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Return to: 2015 Feature Stories

CLIENT: THE POWER COMPANY

July 8, 2015: The Tennessean

Made in Williamson: Franklin Man Develops Smart Tech

FRANKLIN – If you've ever wanted to make your smartphone smarter, chances are Gene Aikens has a solution on his to-do list.

After a decade of wholesale and online sales and repair of cell phones, he decided to take a shot at crowdfunding to help pursue a new business venture, The Power Company.

"I've always been in business for myself, about 35 years now. I was one of the first ones in New Hampshire to put food with video games," Aikens said.

The Power Company sells portable storage devices for cell phones that can be used from brand to brand, allowing friends to immediately swap files without the need for a cloud or other storage-based app. The FlexCard is Aikens' latest invention, which would allow for the transfer of files from one device to another, regardless of make or model.

How did you come up with the idea for this business?

Aikens: There's not a day that goes by that I don't come up with an idea. If I'm in the kitchen and a problem comes up, I can figure out a solution. I've got 15 or 20 ideas now. The last three (devices Aikens created), there was nothing else on the market. This is the first one that can move from device to device.

I wanted to be a family man. I have five kids. I went to school for electronics. I've always been interested in how things work. As a kid, I'd take things apart or build things.

Since you're essentially working from a to-do list, how do you prioritize those ideas?

Aikens: At one given time, I'm working on four or five ideas. That's been the evolving process. The market dictates a lot of things. With the SmartCard, we've been working on that nine months.

How long does it take you to go from concept to design?

Aikens: You can go into crowdfunding without a prototype, but I'm almost at a fully working stage when I get there. Companies are on there looking and they do copy ideas. Usually from scratch, it takes me 60 to 120 days to build a prototype.

How many employees do you have?

Aikens: Two, one here and one in California. Through the years, I've learned to get a company that specializes in something. I (contract) everything out, even the shipping. I have engineers in different countries and graphic designers in different countries.

What do you think is the key to being successful with crowdfunding and what challenges have you encountered?

Aikens: Learning how to do it. The first one I did was a non-profit thing. I raised $35. My second one was $65,000 then $85,000. You're just not going to put a campaign out there and it'll make money. You have to learn how to make the campaign look good, sound good. It's a process.

I'm a good teacher and so I'm working on some materials to help people getting into crowdfunding. I'm looking at helping people down the road. You'll come across hurdles. You have to believe in what you're doing. If you come to a wall, do you build a door or window? Do you knock the wall down? If you think it won't sell, it won't. The No. 1 thing is believe in what you're doing. The hurdles will come.

Return to: 2015 Feature Stories