We’re sitting down with RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP) participants to learn their stories, find what inspires them and share with the community.
SuperCat Solutions launched in 2010 and is now run by father-son duo, Steve and Jimmy Thrasher. The two were thoughtful, engaging and share a love of music, with Jimmy being a talented instrumentalist and aspiring singer-songwriter while Steve enjoys The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and singing and playing his guitar for a howling audience: his dog.
Q: What does SuperCat Solutions do in a nutshell?
A: We solve a problem for companies with outside sales teams. It can be very difficult to equip sales reps with the complete, timely, and accurate information they need to present products and serve customers well.
Before we developed eCat, companies would give sales reps catalogs, loose sales sheets and price lists, then expect the reps to manually keep them updated. The paper sales materials would often end up just rolling around disorganized in the trunk of the rep’s car. Reps would have to check product availability by calling customer service. I don’t know how they did it. Our first client replaced over two tons of paper sales materials with our ‘eCat’ iPad app. We consolidated that info in an interactive product catalog so reps could quickly find products based on customer needs, then see everything they needed to know about a product at a glance – what the product looks like, availability in any warehouse, price at any price level, discounts, etc. eCat enables reps to use their time to serve customers and write orders instead of organizing sales materials and looking for information. It also makes it easy for companies to automatically distribute information to reps, saving them time and money. Today, we also offer self-serve options so our clients’ customers can place their own B2B orders, check inventory balances, view order status and track shipments, print product tear sheets, etc.
SuperCat’s eCat service is industry agnostic. It can work for any company that has sales reps and products that can be photographed. Our sweet spot is companies with about $10M – $500M in sales. And it helps if they have an IT team.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
A (Steve): I developed eCat to solve problems I had as Operations Manager for a furniture company. The company’s three partners and I started the business together when we saw potential and interest after rolling out eCat for our company at North Carolina’s High Point furniture trade show. Back then the majority of the world had never seen an iPad. So our application was a hit with sales reps and manufacturers right out of the door.
With just one customer in early 2011, I started pounding pavement to build it up. In 2014, I traded my retirement plan for my three co-founders’ equity in SuperCat Solutions and quit my steady job. It just became too much to do two jobs. Jimmy bought into the company a month after that. It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed working with him. We’ve had a fair amount of success and are looking to grow a lot more.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
(Jimmy): Providing value to people in a way that it’s obvious I had a hand in is very satisfying. This is spoken as a person that came out of corporate America, where I was layers away from any sort of tangible proof that I did anything that someone cares about.
(Steve): I echo that sentiment. I’ve always loved creating, solving problems and serving and helping people. All of those components come together in this business almost every bit of every day. I keep reminding myself why I am here. It’s not about money or building a unicorn company. It’s about serving people and knowing we’re doing a good thing.
We’ve watched early stage companies pull us in, use us to help them grow, and become stark raving fans. It saves them so much time and helps them do their job better. It’s also fun to see eCat become indispensable to people who generally avoid technology.
And it’s great to see how much clients value what we provide.
At one point we even had a direct competitor startup offering half the price of our solution to customers plus a free website. I ran into him at a trade show and he said, “Your customers reeeally like you. I can’t get them to switch!”
Q: What companies or mentors have been especially helpful to you during your time in the RAP program?
A: Tom (RIoT Executive Director) and Rachael (RIoT Program Director) are awesome. Every conversation has been extremely helpful. Other aspects of the program that have been really valuable for us are the contacts they put us in touch with. Contacts like Fourscore Business Law and various other people are valuable.
Q: Do you have any other role models or companies that have inspired you, either prior to or during your time in RAP?
A: We’ve been participating in CED’s Venture Mentoring Service for a year and a half. Ken Romley, Ed Sykes and Skip Williams have been extremely helpful. Their advice is based on years of relevant experience and right on target.
Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
A (Steve): My biggest takeaway from RAP has been to hire early, hire fast, make decisions quickly – and to build a team as quickly and early as you possibly can. We didn’t do that. Now we’re covered up with work and it’s constraining our growth.