Frequently Asked Questions
What is The Toolbox?
The Toolbox is collaborative innovation center for manufacturing and product-based startups and entrepreneurs. The Toolbox is a collaborative work space where seasoned entrepreneurs, established companies, growing startups, and nonprofit maker organizations will share tools, equipment, space, ideas, and knowledge with emerging entrepreneurs and innovators interested in building businesses based on making things. Entrepreneurs within The Toolbox will have access to the tools, advice, education, and capital they need to prototype products and start growing successful businesses.
For those ideas which are selected, The Toolbox creates a team and assists that team with creating a business plan, manufacturing a final prototype, securing financing, and forming a company. The Toolbox provides the companies it incubates with access to manufacturing space and ongoing mentorship.
Who is The Toolbox for?
The Toolbox is for people with great ideas who want to build products and businesses. We are looking for entrepreneurs to lead teams. We are looking for “moonlighters” to join teams. Moonlighters are individuals who may want to contribute to an entrepreneurial project, but have never done so before and are looking for a safe way to join a team, work on a project, and experience entrepreneurship before jumping into it fully. We are also looking for seasoned business leaders, experienced entrepreneurs, and investors who want to mentor young startups.
The Toolbox is also for people who want to make things and tinker with things. Within The Toolbox, there will be a public-access maker space run by nonprofit maker organization Spokane Create. The public will be able to access some of the manufacturing and prototyping equipment during the public use hours that Spokane Create manages. Spokane Create will inform the public of their open maker hours as well as when and how they can become certified to use the equipment and the maker space.
Who we are?
The Toolbox is a private, for-profit manufacturing accelerator with a public-access maker space provided through local nonprofit maker organization, Spokane Create. For those ideas selected for acceleration, Toolbox creates a team and assists that team with creating a business plan, manufacturing a final prototype, securing financing, and forming a company. The Toolbox provides the companies it incubates with access to manufacturing space and ongoing mentorship.
The Toolbox is one of the most unique and collaborative innovation centers in the Inland Northwest. Our mission is to develop and foster jobs, economic development, and business leadership within our region. Our goal is to create an environment for our startups and tenants that is focused on LEAN manufacturing ideas, strategy, and execution.
How was The Toolbox Started?
The Toolbox is the brainchild of Andy Barrett, Chairman and majority shareholder of Berg Co. Andy has 25 years of manufacturing experience and innovation. In addition to Berg, Andy has led the creation of two other companies: Sport Scope Endzone Camera which provides quality, easy to use, and affordable endzone camera systems to coaches with athletic programs of all sizes; and Vestis Systems, which provides commercial and residential awnings and shading systems to the Northwest.
In starting these businesses, Andy observed the need to establish a facility to nurture other product-based companies in the region. Andy reached out to Tom Simpson to partner with him on creating such a facility, and The Toolbox was born. Tom is the co-founder and Chairman of etailz, a rapidly growing ecommerce company, and is President of the Spokane Angel Alliance, an association of angel investors focused on funding regional startups.
Andy and Tom’s broad-based experience and success in identifying new market opportunities, building teams, and growing companies are an asset to The Toolbox and the companies accelerated within it.
How and when can an entrepreneur get involved?
There will be many ways to get involved with The Toolbox. We plan to host a variety of events aimed at bringing the ecosystem together. We are going to have an incredible facility across from the McKinstry Innovation Center and we want to open that space up as often as we can to welcome in entrepreneurs, innovators, mentors, investors, and educators for networking and educational events. These events are where great matches will be made between ideas and teams, and where The Toolbox companies will be able to connect with and network with other entrepreneurs, business and community leaders, and mentors.
The Toolbox is not an open accelerator to the general public. In contrast, The Toolbox is open for the startup companies and ideas that are approved by The Toolbox. However, Spokane Create will be open for registration to the public. Spokane Create is a maker's space that provides a supportive and collaborative environment, materials, and physical space necessary to foster STEM learning and understanding in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. To learn more about Spokane Create and how to join, visit their website.
How does funding work?
For Toolbox companies that have a viable prototype, a compelling business plan, and an established leader, Andy and Tom, the founders of The Toolbox, will assist those companies in securing initial funding through Inov8 Inc., their combined networks of personnel, and angel and institutional investors. Inov8 Inc. is a group of business owners in the Spokane area who come together as a board to help guide, mentor, and possibly invest in start-up companies and ideas. Started in 2011, Inov8 has started Sports Scope Endzone Camera and Vestis Systems.
If Inov8 decides to not fund a pitched idea or project, entrepreneurs are able to pitch their business plans to Spokane Angel Alliance, launch a Kickstarter campaign, or any other source of investors of the entrepreneurs' choosing.
What makes The Toolbox so unique?
First, The Toolbox is the only manufacturing accelerator in our area. The Toolbox provides a unique and important set of tools, as well as resources for product-based startups that they can’t access anywhere else in our area.
Second, The Toolbox is unique in the way that it doesn't conform to strict application timelines and processes. Entrepreneurship happens outside of timelines and formal processes. The Toolbox exists to capture the right idea and match it to the right team, and make it the right time. Our resources are made to be available in the entrepreneur’s timeline, and not the other way around.
Third, we’re match makers. The leadership of The Toolbox has decades of combined experience in starting, growing, and exiting successful companies. They are deeply connected to the Spokane business and entrepreneurship communities, with knowledge of great ideas and awesome leaders looking for their first or next great company. We are entrepreneurial match makers. We start by matching ideas with a leader and a dynamic team. We believe that the team is crucially important to an idea being successfully accelerated into a company, and as such, we will spend a lot of time connecting with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the educational community, and the manufacturing industry in Spokane to source the best ideas, and the best people to be on the teams that will make these ideas realities. Great matchmaking between idea, and team is greatly important to The Toolbox concept, and to the success of a great startup.
Once an idea and leader/team have been connected, we match that team with mentorship, industry knowledge, tools and equipment, education and resources to accelerate a great idea into a great company. We can also help match ideas and companies with appropriate funding and investment resources.
Fourth, the Toolbox is unique in the makeup of organizations and companies housed within The Toolbox space. Spokane Create, a nonprofit maker space, will be housed in The Toolbox. They will have equipment and tools that tinkerers and people looking to make things will be able to use. Spokane Create will manage and run public use hours for their maker space. Additionally, several larger organizations, such as Berg Development and Washington State University IDL, will have small projects or “development teams” housed within The Toolbox to capture and benefit from the innovative teams and companies accelerating there.
All of these factors make the Toolbox, not just the only manufacturing accelerator in our area, but one of the most unique accelerators in our ecosystem. The Toolbox provides all the tools you need to build your business, in one box.
Are there any success stories from The Toolbox?
The first successful company graduated out of the The Toolbox is Sport Scope Endzone Camera. Under the management of Derek Taylor, Sport Scope creates high quality, easy-to-use, and affordable endzone camera systems for coaches with athletic programs of all sizes. In less than four years, Sport Scope has become the industry leader in a niche market. In the end of 2014, Sport Scope left The Toolbox and is now operating in their own building in Spokane Valley, where they will have plenty of room to grow and manufacture their state-of-the-art endzone camera tripods.