Elite Innovations opens second ‘makerspace’ to shepherd inventors toward products

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Elite Innovations Collage
Andrew Williams, founder of Elite Innovations, cuts the ribbon for the new office space at Chandler’s Wharf. William’s TacLace and a 3D printer are also on display in the new storefront. Photos by: James Mieczkowski

Where do you go when you have a great idea, but don’t have the money to buy the equipment or all the knowledge you may need to create it?

Local company Elite Innovations has an answer: a “makerspace,” where entrepreneurs can go to meet a full team of experts to offer assistance in a workshop filled with tools and gadgets for local tinkerers and hobbyists to turn their ideas “for the next best thing” into a physical prototype.

“For do-it-yourselfers we offer a building block approach to help you become more well-rounded, by helping create prototypes and marketing campaigns for the average person here in Wilmington,” said Andrew Williams, founder of Elite Innovations. “We want to help people take their idea to the next level.”

For a process normally taking a few years and $50,000 to $100,000 in research and development, Williams has reduced the phase from taking an idea to putting it in action to a $25 monthly fee with a schedule functioning as you please.

“For the average person, they don’t the time or the money to jump into an investment like that; we offer the alternative,” said Williams.

The makerspace, located at 707 South 18th Street, is an idea Williams brought with him to Wilmington last October after receiving his MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It fulfilled his dream of creating a space where “makers” have access to tools for 3D printing, metal fabrication, textiles, wood working, along with a staff to teach their proper use.

Inventions to come out of the makerspace workshop can range from an advanced threaded rod used in construction, to a truck bed extender, to a new type of baby diapers.

Elite Innovations celebrated the grand opening of their latest location last week, an event attended by Mayor Bill Saffo along with representatives from Wilmington Downtown Inc.

Located at 225 South Water Street inside the Chandler’s Wharf shopping center, the additional space will be a complement to the current makerspace, offering research and product development services to help connect its members to marketing agencies and manufacturers.

It will also serve as a storefront to display products like Williams’ TacLace.  A product created within the makerspace, TacLace is a boot lacing system enabling the wearer to tie and secure boot laces in seconds. Williams and a buddy developed TacLace while serving in the Marine Corps. With a patent still pending, he credits its success for enabling the launch of both Elite Innovations and the makerspace.

“We’re really excited to have this business here in Wilmington,” said Ed Wolverton, president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc. “I’m looking forward to seeing this company grow – what great invention will come out of here next?”

With more than 40 inventors signed up for the service, Williams anticipates a new denture product to make big waves in the near future. “It’s going to revolutionize that industry, the product enables you to pick up dentures at your closest pharmacy and mold them to your mouth the same way you would a sports mouth guard,” said Williams. He expects the product to hit pharmacy shelves soon.

James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at james.m@portcitydaily.com On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD