedalia, Missouri, Owens met Kelly Asbury, Missouri SBDC at SFCC Center Director, to start developing a business plan.
As Owens worked with Asbury, he learned how to reach out to different markets and get in front of potential customers. With help from the SBDC he knew who to reach out to and how to get pass company gatekeepers. That, especially, has been important for the company and has helped Owens’ outreach activities be more effective.
Asbury also introduced Owens to a specialist in Jefferson City, who has helped Owens network with international marketing professionals. This has connected him with Canadian and Missouri economic development agencies, which has resulted in including him in their mutual agreement to communicate what’s being sold. Through this relationship, trucking companies will learn of the SpotterCone product, opening up opportunities for meetings and business transactions.
“I’ve now sold a few [SpotterCones] in Canada. They’re also going to help us attend an oil and gas convention next year in June, which will get us a lot of exposure,” Owens said. “That’s one of the biggest things that have come through with the SBDC.”
Cone Safe is also gaining connections to government agencies for possible government contracts. Owens is finding more networking opportunities and is receiving encouragement and validation at the same time.
“You can quickly lose energy and resources just going to everyone’s door,” said Owens. “Being able to find someone who can knock away the chafe and get you to your goal quicker, that’s huge. I would have run out of energy and money by the time I found these people SBDC has helped me find right away.”
Through his contacts, Owens has been able to make a sale to Conoco Phillips recently, who is one of the biggest companies he had hoped to connect with. SpotterCone has now been used in almost all fifty states, and with the upcoming event in Canada, the sky is the limit.
Owens is developing another version of SpotterCone that is compact, cheaper, and simpler for the RV industry. This opens up an even bigger market for the business.
Moving forward, Owens is looking for a partnership with a larger company that can help him improve product distribution. His biggest goal is for more people to know about and use his products so that the trucking industry can be more efficient and safe.
“25% of all commercial truck accidents happen while the truck is in reverse. If somebody is injured or killed, it’s usually the person on the ground spotting the truck. More people need to know about [SpotterCone] so that we can keep people safe,” Owens said.