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Growth Manufacturers Case Study

Entrepreneurship as a Way of Life: Sam White

Meeting Sam White you immediately sense a contagious level of energy and, after just a few minutes, a passion for creativity.  His idea of small talk is to discuss latest discoveries and the many opportunities and challenges for improving lives while doing business.

As the founder of Promethean Power Systems, a technically driven start-up in the midst of scaling, you would think Sam would have no time or interest in self-inflicting the burden of developing additional new unrelated products, not to mention creating an additional business.   

Sam could be called a serial entrepreneur. While that alone is interesting, his passion for developing products that positively affect the world is inspiring.

Promethean Power Systems designs and manufactures rural refrigeration systems for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries.  Basically, for the first time in India's history, Promethean makes it possible for small rural dairy farmers to eliminate diesel generators when chilling milk assuring that their milk will stay fresh until they can get it to market.

The duties of this business did not, however, stop Sam from identifying a very different purpose for his cooling technology: the Nano-Ice Necklace.

While in India for the development of his milk refrigeration system, Sam was motivated to battle the unbearable hot weather for his wife.  Simultaneously, Sam learned that doctors battling the Ebola crisis were finding themselves overwhelmed by the oppressive heat of the protective suits they needed to wear. So Sam decided to a wearable cooling technology built on the fact that cooling the blood in your neck, at this key point of blood-flow, provides real relief to people suffering from heat issues. The cooling system is fit into a beautifully designed necklace that anyone, both men and women, can comfortably wear.

The Nano-Ice necklace, Beat the Heat in Style

While developing this necklace, Sam faced many challenges moving from a single, custom-made prototype to a reliable, cost-efficient production process. Fortunately, MassDevelopment had recently announced its support for several initiatives to support manufacturing in MA. As part of this effort, Mass Development was founding supporter of the Manufacturing Initiative, a collaboration between Greentown Labs & MassMEP.  This program connects startups with local manufacturers and provides consultation on manufacturing.  

As part of that program, Sam met with Peter Russo, MassMEP's Director of Growth and Innovation, and Micaelah Morrill, Greentown Labs' Manager of the Manufacturing Initiative. During these prescheduled "office hours" at Greentown Labs that are available to any Massachusetts company, Peter serves as an advisor and sounding board. He provides insight when possible and connections to other experts relating to a company's specific needs. Greentown also holds seminars, workshops, and webinars as part of the program. 

Peter and Sam touched base many times over a period of two months, often just for a quick 10-minute consult or referral, focusing on key concerns as they occurred. Here are some examples:

  • Redesign of sewing method introducing Sam to sewing engineer who prototyped several new formats.

  • Evaluation of clasp effectiveness, establishing several solutions with supplier for each.

  • Identification and delivery of unique stretch material to enhance sewing efficiency.

  • Modification of plastic parts to turn an awkward multi-step hand operation into a one-step production process.

  • Introduction to a machine shop that resulted in designing a machine for Sam's custom production process.

  • Direction in developing marketing and sales strategies as Sam had no experience in direct to consumer or retail sales, including information on retail price markup and other requirements.

Most helpful are examples and assistance in execution of "actual" required tasks, rather than theoretical advice. In Sam's case, for instance, producing a retail sell sheet was more effective than explaining the concept. Actually calling the sewing engineers with Sam to explain what was needed rather than making a simple introduction produced prototypes to choose from. Driving to Essex to ensure execution with the manufacturer vs an email introduction produced a working relationship with a Massachusetts manufacturer that continues today. 

According to Sam, "If I had not had the opportunity to leverage the Manufacturing Initiative, I most likely would not have had a consumer product on the market today. I'm surrounded by some of the best engineers, but I continue to learn that engineering the initial creation of an idea is much different from engineering for manufacturing and consumer use. Peter became an actual extension of my team."

Today, Nano-Ice necklaces are hand crafted on a production scale outside of Boston and Sam is proud to have created a product that improves the lives of people who suffer from heat. He's also created a company that provides positive economic impact to the local community.

To get more information on the Greentown Manufacturing Initiative email mmorrill@greentownlabs.com. A similar program, supported by MassDevelopment and managed by MassTLC/Mass Robotics in collaboration with MassMEP, is offered to robotics/IoT startups.  For information on this program, contact Joyces@mastlc.org.

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