By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
One day this week, Graydon Myhre and company were boarding in downtown Missoula. The group of five friends stopped into Pita Pit for a bite to eat, but they ran into a problem.
“Four of us had to stay outside holding our boards because there’s no place to lock them,” Myhre explained this week. “If we could, we’d all go in there and have a better time. It makes a business more accessible.”
Myhre, founder of LongLoc, has developed a solution to a problem faced by scooter-riders and skateboarders across the country. His new rack – designed to prevent loss and theft – will make its debut on the University of Montana campus this June.
If the idea pans out, it could soon appear at colleges around the country, as well as downtown sidewalks, skate parks, schools and community centers, he said.
“We just got a $1,000 grant from the university to put three racks on campus,” Myhre said. “I think we can get racks out there and hopefully businesses would also support this by putting one out front.”
Myhre, an avid longboarder, said he sees the problem everywhere. While he rides to class, there’s no place to safely store a board. On any give day, he said, several boards are left leaning against the classroom wall.
They leave scratches when they fall and serve as trip hazards to others.
“Our racks can go in at the skate park, any community center, the public library and schools,” he said. “Little kids are getting their scooters stolen. It’s pretty sad but it does happen. Hopefully this will mitigate the problem and the risk for the rider and the institution so they’re not having boards lying around.”
Myhre pitched his idea earlier this month at the 27th annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge at UM. There, 16 college entrepreneurs promoted their idea for a chance to win cash prizes, along with venture capital from those in attendance.
Myhre’s own product has already undergone four iterations, and it’s likely to change again before June. With a prototype in hand and the schematics ready to launch, he’ll begin searching for a professional welder to bring the racks together.
“Our competition had high instillation costs, and it didn’t seem scaleable,” said Myhre. “We’ve designed a product that will attach to an existing bike rack. We’re going to key in on that.”
Once the racks are in place at UM, Myhre will turn his attention to other schools. He described longboarders as a tight community with clubs on campuses across the country.
He estimates that one in five college students rides a skateboard or scooter.
“I notice a need on campus the most,” he said. “We’ll start here in Missoula and expand out. Presidents of all the longboard clubs are almost all on Facebook, so we’ll be reaching out to them.”
Myhre said the startup challenge was beneficial to his burgeoning business.
“The networking was huge,” he said. “It was a great opportunity and just the advice we got was great. Sometimes you just need very blunt advice. You get involved in the product, so you get blinded to aspects of it. But the challenge was a very constructive process.”