Josh Ulery and three friends stood on a stage before Daymond John, a popular judge known for his toughness on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and an audience of 1,500 people. Only this wasn’t “Shark Tank.” This was an event in Columbus, Ohio, promoting student entrepreneurs.
But the process was the same. These young men had to pitch their product before a crowd of strangers. The product? An outdoor desk they first called Flexidesk. Now renamed the GoDesk, it was born out of long boring summer days when Ulery and his friends, all graduates of Avon Lake High School, were looking for something to do.
“The overall design came from us wanting to do something other than sit there and play video games,” Ulery says. “It led us to just brainstorm.”
While brainstorming, they thought about how difficult it was to study outside. “We decided to create a desk you could take with you wherever you wanted that had a phone charger, speakers and things that people our age want, rather than a plain lap desk,” he says.
The GoDesk has multiple work surfaces, a solar charger and even a cup holder. Yet the desk wasn’t always this way. “We built our first prototype in the basement, and looking back it was a laughable product,” Ulery said. “It was pretty bad.”
Ulery and his friends built it using wood from Lowes, special-order aluminum and custom components from a 3D printer. They created a business plan and entered it in an Ohio business competition in 2014, where they pitched the product and plan to 30 judges, including Daymond John. Of course, they were nervous, he says. But it was worth it for the opportunity and experience.
They got over their nerves and past the judges, winning first place and $5,000 prize money, which they used to redesign the desk. On Kickstarter, they had also raised nearly $6,000 though they fell short of their $25,000 goal. With their more production-ready model, however, they’re launching another campaign this fall. “It’s more compact, has more accessories and is more aesthetically pleasing,” Ulery says. “We’ll market it, promote it and all that good stuff.”
VIEW THE ORIGINAL VIDEO PROMOTING THE FLEXIDESK.