The “aha moment:” the very second you know that what’s in your head makes sense. Sometimes this “aha moment” means more, though. Your aha moment is that idea that makes your eyes light up and your “free time” turn into daydreaming and/or planning sessions.
Everyone has ideas, but not everyone has an “aha” moment. But, those that do have some pretty special stories.
Though I didn’t know it the first time we shook hands, Brandon Twitty, Founder and President of Dead Inventory Management System (DIMS), is a Marine. “Tatted up” a bit, he gives the impression of a Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, mixed with a young Rocky Balboa at first glance.
“In my eyes, there are two types of ‘aha moments,’” he says. “One is, ‘yeah, I’ve got an idea, and yeah, it’s going to work.’ The other is, ‘I don’t care about anything; I don’t want another job, and this is what I want to do.’”
Most people would still consider the United States to be the wealthiest country in the world. There’s another thing that Americans are usually famous for too: waste. Witnessing firsthand this now commonplace aspect of American life, Twitty saw the opportunity lying in front of him (and all of the other employees of his former company, for that matter) quite literally being thrown in the trash.
What exactly happened, though? He explains, saying, “I was there on a Saturday, and I saw all these guys walking and wheeling away big boxes of [automation parts]. I’m an automation engineer, and I can write programs for automation lines. I knew how to program these machines. But these guys were coming back with nothing, and I knew that the only thing down there was the dumpster. ‘What did you do with all that stuff?’ I asked them. They said they threw it away. So I went and got it and sold it. That was valuable stuff.”
I asked him if the company had a problem with what he was doing, to which he responded with a nonchalant, “No, they don’t care. They do it every four months.”
After asking around the company a bit, he was able to hit the nail on the head. The reason his and other companies around the world throw perfectly good, usable products away: it’s a hassle. Companies could list the products on eBay, but it took too much time. They could keep the inventory in a corner and try to sell it later on, but it takes up dollars and space in the warehouse. Nothing was easy, and nobody wanted to take the time to do it.
Boom. Cue “aha” moment number one.
Twitty programmed a scanner to scan all the extra items in the warehouse companies wanted to sell. “You scanned the item, the scanner took that information and pulled all of the necessary data from the web, and it created a listing for that item. It basically created a full eBay listing in three to five seconds.”
For any of you who have ever tried making any money off of eBay, you know it’s impossible to list items that quickly and that efficiently. Now imagine doing an entire warehouse full of items. I’ll take the scanner.
The second “aha” moment came more like a slowly-realized epiphany.
When Twitty was asked why he thought he could get away with this, his answer was simple.
“I’m a Marine; I’ve been through hell and back. Then I was working 80 hours a week – every week – and I didn’t go home until I got the machine I was working on up and running again. If we had orders to fill before the end of the year, I was there on Christmas Eve…The work wasn’t worth the pay. I knew that I could do all of this stuff by myself,” he said. So he did. Aha.
“As an entrepreneur, you realize you can’t do it all by yourself. So it’s important to have a good team to back up your ‘aha’ moment, and I think I’ve got a good team,” Twitty finished.
(Note: Since then, DIMS has now moved to a cloud-based system for their own online marketplace: www.manufacturersinventory.com.) DIMS was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO, where they became part of the Spring 2013 class of the St. Louis-based Capitol Innovators accelerator program. Check out www.deadinventorymanagement.com for more information or follow them on Twitter (@DIMSystem and @mfrinv).
Tyler Sondag is a startup connoisseur with a hand in anything and everything you could imagine. Hailing from the ever-developing Northwest Mississippi, an alum of Saint Louis University and currently a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri, one of his main missions in life is to get and keep young people engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.