Tyron Pretorius ESTEEM '18
It did not take long for Tyron Pretorius to apply what he learned from his ESTEEM capstone thesis. After submitting his thesis on the commercialization of a consumer product in May, it was only a matter of months before Tyron was working alongside an Illinois inventor, Mel Hewitt, to do this very thing in real life. Flash forward to today, April 16th, 2019, and the KickStarter campaign for the Airfold Towel Bar that Tyron has helped commercialize is now live!
During his mechanical engineering degree in Ireland, two year-long projects in universal design and innovation fostered Tyron’s passion for product development, especially with regard to improving quality of life. After repeatedly finding that his lack of business knowledge was preventing him from getting funding to progress his ideas, Tyron found a perfect match in the ESTEEM program that would provide him with the very skills he needed to make his ideas a reality.
“When I first read about ESTEEM it seemed too good to be true, it was as if the curriculum had been designed just for me. The classes that ESTEEM was offering addressed all the fundamentals of business that I was lacking” Tyron says. “When combined with the opportunity to commercialize a new technology for the entire year as my capstone thesis while under the tutelage of seasoned lecturers and mentors, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.”
All of the concepts taught in classes and implemented in the capstone thesis, have prepared Tyron well for launching the Airfold Towel Bar. Tyron highlights the emphasis placed on understanding the customer and the encompassing market as something that helped him to quickly find the product-market fit for Airfold and guide the launch strategy moving forward. Since drafting a viable business plan is an integral part of the capstone thesis, Tyron already knew how to determine the best marketing channels for his target customer and the pricing that would match the value being delivered to this customer, which later informed the pledge levels of the KickStarter campaign. The thorough financial modeling templates used for this business plan were also reapplied in allowing Tyron to figure out the financing for the Airfold launch and hence, formulate the KickStarter ask.
Tyron touts the technical electives he took as the cherry on top of his learning as an entrepreneur in ESTEEM. The Solidworks CAD (Computer Aided Design) class that he took, gave him the background necessary to understand and communicate in the design terminology Mel uses as an industrial designer. Similarly, the Web Design skills he learned in another elective, proved invaluable, allowing Tyron to showcase this very design on a custom built website that he created.
“When you are bootstrapping for a KickStarter campaign, saving money on a web designer is a big win and this is what ESTEEM is all about,” explains Tyron. “When you combine the technical background that every ESTEEM student has with the all the skills that we learn through ESTEEM, it turns us into well-rounded entrepreneurs, ready to hit the ground running and start our own companies.”
Tyron says that he welcomes the challenge of being the first ESTEEM graduate to launch a KickStarter campaign and hopes that the support of ESTEEM, the IDEA Center, and the wider Notre Dame community can help get Airfold over the line. You can support the Airfold Towel Bar KickStarter project here.