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Turning a Hobby into a Bright Business

Jason Christiansen has heard all the familiar comparisons between running a business and being a team player, but as a former major league baseball player, he steps to the plate with a unique perspective. Christiansen talks about building Rigid Industries and how the company deals with imitation product lines and compares the pressure of standing on the mound to standing before his team of employees. Created by Kauffman Foundation.

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Video transcript

- Jason Christiansen. I'm the President/CEO of Rigid Industries. We manufacture floor projection LED lighting, anything from a combine to a tank to an ATV to a boat, a very diverse product line. It started as a hobby, and I was putting aftermarket product onto some off-road vehicles. I had a large pickup truck, and one of my friends introduced me to a person that had some prototype LED light bars. My neighbor saw it. Hey, can you do one for me? And I had just retired from baseball, so I had time on my hands. I started in my garage. I didn't have any idea that it was gonna become what it is today. Not being an expert by any means in lighting, electronics. I don't even know how to solder anything to a board. I just knew, based on my background and what I like. It's crazy to think what I like would actually work, but it really did. I had a vision on where this was going, a new technology that I felt we could grew. We didn't need a lot of money out of the company to get it up and running. Part of a fast-growing company, you can't do everything yourself, and you have to put smart people in the right places, and bringing my partners on has really helped accelerate that process. And from that moment on, it absolutely exploded, and we haven't looked back since. There wasn't a lot of downside to what we were doing. Everything was very positive, positive, positive. So we really stayed pretty focused on what we needed to do in that niche market to make sure we continued to move forward. It was hard at times because sometimes you find opportunities that may take you off your path. You really gotta be disciplined to make sure that you continue to stay with what you're good at. You might start hearing from maybe ag people, farmers, asking for a specific light for a specific project. We sit down as a team and we go over it. It's almost like a focus group, where we talk about different products. What's the potential for it? We give it a rating. If the rating is high enough, it will go to the design phase, and we'll do an S layer, a prototype, and see what does it look like? How does it feel? What's the weight gonna be? How much light output are we gonna get out of it? Are we getting 10,000 units out of this in the first year, or we getting 150,000 units out of this? What is our margin on it? Is it what the customer wants? Is it what we wanted? Is it a Rigid product? Those are all things we take into account as well. When you have big companies knocking at your door, asking you to design something, a company like a Toyota or a John Deere comes knocking on your door, it's hard to say no to companies like that. But if we don't have the infrastructure set and we're not ready for that, it was gonna make us fail.