It was while long-time friends Ben Bauer and Ed Uehling were hanging out that inspiration struck.
The region natives were sitting on the tailgate of Bauer’s truck when the question of comfort cropped up.
The friends said people often relax on their trucks’ tailgates so why isn’t there a cushier option?
“Ben came up with the idea while recovering from back surgery following a car accident. While dealing with the painful recovery from surgery, Ben was always looking for ways to make himself more comfortable,” Uehling said. “One day when we were sitting on the tailgate of his pickup truck, Ben had an epiphany. That’s when we decided to design, patent and provide this improved tailgate design for truck owners.”
The friends launched start-up King Tailgates a couple years ago and have since created and patented a prototype. The tailgate provides cushioned seating and options such as cup holders, USB outlet and Bluetooth speaker.
“We hope to make a big splash with tailgaters of all kinds. Sporting events are a big draw for us,” Uehling said. “Our product features removable stadium seat cushions, which can be customized to match team colors. It’s a great way to show your team spirit on game day.”
The two have varied backgrounds that help strengthen their business’s foundation.
“Ben has spent most of his professional career as a union carpenter. He also has experience in CNC machining and drafting, which was invaluable during our initial design phase,” Uehling said. “After completing my BA in communications at Westminster College, most of my career has been spent in either sales or management.”
Today, the team is tweaking the prototype’s final design and looking for strategic and manufacturing partners.
“We hope to partner with a capable manufacturer that can make some of our larger components,” Uehling said. “We do plan on having final assembly taking place at our facility at 1906 Evans Road in Valparaiso. We are aiming to use local Northwest Indiana companies to partner with on this project.”
Bauer and Uehling are working with NW-ISBDC business adviser Gary Brownlee.
“Gary has been a major asset to our project. He and the ISBDC have been amazing in providing us with insight and resources to strengthen our business plan,” Uehling said. “As with any business, we have encountered some obstacles along the way. One of the great things about Gary is that he provides excellent perspective.
“Especially in cases where we may have been looking at something through stale lenses, Gary has been great at providing fresh insights and getting us back on track.”
Their creation will be in the spotlight during the SEMA show, an automotive specialty products trade event, in Las Vegas.
“We are attending the show for the first time. We are extremely excited about the exposure we hope that will bring,” Uehling said. “Our long-term goal is to build a local facility capable of producing and assembling our entire product. We have other ideas and products we hope to bring into the line later down the road.”
For more information, visit www.kingtailgates.com.