Entrepreneur Interview – Stephen C. Allison
Stephen C. Allison
Stephen Allison is a former US Naval Officer, from Kansas City, Missouri. He let the good times roll in New Orleans where he attended Tulane University and he earned his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Stephen has been to six continents and lived on three. He’s crossed the Grand Canyon on a donkey, the Caribbean Sea in a submarine, the equator on a ship, and the prime meridian in a plane. Now he is trying to cross his KickStarter campaign funding goal! He is married to Colleen Allison and together they have a daughter, Elia.
- What is your business/Business Name? What does your business do?
SevaStone makes integrated accessories for tablet computers, currently iPad Air and iPad Mini with more designs on the way.
- Why did you get into this field? What opportunities did you see?
Ever since the first iPad hit the scene in 2010, I’ve been an avid tablet computer user. As a member of the military and an avid travel enthusiast, I use my iPad in a lot of different ways, and in a lot of different settings. As an example, I even did the final term of my MBA program using only an iPad, mostly as a personal challenge to get away from more traditional computers.
As it turns out, I am also a family man, and around the time my daughter hit her “terrible two” stage, I began leaning on Peppa Pig and Dora the Explorer to help get me through temper tantrums in the car. One day as I was pulling an iPad out of a protective case in order to put it into a headrest mount in the car with a two year old yelling in my ear, I thought “Why is this taking so long!” I mean it was only a minute, but somehow a minute stretches into an eternity with a little kid yelling in your ear.
This led me to the internet to investigate rapid mounting solutions for iPads. I couldn’t find any that also provided full protection for my ipad. There were a lot of cases to protect, and lots of mounts for different situations but none of them worked together in a comprehensive way. As I did more research I realized that I was using my iPad the way my accessories allowed me to, in a very limited way, not in the way that way best for me. Further, I had invested in a line-up of accessories that were specialized for a particular model of tablet computer (e.g. iPad Air or iPad Mini) that meant double the accessories just get the same affects. Thinking of a way to quickly mount any kind of tablet using a universal mounting mechanism while also providing tablet computer protection led me to SevaStone.
- What have been your biggest challenges?
That last sentence was a bit of fib, my little epiphany actually led me to “Tablet Turtle” and one of my biggest challenges so far. Tablet Turtle was the name we came up with for this system in the first place, but we were unable to obtain a trademark on the name. That sent us back to the drawing board, and finding a name that is appealing, can be trademarked, and has an available website name is actually a grueling process and set us back quite a bit of time even while our design effort moved forward.
The biggest challenge we have faced is that the tablet accessory market is a busy arena, and standing out requires a lot of work even with a product that provides a unique functionality compared to the competition.
- What has been your greatest reward?
Having an idea and turning it into a real product has been one of the best experiences of my life- totally worth it to look back on all of the hard work and see what the design started out as and what it has ended up being.
- If you could change something, what would it be?
It would be to help people truly appreciate what an amazing time it is to be creative. A lot of people I meet really focus on the negative things in the world, but there are so many positives out there. The technologies that we have employed to develop SevaStone weren’t widely available even five years ago. 3D printing, rapid 3D modeling, cloud computing for distributed work teams, social media for marketing, crowdfunding, just to name a few. Heck even the iPad, the device we’ve built this system for, is only a few years old. There are so many disruptive technologies built to enable your creative voice to be heard, use them!
- If you could give a new entrepreneur advice, what would it be?
Being an entrepreneur is a lot like running alone through a jungle that becomes ever denser the further in you go. You’ll need courage and resolve to keep moving when sometimes it feels like stopping is the best thing. Surround yourself with positive influences, friends and family to help keep you pushing through the tough times- because there will be tough times. Facebook friends may help you build your business, but real friends will be the ones that help keep you sane along the way!
- Social Media. Yay or Nay?
Yay, these won’t be the connections that turn into sales right away, but they will be the influencers who help spark interest in your product/service. These social networks help put the small guy in a better position to engage their niche than any marketing tool before.
- How do you market your products?
Combination of social, email, and other web-based services.
- Is your business a service or a product? If you are a product, how do you handle production?
We are a product based company and use a manufacturing firm based out of Massachusetts to handle our production.
- What is unique about your business?
Our product is the only one on the market that protects tablet computers while enabling rapid mounting in a variety of situations.
- Sell me your product/service.
At SevaStone, we invented a universal mounting system that takes your iPad’s portability to the next level!
Our innovative system of integrated accessories gives you the FREEDOM to switch between mounts and locations in seconds. We take our patent pending mounting receiver and built it right into a super protective case. While in its case, mount your tablet on your car’s headrest, a piece of workout equipment, on the side of our specialized messenger bag and so much more. Our hands-free system is universally compatible with all our accessories regardless of model (i.e. – iPad air, iPad mini). SevaStone saves you a ton of money and time.
- How can people get in touch with you? What’s your website/Contact information?