The entrepreneurial spirit of Pickens County was on full display in downtown Pickens on Monday, with the launch of products ranging from a device that makes it easier to get the mail out of your mailbox through your car window to an alert system for high-speed police chases.
It was the Pickens Innovation Center’s Commercialization Day Launch, unveiling the products of more than a dozen local inventors and business owners under the center’s guiding influence.
“It’s an exciting time,” Pickens Mayor David Owens told a crowd of nearly 100 gathered in front of the center on Court Street for the event.
The Innovation Center’s goal is to connect creative people and their ideas with the means to make their dreams become reality – and to turn the city of Pickens and surrounding area into a hub of invention and entrepreneurism and promote economic diversification.
The new business owners are using local companies as much as possible to build their products.
Tim Morgan, former Pickens County assistant sheriff, was there with his wife, Trish, unveiling a device that allows law enforcement officers to send a message to smartphone apps that lets drivers know a high-speed chase is in progress in their vicinity.
The product, called PursuitAlert, attracted visits from the sheriffs of Greenville and Oconee counties, as well as a couple from Texas who lost their son when the driver of a stolen van who was being chased by police swerved into the oncoming lane and collided head-on with the 18-year-old.
“We believe if he’d had this app, he would be here today,” Jack Whitney said. “We just don’t want to see another family go through this.”
Entrepreneur Eric Varner was there with another device designed to save lives on the highway.
RyderSaver is a pole with a light atop it that attaches to the rear of a moped to make it more visible. Varner said he got the idea for the device by reading news stories about moped fatalities in which the drivers of cars said they couldn’t see the moped.
He’s working on a tracking device to go with the lighting system.
Andrew Hendricks, a recent Clemson University marketing graduate, was showing off an equally simple but ingenious device called Mailbox Retriever.
He invented it as a school project when he was in the third grade at Hagood Elementary and built it with help from his grandfather, George Roach.
It’s a hard, clear plastic sleeve that fits inside a mailbox and slides out easily to make it possible to get mail out of the box without having to reach deep inside it from your car window.
Roman Visser’s Pet to-Go system is another simple but potentially useful product for people traveling with their pets. It’s a cabinet that has a food and water bowl in the bottom drawer, and other drawers for storage of food, pet toys and other items.
It can be programmed to dispense food and water at a specified time and close up when the animal is finished with its meal.
Some of the vendors on hand were unveiling more traditional products but with a new twist.
For example, Ron Few’s businesses – called Twist – is selling antiques online.
Daniel Ross, of Lit Coffee, was marketing high-quality coffees from eight different countries. It operates as a nonprofit, donating 5 percent of its profits locally and globally.
The company started three months ago operating coffee carts in various sites across the Upstate and selling to local coffee shops.
While the cutting edge and the new were the dominant theme of the 13 businesses unveiled, Mark Burgess, owner of Burgess General Store at 710 Main St., Pickens, is bringing an old idea to the 21st century.
His great-grandfather operated one of the first general stores in Pickens County, and he sees his new venture as a throwback to simpler times, with mostly local products for sale.
“The main goal is to kind of bring the past and the present together,” he said.