David Julian is a small-town guy with big ideas and a steady hand.
He hails from Arlington, S.D., and spends most of his free time dreaming up new inventions and new excuses to fire up his plasma cutter. While Julian hasn’t yet made his entrepreneurial endeavors into his sole breadwinner, he is working toward that goal. Dakotafire recently sat down with Dave to see how he is sparking rural revival.
What is your process? How did you become an inventor?
Almost everything I invent is because I needed it. I think that is how most inventions are. The first guy to invent the pencil didn’t do it overnight; he had a need, and a lot of work and effort went into the first pencil. Every invention spawns another invention. I start with an idea in my head and create a prototype with my hands. Some work, some don’t.
What do you make?
Payliner is a poly liner for pay-loaders, excavators, skid-steers, tele-handlers, etc. They are nonstick, and each one is custom. Hitchcaddy is for carrying your extra hitches in the bed of the truck and also Plasmapro plasma cutting templates.
It seems conceptualization is your strong suit. What is your weakness?
Marketing and salesmanship are not my strong points. The biggest thing out here (in rural South Dakota) is getting noticed. It’s hard to be the guy that makes it and the guy that markets and sells it, and I’d rather be the guy that makes it.
How do you protect the ideas that you come up with?
Be careful about patent and copyrights. Right now, I have one patent pending and one procedural copyright. But patents aren’t really for the little guys like me—they’re for big companies. You can easily sink 10 grand into the patent process, and then spend $100,000 defending it.
How would you like to see the “big guys” helping the “little guys?”
South Dakota has a lot of websites for the government, not a lot for the people. What about a website showcasing local talent? South Dakota should be promoting their own from within—maybe, a weekly showcase … one week Bob’s widgets and another week John’s gadgets, etc.
What would you do differently?
Education, education, education. In marketing, sales, business, you name it. Hiring a marketing professional is out of my comfort zone. I wish I knew more about it. I think a lot of folks are like that.
What’s most important for business?
Customer service and quality. I don’t want a customer coming back for a replacement. My stuff is made to last and high quality. More stuff should be like that.
Any parting wisdom?
Oh, yeah—take advice.
Are you interested in having your own business? Here are some starting points:
The Small Business Administration has resources for business planning, patent searches and federal procurement applications, as well as a small-business mentorship network.
This companion website to the magazine of the same name offers many easy-to-digest articles and resources for everything from sales to marketing.
These offices provide a variety of services to new business owners, from planning to training on new technology and much more.
Contact your local development corporation, planning district, chamber of commerce or municipal government. Chances are they have information about grants, low-interest loans and market research.