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Meet the Maker: Erik Olsen of Whirly Board

In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better. Today, we're catching up with Maker Erik Olsen, the Maker who invented Whirly Board

Inventor Erik Olsen, a board sport enthusiast since the age of 12, created the first prototype by attaching half a bowling ball and two halved pool balls to the bottom of a board. Erik noticed that this board helped him with his balance and other boarding skills, so the idea for Whirly Board took hold. He’s been improving the design ever since. We asked Erik to share his experiences as an inventor and offer advice to those just starting out. 
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https://www.thegrommet.com/whirly-board
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Tell us more about your design inspiration.
I have always enjoyed making things and developing ideas. Ever since I was a child I have always had the desire to invent something. I am always thinking of how to make things better or new ideas for creations. The idea for the Whirly Board came to me a couple years ago because I wanted to make a balance board that I could spin on. I have been a passionate board sport enthusiast for most of my life, and I have always struggled with spinning. I would get lost in the air and did not look or feel smooth on spin tricks. I thought something that would allow me to practice spinning might help. It was a lot of work getting the process dialed in but it has also been fun so it feels more like a hobby than work.

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How do you get around creative blocks?
I typically just think about something until I can figure it out. I spend a lot of time traveling around WI so while on a long drive I have a lot of quality thinking time. If I really get hung up on something I just move on to something else that needs work and come back to the problem that was giving me trouble with a refreshed feeling. The Whirly Board is the first of many ideas I have for products so there is always something else to work on.
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What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Don't procrastinate, developing ideas takes a long time and a lot of effort. Its never too early to start working on it. And never give up–persistence is very important. Also, have multiple options for suppliers in case something goes wrong.

What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
I am still learning a lot myself so I am not sure I am qualified to give advice yet but some things I recently discovered: have backup suppliers, negotiate and shop for the best pricing on materials, know what you are good at and accept what you are not good at. Find help where you need it! I am still working on this, I have been trying to do everything myself and it is getting a bit overwhelming.

What has surprised you most about starting a business?
I thought a business was supposed to make money but so far it mostly just costs money!
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What has been the most rewarding part of business for you?
Definitely seeing people use and enjoy my product and getting positive feedback from those who have seen or used it! Now that a few Whirlies are out there, I'm excited to hear if people feel it has helped them improve their ability. I know it has helped me so I'm hoping it helps others too. I'm also excited to see some of the creative tricks that people will do with it. I think it has a lot of potential and some talented people out there, so it will be interesting how far they can take it!

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How have things changed since launching on The Grommet? How was the response from the community?
The Grommet launch has been amazing for me, prior to the exposure I was really starting to wonder if all my work on this would ever pay off. The boom in sales since launch day has been very motivating and has helped and forced me to really get on top of stuff and turn this into an actual business. I have learned a lot and still have so much more to learn. I am excited to see where it goes and excited to apply what I have learned to future ideas that I want to develop.

Anything else you'd like to share?
I created the Whirly Board as a fun toy for myself and I enjoyed it so much that I felt it was worth sharing. I am very thankful for the positive response and that people are excited about it! I know the board has helped me and I really enjoy using it so I believe in it strongly. I care about the product and I stand behind every board I sell. I build them to last and I never want to have an unhappy or unsatisfied customer. I have always received excellent customer service when my board sport equipment breaks. I have had multiple pairs of wakeboard bindings rebuilt or replaced, a few wakeboards replaced and snowboard or two replaced. I have greatly appreciated this service and I remain a loyal customer to these companies. For this reason, I want to offer the same service to my customers, if you use your Whirly Board enough to break it or even if it wears out, I want you to always have one and I will make sure that happens. It is exciting for me that someday I might be able to make a living from something I created. It is literally a dream come true and I hope I can continue to bring products to life.

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To learn more about Whirly Board, watch our video here.

Comments

  • michael Says:

    proud as hell of you! as a craky seventy year old, knowing there are at least a few young folks like yourself, leaves me with hope. now...i've gotta get a Whirly Board!! it's vitally important that i keep the young orthopedists busy!! lol!

  • Betty Montgomery Says:

    Hey, I'm 65 and NEVER got into any of the 'board sports'. They appeared well after my misspent youth. However, looking at what you've come up with here I'm thinking it would be great for us seniors to use to work on our balance. We'd have to take all kinds of safety precautions but still it'd give us a possibly fun way to work out our balance muscles I think. It's something you might want to check out.

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