Startland’s Startup Road Trip series explores innovative and uncommon ideas finding success in rural America and Midwestern startup hubs outside the Kansas City metro. This series is possible thanks to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which leads a collaborative, nationwide effort to identify and remove large and small barriers to new business creation.
PITTSBURG, KANSAS — Inventor Mike Windsor was stuck atop the roof of a metal building in the rain when his work came to a halt and a new idea began to form.
A 200-foot electrical cord running from his house to the rooftop project kept pulling out of the outlet, explained Windsor, now the CEO of PowerBox, a portable, truck-mounted system that combines the features of a generator, air compressor and jump start setup into one toolbox.
“The whole time I am on the roof I am looking at my pickup — dry as can be — [thinking] if I could run a cord from my truck to the roof I could be done in half the time,” he said.
Windsor founded CIC PowerBox LLC in July 2015, and has kept the company’s engine running in southeast Kansas since. More recently, however, his team caught the eye of leaders at the Pitch Perfect program at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
“The connection with the ECJC has been good in that they led us to a great patent attorney, they are helping us with some banks and potential things like that,” Windsor said. “Our chosen team is a very good growth mentoring team. We like the guys … They truly do want to help us and do things for us.”
It’s assistance the family-run Pittsburg company needs as it expands, he said.
Click here to view PowerBox’s line of products.
“We have one patent that is completed, two more pending, a third provisional patent that is pending until the end of this month. We have 11 more designs that are patentable. [PowerBox has] new products that are coming that we can take to market … and we are trying to go nationwide as soon as possible,” said Windor, describing PowerBox’s success. “We own the market and there is no competition against our initial patent right now. We feel that we will revolutionize the industry of portable power.”
Growth comes with the push of a button, he added.
“With a PowerBox, all you have to do is [press a button] and you have power. If fact, you have lots of power [for more than one power tool at a time], all because you pressed a switch,” he said. “It charges when you drive. When you shut your vehicle off, it automatically disconnects, so it will never run down your vehicle battery.”
The inventive design is well-rounded, with many functionalities, said Windsor.
“If you want air power, you just touch a button .. The air compressor kicks in … You can have work lights and safety lighting for construction,” he said. “Also the DVM (Digital Volt Meter) is there for gauging how your battery is doing.”
And the PowerBox can also help alleviate the hassle of a too-common headache for some people, Windsor added.
“If you leave a light on in your vehicle or leave a door ajar and run down your battery, you just [press a button] and now the PowerBox will backfeed power to your vehicle,” he said. “You can jumpstart your vehicle without even getting jumper cables out.”
Buyers large and small are taking notice, Windsor said.
“We are currently selling to 41 states and directly to the military and to Canada … We have a major distributor (ADS) that we have signed with … They will help us distribute products to the military worldwide,” he said, describing the scope of recent growth developments. “They also believe what we have is what will be desired by the military and they will be very invested in our product.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.