Keith Niehaus and Keith Bailey had been working for a traffic signal company for years when they began receiving requests for a type of solar-powered jobsite security and monitoring device. The pair was able to work on the project at their company for a while, but was unable to take the invention to the next level.
With a wealth of combined knowledge, the two broke off from the traffic signal company and one year later founded their own company with Dan Kielman, lifelong friend of Niehaus. Crossroads Manufacturing, established in April of 2014 in Clarksville, Iowa, focuses solely on worksite solar mobile equipment. Kielman brought financial and marketing skills to the company, which greatly contributes to making their vision for national business more of a reality.
“Things have moved quickly,” Niehaus says. “It’s actually been much easier than what it probably would have been since we’ve been doing the same motions for the last 13 years.”
Customers are certainly interested in the company’s flagship product, called The Worksite Hawk, which is completely manufactured in Clarksville at the company’s headquarters. The worksite-tailored product is a solar-powered security camera made portable by being mounted on a trailer. By using a desktop, laptop, smart phone or iPad, owners are able to monitor productivity at a jobsite and are able to have security footage of their worksite 24 hours a day. The company is getting phone calls daily and the company’s founders have already compiled a database of about 20,000 businesses that they are marketing to.
Dan Beenken, director of the University of Northern Iowa SBDC, and his team were able to provide plenty of assistance to the start-up company in the area of targeting customers. The owners approached the SBDC after their first prototype had been created and they were looking for resources to find potential clients.
“I was just trying to connect the dots of the contacts we already had and trying to create a realistic road trip with as many stops as possible,” says Niehaus. “The main challenge would probably be not having a database at our fingertips.”
Niehaus provided the SBDC with federal identification codes for the industries he was hoping to target and was given access to more than 70,000 contacts in specified states. Those initial contacts helped the company build their potential client database so that they were stable enough to begin making more sales.
“It’s been rewarding for both parties,” Beenken says. “They’ve gotten some early success and they’ve been fun to work with.”
The Crossroads Manufacturing team also attended an SBDC course on business accounting software.
“It’s pretty likely that we wouldn’t have advanced without the direction of Dan and his team,” Niehaus says. “Dan (Beenken) really got us on track, which really made all the difference.”
With the only two company employees being two of the co-founders of Crossroads Manufacturing at this point, the brand new company hasn’t yet had the opportunity to integrate themselves into the community. They hope to become more involved in their small town in the coming year.
“I’d love to hire some people from our community if they have the skills to work for us here, whether that be welding or something in manufacturing,” Niehaus says.
The future is unknown, but the manufacturing team is looking toward the oil industry, in which they have experience from their previous job. A product that, in addition to worksite monitoring and security, would detect poisonous gases and monitor both temperature and wind speed would be ideal for the company to produce. Making those ideas a reality will not occur until the Worksite Hawk has “hit the mainstream,” says Niehaus.
“Dan has been a joy to work with,” says Kielman. “We are very appreciative of what the SBDC does and we hope to continue to work with them.”
For more information about this Clarksville, Iowa company and their technologically-advanced worksite cameras, check out the Crossroads Manufacturing website at www.crossroadsmanufacturing.com or its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/crossroadsmanufacturing.