This article was originally published at The Clubhou.se
From starting his own architecture firm to co-founding theClubhou.se, Eric Parker has been involved with envisioning a new way of doing things. Along the way he has also begun P4R75, a company which creates parts for educational products for students.
What is the business?
P4R75, inc. is an educational technology company. We make “parts” with which students build the future.
When and where did you found it?
P4R75 spun out of theClubhou.se in 2015
Where is the business now?
The bulk of our team still works at theClubhou.se, but we also have people in Atlanta and Chicago.
What were you like in school?
I was an outcast, most of the kids found some way to pick on me so I spent most of my time in art and photography trying to avoid them until I could go away to college.
Any extra-curricular activities?
I enjoyed photography and spent alot of time trying to find new perspectives of ordinary things, but this was before digital photography so that also meant alot of time in the darkroom trying to manipulate images.
Any significant experiences/skills that (with hindsight) influenced your business?
Most of what I do now involves trying to bring the outcasts of our community together to find a place where they can thrive. Our first product “Sumo Robot League” is alot like this. When I was in school, and even today, we place athletes on a pedestal above everyone else in a way that really seems like a misplaced investment considering the limited number of kids who manage to work all the way through that system with enough raw talent, training, and injury avoidance to make money in professional sport. We thought that if we could create a sports league that rewarded ingenuity, and coding skills, we could help more kids go down a path that is more likely to lead them to a prosperous adulthood.
Any previous entrepreneurial experience? Lessons learned?
SO MANY, my first startup was a Real Estate Broker listing and virtual tour service in the late 90’s. In that I learned that I needed to structure business for recurring revenue. My longest running business is my architecture firm CONima which taught me that quality relationships are built on responsive communication. Founding theClubhou.se has taught me alot the importance of proper corporate governance and surrounding yourself with people who are bought into a singular vision.
What appealed to you about entrepreneurship?
I know that as an entrepreneur my work often seems never ending, but by being an entrepreneur I have a freedom to pursue interests that I never felt as an employee. Mostly though, every single day that I wake up is an honest to goodness adventure. The ups, the downs, the anticipation, the ecstatic joy of getting something right. It’s the most free and exciting life, full of the most interesting people I could possibly imagine
How did you get the idea?
Chris Williamson took it upon himself to teach a class in “how to build a sumo robot” when we first opened theClubhou.se on Broad St. I dragged my daughter to it and we both had so much fun that a league was formed. The business was simply the best way I could figure to manage the demand and make the effort to teach kids financially sustainable.
How has your idea progressed over time?
We started by just teaching classes at theClubhou.se. That led to Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School and Episcopal Day School inviting us to teach in the schools. That experience was amazing, but we nearly bankrupted theClubhou.se in the process of trying to do it, so we stepped back and decided to spin off P4R75 as a for profit company to make kits and curriculum. While we remained local, theClubhou.se would operate “Sumo Robot League” tournaments, but P4R75 did the rest. Now P4R75 has licensed the name “Sumo Robot League” from theClubhou.se and is selling robot kits, curriculum, and teacher training in 3 countries and (I think) 15 states…
How did you find your co-founders (if applicable)?
How did you fund the business?
First self funded. Then we received $100K from in angel funding from Sand Hill Endeavors. Now we fund all our business through sales, making sure to get deposits on large orders that allow us to scale inventory to sell to others.
How did you market your business?
We participate extensively in education conferences and have benefit from effective PR campaigns that have given us international press exposure.
How did you choose who to hire (if applicable)?
Who are your main competitors?
The 800lb gorilla in our space FIRST Robotics. Our key differentiators are cost $120 per student vs $1000, and training. They really on a volunteer network from the community, we teach teachers robotics and coding and provide troubleshooting support throughout the school year.
What have you learned from your competitors (both successes and failures)?
Don’t treat it as a competition. Everyone has a niche and there is no reason we can’t all succeed.
What does a typical day involve for you? How does that compare to your team (if applicable). How has this changed over time?
I run three companies, so my days vary wildly but are all focused on building communities, partnerships, and championing innovation in some way. My team is really the key to the company’s success. I’m just the weather vane.
These days it’s mostly audiobooks and usually either Scifi, business, or personal development. My short list of favorites Enders Game, A Fire Upon the Deep, Drive, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a _____. I also really enjoyed House of Leaves which doesn’t fit my genre descriptions.
That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child. It’s just not going to happen. I love scifi, fantasy, and indie films. I just watched Blade Runner 2049, it was awesome, but I also just watched The Big Sick and really enjoyed it too.
All of the ones focused on lifting up the community instead of exploiting it.
Best piece of advice?
Take care of your body
Common misconceptions about your business/entrepreneurship in general?
Most people say they want to have their own business so they can set their own schedule. Once you start a business, it IS your schedule.
What is next for your business?
The goal is to grow from 1,000 units/year to 4,000 units/year. We’re growing our cloud platform to help in that.
What next for you?
Investing in others who share my values.
How has working out of theClubhou.se benefitted your company?
Simply put, it would not exist without theClubhou.se. The idea, the team, the funding, the factory. They are all at theClubhou.se for the cost of a $99/month