MIAMI COUNTY — Inspiration and innovation can spawn from literally anywhere.
Just ask Larry Kiser, a Piqua resident who, in the last few years, stumbled onto a market in the tractor trailer industry that had gone entirely untapped.
“I drove semis on and off for 20 years,” Kiser said. “They don’t have any back-up lights on them. You can’t see anything when you’re backing up, and I got sick and tired of it. One day, I had this idea and I started to get things together, knowing what I wanted. I went ahead and patented it, and then looked into manufacturing it.”
Kiser’s idea was for tandem and backup safety lights, an LED system that runs off of a specially-developed electronic circuit, which is also included in Kiser’s patent.
In each kit, LED lighting is adhered into a metal channel, which is then capped off with weatherproof leads and mounted to the bottom of a tractor trailer. The kit is wired into the turn signal and tail light of the vehicle with the help of Kiser’s custom circuit.
Kiser’s patent was finalized in June 2013, with the help of some friends in beneficial places.
“I didn’t have any money, but I happened to have a friend who is a patent attorney, and he’s a really good one,” Kiser said. “All I had to do was pay the filing fees. If you do all the drawings and so forth yourself, that cuts down the cost.”
Kiser previously worked for Dayton Door Sales for 17 years, and was in charge of the electronics department. Upon leaving, he was acting vice president of operations. He also worked as an electronics manager for a sign company, and throughout the ’90s and ’00s, worked as a semi driver.
Kiser’s patent was tested on trailers owned by his employer, and was immediately met with enthusiasm.
“The patent went through when I was working for the company that I drove for, and I started putting lights on their trailers,” Kiser said. “All the drivers fell in love with them. Before my patent, those drivers had nothing, and now suddenly had something. That’s how it all got started.”
From there, Kiser founded Kiser Industries, LLC, with his son, Joe, who serves as Vice President. As a start-up business, the Kisers work out of a zoned private residence in Troy to manufacture their products, with a separate office space located in Piqua.
Kiser explained that due to the fresh nature of the patent, clients have shown skepticism in doing business.
“About five years ago, I spoke to the senior vice president of Wabash,” Kiser said. “They had used some kind of lighting system on the back of their trailers, but it was kind of a gimmick. I talked to him about our system, and they were reluctant, because we were brand new. I’ve contacted leasing companies, freight companies, just about any trucking company you can imagine.
“Now I’ve got probably 200 potential clients I send emails to. My biggest client comes through a leasing company that leases trailers to Sherwin-Williams. Last year, I sold 31 sets to them for new trailers. This year, they got an order of 300.”
Kiser’s goals for the future include expansion of his workspace in order to further legitimize the business, and to increase sales through word-of-mouth and proper networking.
“I’d like to get a different building,” Kiser said. “We’ve looked at buildings in the area, but costs don’t quite match sales right now. I’m going to have to stay where I’m at until I find something better or increase my sales.
“I sent information to the National Highway Safety Administration to see if they’ll recommend my lights. If they will, there’s a possibility for them to become law. There’s nothing on these trailers to let you know that they’re backing up, or even that they’re sitting on the road. To get a trailer repaired is thousands of dollars.
“What’s great about the system is that it’s beneficial for any sort of trailer, not just semis. You could use them on a camper. There’s a lot of people out there who would benefit.”
Despite the uphill battle that often accompanies a start-up business, Kiser insists the experience has already been rewarding.
“One thing I’ve learned is that when you get an idea and you patent it, nobody else has it,” Kiser exclaimed. “Therefore, you can charge what you want, since there is no competition. The earth is full of ideas, and people don’t realize that.”
For more information, visit www.kiser-ind.com.
Reach Cody Willoughby at firstname.lastname@example.org