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
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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...
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.
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.