VALPARAISO | Evan Merz was talking to a friend in the Electric Vehicle Club at Purdue University when the pair had an "aha moment" that turned them from students into entrepreneurs.
Merz, 22, of Valparaiso, and Joe Carabetta, 21, of Lake Zurich, Ill., are the co-creators of Kickr, a detachable electric motor for longboard skateboards. Longboards are longer and wider than traditional skateboards.
Merz said Carabetta, a fellow engineering student, showed Merz "a rough-looking prototype" just over a year ago.
"I said, 'Joe, we could be selling these like hotcakes if we do this right,'" Merz said.
Merz said the pair began working on the product about a year ago. Now, it's a full-time job for Merz.
"Our approach is different than most electric longboarding companies," Merz said. "We want to preserve the culture of longboarding and skateboarding and allow people to start with whatever they love about whatever they already have.
"It just so happens you can do that with less cost, less waste and less packaging, which is better for the environment."
The product is better for the user's comfort as well, he said.
"People are pretty particular about their stance and don't want to impact their riding habits," Merz said. "This lets you put it on wherever you want so you don't interfere with that."
When Kickr launched, Merz said he and Carabetta met their sales goal for the first month within a week.
"It shows a lot of promise," he said.
The pair is currently producing the product in West Lafayette and word of their product is spreading through online communities. Merz and Carabetta are using Kickstarter, a Web site allowing supporters to assist in funding independent projects.
"All of the project creators on Kickstarter are so friendly and supportive," he said.
Kickr – which has a battery life of about 6 miles and allows the board to reach speeds of 20 mph – currently sells for $399. Merz said the price is reasonable when you compare it to the $700 to $2,000 electric longboards.
"Joe and I share a passion for electric vehicles," Merz said. "One thing people don't realize enough is how recreational electric vehicles can be because they are so simplistic and responsive."