Once Upon a Time...

A young boy learned how to hammer a nail into a piece of wood.  Then another nail...and another.  Side by side, about an inch apart until there were twenty or thirty nails in the small piece of wood.  There was no way that wood was coming apart now, I thought.

The thrill of connecting hammer and nail was nothing short of inspiring.  But there's only so much you can build with just a hammer - I had to learn how to use other tools.  Hand saws...screwdrivers...crow bars...anything hanging on the wall of the shop was fair game.  The only power tool I was allowed to use as a youngster was the bench grinder.  Worked great for carving ring notches (handles) in the stick weapons that my cousin and I played with.  But apparently you're not supposed to use bench grinders on wood...something about a fire hazard.  Apart from the odd safety warning, Dad was very permissive with my design aspirations.  I remember a taking a bunch of brand new fence posts to support the floor of my first tree house.  A few years later I realized that I could have just nailed the boards to the tree.  Dad didn't say a word.

Creator in Training...

Some of my early designs were quite amusing.  Being a young baseball player, I wanted a way to practise pitching without a back catcher.  I built a 2x4 rectangular frame that stood vertical, supported by a couple more 2x4s at the base.  I nailed an old gunny sack to the frame and voila...a backstop.  It worked great...when I hit the sack.  But something was missing.  I still had to run over and collect the ball after each throw.  If only the ball could come back to me.  Several 2x4's, nails, baler twine and eaves troughs later, I had the deluxe "Back Catching Machine".  Sorry...even at the time, I was too embarrassed about the monstrous contraption to let a picture be taken.

My next project was a hybrid toboggan - wooden, of course.  It didn't matter that it was too heavy for a grown man to lift.  Dad pulled it behind the tractor when we fed the cows.  Unlike my previous invention, I was quite proud of the design.  I could steer the front runners and deploy the 'brake wings' all from the comfort of an old garden tractor seat.

Two Heads are Better Than One...

This page wouldn't be complete without mentioning my cousin, Dalan, who grew up on a farm just down the road.  We were the prairie pirates of every wood, metal and scrap pile around.  Our ship was an old, abandoned combine.  Not too many people can say they had a combine fort when they were young!  Fort-building was definitely our biggest ambition.  Our pride and joy was a 2-story log fort complete with a fireplace, drop-down ladder and cable chair (like a gondola, only scarier).

Although we didn't invent it, I believe we were the first ones to perfect the disappearing fort.  We built one every winter, and in the spring, it disappeared.  Good times.

Lesson in Lexan...

I guess it was no surprise to anyone that I decided to become an engineer.  I took my Mechanical BSc at the University of Alberta from 1992 to 1996.  Definitely the most challenging four years of my life.  The 3rd year design project was particularly humbling.  We were given a sheet of Lexan, an acrylic rod, a small electric motor and a challenge - to move our device and some metal weights from the top of one table to the top of another...up to 10 metres apart!  Our design failed the test, but at least I passed the course.  I did learn one important lesson, though.  A successful design will be as good as it's going to get several times before it is.  And sometimes it never is.

Birth of Bowkaddy...

It was during university that the idea for Bowkaddy was born.  Following my family heritage, I grew up with a love for the outdoors.  School was just something to do between hunting and fishing trips.  Archery was particularly fascinating to me.  My first compound bow, a Martin Tiger, brought the demise of many small game animals - mostly gophers and the odd bush rabbit.  As I got bigger, so did my bow and the animals I hunted.

I consider myself lucky to have grown up in the aspen parkland of eastern Alberta.  World-class hunting in my own back yard for whitetail, mule deer, elk and moose.  Whatever the species, the hot spot was seldom more than a short drive away.  And rarely did I hunt alone.  With over a half dozen related archers in the area, a huntin' buddy was only a phone call away.  We'd just throw a couple old tires in the back of the pickup, lay the bows inside them and head for huntin' country.  With two or three hunters in the cab, there was no room for any equipment.  The rubber of the tires helped to absorb the shock of travelling, unless of course the bow bounced out of the tire.  The system had its merits, but it was far from an ideal solution.

The gears started turning, slowly at first, formulating a better way to transport bows in the field.  My first design was very self-centered.  With patents and international marketing the last thing on my mind, I just wanted a rack to hold my bow in my own pickup.  And it worked - no more reorganizing of rubber tires to make room for a deer!

Patent Protection...

Even from the first 10-lb steel model, I was flattered by the comments.  "Heck of an idea.  Why don't you get a patent on that?" some people would say.  I guess I just never considered the idea that novel.  Surely there was a similar product already out there on the market.  I checked a few stores and hunting catalogues, and found nothing of comparison.  The patent idea started to gain momentum.

