For Michael Martin, a recent Fort Lewis College Public Health graduate, and his brother Daniel, a FLC marketing major, paint is a means to an end. Their company idea, Nitrum Dynamic Paint, is the winner of the 2017 FLC Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition, and the pair are hitting the ground running. Yet their urgency is spurred by a desire to help both those less fortunate and the environment more than simply making money.
“The biggest part of business is passion,” explains Daniel. “If you’re not confident and passionate about what you’re doing, you’re not going too far.”
Nitrum Dynamic’s business plan is to remanufacture and sell post-consumer paint. Every year tens of millions of gallons of paint are left over from consumer projects. Instead of those gallons going to waste, which is a waste of money and potentially harmful to the environment, Nitrum will recycle and resell the paint.
Helping the Martin brothers with their business will be employees with disabilities from the Beacon Group in Arizona. The Beacon Group’s mission is to provide people with mental and physical disabilities with training and employment.
“They have value and they get a steady paycheck and you just see the smile on their face,” says Daniel. “They’re so satisfied with what they do. To have a part in that is really special for us.”
“We want to dominate the paint industry,” he continues. “[Nitrum Dynamic Paint] is eco-friendly, we’re helping the environment, and we’re helping people at the individual level.”
The brothers are already on their way to reaching their goal, with demand for their services already outstripping their supply.
“Honestly, right now, it’s trying to put all our ducks in a row to actually match our production output with our demand,” says Michael. “We have a demand of 30,000 gallons a month. We’re trying to figure out how to speed that process up to match that.”
“Starting off with full production is kind of unheard of for a small business,” adds Daniel.
For the Martin brothers, the opportunity to work their business plan through the Hawk Tank competition was huge. In its second year, Hawk Tank invites FLC students and alumni to create a business idea and craft a plan with the help of mentors from the business community. In the end, the plans are judged and the winner receives $5,000.
The idea for Nitrum Dynamic really got rolling after the brothers sat down with FLC Associate Professor of Management Dr. Paul Clay. The “smartest guy I’d ever met” according to Daniel, Dr. Clay pushed the pair to think more deeply and consider all the potential issues they would face.
“I think he was really the first guy we talked to when we initially came out with Nitrum Dynamic as the idea,” explains Michael. “He helped us sculpt it in terms of how to get more of the information systems behind it [worked out] in terms of stocking and warehousing and what kind of issues we’ll expect to encounter with that.”
Once in the Hawk Tank competition, the Martin brothers met a second mentor: Justin Bates, director of internal operations for Swan Global Investments. With Justin on board, the Martins were able to start bringing their idea to life.
“He’s the big dog behind it for helping us come up and strategize what kind of business plan we wanted to put forth,” Michael says. “After that first meeting we had with him, it came to the point where we were like, ‘we could actually do this and I think we could win some cash with it too.’”
Beyond just the prize money, the chance to have a business plan analyzed and vetted by so many successful entrepreneurs is an enormous advantage for a startup. The Martin brothers took in all the advice and guidance they could.
“Your idea will filter through so many minds with experience,” says Daniel. “Like the mentorship stuff, where having experienced individuals in the community stepping up that really, really know what they’re doing and they’re putting their two cents in your company, is really cool.”
The brothers encourage any FLC student or alumni with even the spark of a business idea to give the Hawk Tank competition serious consideration. Starting a business is difficult and risky, so to be able to start one while in school through an event like Hawk Tank takes much of the difficulty and risk out of it.
“[The Hawk Tank] is where that educational, academic end meets the real world with no penalties involved,” Michael says.
Learn more about the Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition, run by the AACSB-accredited FLC School of Business Administration, at www.fortlewis.edu/businessplan.