By Danny Shanahan
Grand Junction company, Quikrstuff, has been selected as a finalist for the 2022 Colorado Companies To Watch (CCTW) award after two years of rapid growth. Despite launching at the onset of the pandemic, Quikrstuff’s flagship bike rack has proven highly successful.
Quikrstuff launched in January of 2020 after Bryan Wachs and JT Westcott combined their enthusiasm for outdoor recreation with a plan to manufacture next generation equipment. As the outdoor industry continues to attract new enthusiasts, Wachs and Westcott saw the need to fill a growing demand for bike racks. Wachs came across a unique opportunity to license the patents of inventor Cal Phillips, whose original bike rack design from 2000, the 1Up Rack, set an industry standard.
“It basically created the whole hitch space of a hitch rack. His designs are all metal. There are incrementally zero pieces of plastic on this thing, so it’s just bomb proof. People who have his rack from 2000 are still using it,” Wachs said.
Yet, Phillips saw room for improvement. Building on the voluminous feedback offered from his first model’s customers, a new version was drafted, and updated patents were formed for what would become the Quik Rack Mach2.
Westcott, the owner of Grand Junction based Intrawest Machine and Fabrication, was working with Phillips on a plan to produce and brand this new model. Phillips, however, was approaching 70 and preferred to license the new bike rack rather than manage the new business launch himself. This is where Wachs came into the picture.
The entrepreneurial spirit is heritage to Wachs, who comes from a family entrenched in starting and developing businesses. His own experience has varied from restaurant ownership and management, to sales, marketing, consulting and everything in between. In 2015 his life underwent a radical development when he decided to pack his things and move from Vail—where he had lived for 25 years—to Grand Junction. Wachs remembers the eye-opening experience when he received his first true taste of rural Colorado after arriving in Grand Junction. He explained that in retrospect, even Vail was somewhat cosmopolitan despite its size.
“You meet people from different walks of life,” Wachs said of life in Grand Junction. “They have different experiences that open your mind to thinking and listening in a different way. I know for me, coming from Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and then 25 years in Vail, I was not exactly a rural person.”
Wachs was surprised to find a community of engineers and manufacturers in Grand Junction, an asset that showcased the region’s viability for developing a manufacturing business in the area. Grand Junction also has a strong startup culture, serving as the host city for the annual West Slope Startup Week (WSSW). It was during the first annual WSSW—which Wachs helped co-found—that he and Westcott started Quikrstuff. Wachs said the educational and networking programming gave him the push he needed to start a new business. That year, the week-long event spanned multiple towns on the rural Western Slope, before culminating in Grand Junction.
“Just meeting other makers, other marketers and business people helped me in my due diligence to make a decision. Then finally in roughly September of 2019 we started writing up contracts and we finally closed in December, starting the Quikrstuff company in January.”
The dawn of the pandemic made this a particularly challenging venture for the nascent company, presenting unforeseen hurdles just months after launch. Almost immediately, supply chain issues disrupted the workflow. As a direct-to-consumer retailer, the company prides itself on manufacturing in the United States, but Wachs and Westcott found that being a U.S. based startup placed them very low on the priority list of their suppliers, for aluminum in particular which constitutes almost all of the rack’s build.
On multiple occasions, operations came to a standstill due to employees falling ill. Shipping rates, fuel prices, and the cost of aluminum have gone up by around 25% each. Wachs found that by taking pre-order payments, he was able to lock-in pricing for his early supporters and build brand loyalty.
There are 63 companies nominated for the Colorado Companies to Watch award. If Quikrstuff is selected, it could be just the push it needs to take their business to the next level. The award comes with a year of benefits including focused marketing support, specialized events, networking opportunities, and increased visibility. With pandemic based supply issues still beleaguering startups nationwide, this boost in brand recognition and expanded audience is very welcome to help ensure that the team can continue sourcing the aluminum they need to keep up with high demand. While the company is currently focused on the Quik Rack Mach2, they are working to add other essential gear like ski racks to the product lineup. According to Wachs, the future of Quikrstuff is looking open and bright, and it seems Colorado has taken notice.
This article is republished from Startup Colorado, a rural entrepreneurship program at the University of Colorado. See the original post at Startup Colorado.