My second model was made of aluminum.  Besides being much lighter, there were several other improvements.  It had spring-loaded pins instead of nuts and bolts for adjusting the swing arms.  I also added a pivoting base to the design.  With Bowkaddy "as good as it could get", I started down the rough road to patent protection.  My first big pothole came in a letter announcing the bankruptcy of my patent agent.  With two years of time and money lost, it took a little while to get back on the bandwagon.  But after another couple of years, Innovative Licensing and Promotion in Calgary succeeded in acquiring a patent on my behalf.  Thanks to the proficiency of my agent, US Patent Number 6,641,014 was granted with 15 unique claims on its first review.  The Canadian patent was to follow a few years later.

Licensing vs. Distributing...

While obtaining a patent of my own gave me a lot of pride, it also had a net negative effect on my bank account.  My original plan was to license the idea to another company in return for a technology transfer fee and a per-unit royalty.  My licensing campaign met with generally positive feedback, but no deals.  The product wasn't quite ready for market.

The third generation of Bowkaddy was spruced up a bit.  The aluminum was anodized in black, giving it a very appealing image.  Also, some of the dimensions were modified to increase rigidity and improve compatibility with some of the long-riser bows that were coming out.  Again, it was "as good as it could get".

The summer of 2004 brought a major strategy change.  With no takers on the licensing side, my prevailing thoughts turned to manufacturing and distributing the product - myself.  While my wife was still clinging to the less risky prospect of licensing, I began researching ways to economize Bowkaddy.  Two brackets were developed to improve product versatility.  One allowed Bowkaddy to be mounted on an ATV, the other in a pickup without a box liner.  Oh, and there was a change in material, too.  A metal Bowkaddy was never going to be marketable to the masses.  Injection-molded plastic is lighter and doesn't have to be welded, machined or anodized.  In other words, cheaper to make, cheaper to sell.

The Chinese Connection...

Now that my product portfolio was taking shape, I had one major hurdle to jump - finding a manufacturer that could build my products affordably and efficiently.  Failure to clear this hurdle would spell the demise of the entire project.  Enter Great Central Turf, an Illinois-based manufacturing and warehousing firm.  When asked why their quote was so much less than everyone else's, they responded, "Simple.  We get our manufacturing done in China."  And so a business relationship was born, which continues to this day.

A Systemic Approach...

In this very dynamic business of bowhunting, companies have but one choice:  innovate or fail.  Bow technology is constantly changing.  Each model year brings new geometries and compatibility challenges for Bowkaddy, not only with bows, but also the machines on which they are mounted.  Every fandangled bow limb and off-road vehicle design to come out in the past decade has led to one realization.  Bowkaddy is not just a bow rack; it's a  bow rack system.  So whether you have a Hoyt and a Honda or a Ten Point and a pickup, the system can be set up to work for you.  Circa 2009, the Bowkaddy Bow Rack System includes Bowkaddy, 3 different brackets, 2 different soft covers and a third-party accessory to allow the system to be used with crossbows.  Bowkaddy has  evolved into a high-end transportation device with users sporting it on their ATV's, UTV's, truck cabs, boats, workbenches and yes, even pickup boxes.  Interestingly, the latter application, the one which spawned the whole saga, has the smallest following.

The Evolution Continues...

Now more than a decade since Bowkaddy hit the market, I'm very excited to release the next iteration of the system.  The 2015 Bowkaddy model is bigger, stronger, and more compatible than ever before.  I've also endeavoured to do some rebranding in the form of a new logo, new packaging and a totally overhauled website.  If you're still reading it at this point, I guess it has served its purpose!  Oh, and I'm entering the social media era as well.  Keep an eye on the Bowkaddy YouTube channel and remember to "like" us on Facebook!

I am truly blessed with a company and product I'm very proud of.  Above that, a loving wife who allows me to chase my dreams around the continent during trade show season and two wonderful sons that keep the important things in perspective.  Here's a clip you'll enjoy from the Bowkaddy Kronicles...What It's All About.

What's In a Name?

People sometimes wonder how I came up with "Alaris Concepts" for a company title.  Well, for those who may think it's a bad misspelling of my first name, here's the story...

My Grandfather was an avid outdoorsman.  In fact, he was the one who got me hooked on fishing and hunting when I was just a young'n.  He was also an inventor.  Long before my time, he actually sought out a patent on a design for a humane muskrat trap.  Unfortunately, his design never received formal recognition.

Grandpa had two sons who both grew up hunting, fishing and inventing.  They were farmers, each with a unique talent for turning ideas into objects.  A fencing machine and a tractor-mounted hydraulic post-puller were just a couple of Dad's creations.

My Grandfather's name was Alfred.  My Father's name was Larry.  My name is Arliss.  Put these in a proverbial blender and you get...ALARIS.

"Alaris Concepts" was named to honour my Father and Grandfather ... their ambition, their intuition and their creativity.  Thanks for the inspiration.




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