With the advent of Covid in 2019, many of us moved from working in an office, to working at home on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. But working at home didn’t magically grow our spaces, or create the perfect location for a home office. It was the same for Colin Dowdle, who even before Covid was in a roommate situation with a number of people who not only lived in their apartment, but had to work there every day as well.
A Gallup Survey in June of 2022 found that 8 of 10 people are working hybrid or remote, while only 2 in 10 are permanently on-site.
The young Chicagoan and already-experienced entrepreneur began tinkering to come up with a new, storable solution for an office set-up that could work in a small space and be tucked away when not in use. He brought in his newly-retired father and they began working on the idea in their garage. The solution became Lillipad, an electric workstation that allows users to sit, stand, and store it away with no assembly required. It comes in various heights and colors, but folds down to be only 6 inches high, for easy storage when you’re not using it. It also features an integrated surge protector, 3 outlets, 3 USB and 1USB-C ports. It can support 75lbs.
The now 26 year-old Colin was kind enough to provide us with this exclusive interview and gave us a look at the future of his company:
SPLASH: Did you always see yourself as an inventor? Were there other things you innovated or improved before this product? Was this truly a “necessity is the mother of invention” situation?
DOWDLE: “When I find a love for an activity or way of life, I tend to find ways to work innovation into it. Here are a couple examples:
Growing up, I was obsessed with snowboarding. My parents backyard had a small hill that I turned into a terrain park by building rails and jumps out of scrap wood, but my proudest DIY project was building a snowmaker from scratch. Yes, a machine that made real snow. I was sick of the limited snow we got in Chicago, so I found some plans online, rode my bike to the hardware store, bought some plumbing parts, and made snow.
In high school and college, I started and ran a backyard ice rink installation business during the winters. In the Chicagoland suburbs, it’s common for neighborhoods to have one or two houses with above-ground, temporary ice rinks, similar to having an above-ground pool. My dad built one in our backyard for our neighborhood, and I saw an opportunity to make some extra cash while in college. So I posted sales flyers around town, received calls and inquiries, hired my buddies as employees, and got to work building and installing rinks around Thanksgiving, and disassembling rinks in the springtime. This was the start of my entrepreneurial career.
During summers, I would make custom bag-o (cornhole) boards to be sold to friends and other college houses. Nothing says the Midwest like making snow, ice-rinks, and cornhole boards.”
SPLASH: How did you get your start-up money? Did you seek Venture capital? How did you present the idea and get people to believe in it enough to get it manufactured? You’re very young. Did you have difficulties in convincing people to believe in you and your idea?
DOWDLE: “We successfully closed our seed round in 2022. The height-adjustable marketplace lacked innovative products, particularly those designed for portability. Given our never-before-seen product functionality and our path to market, we knew we had something special. It’s not easy creating disruptive, innovative products. However, we’ve put the end user first, from day one, and how we solve their problems. We started by looking at shipping, then setup, to storage, and then portability. We knew that if we could execute on those items, we had a true disrupting product. Today, we have the world’s only sit-stand and store workstation that ships fully assembled, sets up in seconds, and can be stored under a bed or sofa. The incredibly enthusiastic user feedback and reviews really fuel our mission.
On the personal side, my time spent working for startups and pursuing an entrepreneurship degree from Marquette University was a big driver to navigating these waters. Luckily for me, my co-founder, Jim, who is also my dad (we are a proud father-son duo) had just closed out a successful career working for Scripps Network and being on the day-one team that launched brand assets such as FoodNetwork, HGTV, FineLiving, etc.
I’m proud to say entrepreneurship runs deep in our family.”
SPLASH: Did you have contacts in manufacturing to create prototypes and get this crafted?
DOWDLE: “As funny as it sounds, Lillipad was a “pre-Covid” idea. I thought of it in January of 2020 while navigating the challenges of working remotely with two roommates in an urban apartment. When Covid hit, and the workforce was involuntarily remote, I brought the idea to my now co-founder Jim, and we hit the garage to build prototypes. After two months of building ourselves, we brought in an industrial design firm and started calling in our manufacturing partners. We are very proud to have many of our parts manufactured right here on American soil.”
SPLASH: Where are you building it? The USA? Elsewhere?
DOWDLE: “We are very proud to assemble Lillipads right here in the USA. Many of our components are also made in America. We have the highest quality standards and that trickles down to our packaging. One of the largest items of feedback we receive is, “I can’t believe how stable it is. I’m impressed with the quality.”
SPLASH: Now that you have one successful product, do you have plans to create new ones?
DOWDLE: “We are always looking to innovate. We have a few highly innovative products on the launching pad; many that will make the lives of Lillipaders even better.”
SPLASH: Is there something you want to talk about that you wish I’d asked you? If so, please tell us about it.
DOWDLE: “Users are pretty “wow’d” once they receive their Lillipad. We are the first ones to achieve shipping a standing desk fully assembled. We live in a very on-demand era, so the no-assembly is a big draw. However, the user experience goes far beyond the unboxing. The performance, functionality, quality, stability, and adaptability brings a whole new approach to workstations that has never before been possible.
More importantly, Lillipad is a productivity accelerator. We enabled users to get productive from anywhere—next to a window, a quiet room, vacation homes, or pop-up offices. Lillipad enables users to sit or stand and set up with two screens in under 90 seconds.
Lillipad has taken off for construction companies as a phenomenal solution for office trailers, interior build-outs, and general jobsite mobility.”
Images provided by Lillipad.