A tote for the harvest

While hunting in the fall of 2004, Robert Peyton harvested a deer on the top of a mountain in Fayette County, but he couldn’t lift it onto his ATV to take home. He struggled for more than two hours before he finally was able to hoist the deer up and onto the vehicle using the ATV winch and a tree limb.

On his way home from a similar experience the following year, Peyton, who is associate pastor at Shining Light Celebration Church on Charleston’s West Side, prayed about his dilemma.  “I told the Lord, ‘Lord, I know you wanted me to have that deer, so I’m sure you want me to get it home.  Please show me how I can do that.’” On the road ahead of him, he saw a truck pulling a small forklift on a flatbed trailer, and the idea for his ATV Tote came to him.

It took some trial and error, but he used the skills he learned as a former maintenance supervisor for a mining company to weld a trailer hitch onto a small grated dolly and attached it to his ATV. He then took it into the woods to test it out. Peyton did this over and over again until he had a dolly that could handle the rugged mountain terrain and carry a heavy load.

He began asking around to see if any manufacturers would be able to make his design and whether any stores would sell them. They were all interested and wanted pictures, but he didn’t want anyone to steal his idea, so he paid for a provisional patent to provide patent protection.

“After I paid $3,000, I discovered that provisional patents only last for a year,” Peyton said. He continued working to get his idea to market when a friend told him the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) might be able to help get his idea off the ground.

The design engineers at RCBI worked with Peyton to create a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing that he could take to manufacturers to explore production options.

He also used the design and his homemade prototype to pitch his idea at an RCBI Early Stage Funding Opportunity committee meeting. It was there that he met a representative from the WV Hive Network, a small business support program serving southern West Virginia, that provides one-on-one business advising. The Hive assigned Peyton a business advisor to help him along his journey. They helped him identify who his audience and customers are, how to reach them, the cost to produce the product and how to get the product to market.

Peyton said the Hive has helped him conduct a patent search and helped him with opportunities to pitch his idea to potential investors. “I travelled all over the state making pitches to people,” Peyton said. In addition, the Hive is currently working with him through various vendors to produce a commercial and product instructions for customers. They also have plans to assist in securing a utility patent before the expiration of the provisional patent.

Peyton’s advisor at the WV Hive has enjoyed working with him. “Mr. Peyton is wonderful to work with,” said Anna Marie Hatcher, Regional Business Advisor. “He is passionate about his idea and is willing and  committed to doing the work it takes to succeed in taking his idea into the market.”

But it was at home one evening that he discovered the opportunity that would help him get to the production phase.

“I was watching TV one evening and saw a story about the Kanawha County Commission offering $10,000 forgivable loans to businesses in the eastern part of the county, so I applied for one of the loans and got it,” he said. The loan is part of the Upper Kanawha Business Assistance Program (UKAN), which is designed to encourage the start up and expansion of businesses in an area that has been hard hit by the decline of the coal industry, jobs and population. In addition to the UKAN loan, the Kanawha County Commission is helping to  fund work by a patent attorney and connected Peyton to a pro bono business coach who is helping him set up his bookkeeping system for his business.

Peyton said it is the money from that loan that has helped him get his ATV Tote into production, using the services of another RCBI client, John Beaver at West Virginia Manufacturing Solutions in Montgomery, W.Va.

Peyton’s company, Peyton Enterprises, now has a website to showcase and sell his ATV Tote with the help of a marketing grant from Advantage Valley, a regional economic development organization.

“Robert was at the point that he was ready to go to market with his product, he just needed a little bit of help with getting a website and some marketing materials together,” said Terrell Ellis, Executive Director for Advantage Valley.

Peyton made the connection with Advantage Valley through a presentation at a second RCBI Early Stage Funding Opportunity meeting.

“RCBI’s Early Stage Funding program is the largest of its kind in the state,” said Derek Scarbro, director of RCBI’s Appalachian Hatchery. “To date, our ESFO has distributed more than $639,000 to nearly 170 startups and entrepreneurs.”

“Robert’s journey is a great example of the entrepreneurship ecosystem we have here in West Virginia,” Scarbro said. “Each group has used its area of expertise to help him get his ATV Tote to market. This is a prime example of how each of these groups plays a role in the success of West Virginia’s entrepreneurs.”

Peyton is thankful for each of the groups that have been able to help him. “I’ve been blessed,” he said. “Every time I turn around, a door has opened and I just walk through it. I know that if the Lord is for me, I will win.”

Peyton’s effort to get his ATV Tote into production and on the market has taken a lot of patience and faith. His wife was recently diagnosed with cancer, but he says she is doing better. Now that his website, www.atvtote.com is live, he’s ready to sell his ATV Tote to fellow hunters.