Inventor Nathan Scolari takes a stand on cycling with Zike

Inventor Nathan Scolari takes a stand on cycling with Zike

As an avid inventor, Nathan Scolari has been sketching innovative ideas into a notebook since his childhood in Buffalo, N.Y. He came to Greenville in 1988 to attend Bob Jones University, but it wasn’t until he saw a commercial four and a half years ago for a product he had a similar design for that he decided to take the plunge into creating an invention-oriented company.

“It was about the 20th thing on TV that I had seen that I had similar sketches for,” said Scolari. “Before, I was depressed when I saw them, but when you don’t have the resources and knowledge to move forward, it makes it tough. But that time I got really ticked off and decided to do something about it.”

Everything on the line 

Part bicycle, part stair-stepper, Scolari says he invented the Zike to get people outdoors and get a workout by blurring the line between having fun and exercising. He offers eight different Zike models for young kids to adults, with a target demographic of ages six to 13.

Scolari said a friend warned him only 2 percent of inventors make it, but he was determined. It took about three and a half years to get the Zike from concept to market, and Scolari laid it all on the line, using his own money and even selling his fallback plan – his landscaping business that he had built up to more than 30 employees over the years.

Scolari said he was very careful about getting a quality product to market. “Our product is a bit over-engineered, but it’s very important that we have a product that people see as quality that we can build on,” he said.

From concept to 3-D

 

Scolari is founder, CEO and largest shareholder of the 15-employee company, which has a five-member board made up of some of its 30 investors. Scolari said he wanted the best and brightest on his team, but also people he can trust. Two brothers from Croatia who worked in Scolari’s landscaping business are employees. George Reiter, a former GE vice president, is considered to be the company’s “experienced Einstein,” who garnered more than 100 patents for GE before he retired and came to work for Zike.

While Zikes aren’t manufactured here yet, they are conceived in the company’s engineering facility in Greenville – an unmarked building off Rutherford Road. All designs, tooling and prototyping are done here, said Scolari.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.33.10 AM“We take Nate’s creative mind and turn it into 3-D,” agreed one of his engineers. The company is very protective of its intellectual property designs, and all prototyping for the Zikes is done at the Greenville facility.

Due to cost demands, the product is manufactured in China, where Scolari said it costs about 30 percent less to build than in the U.S. After about 18 trips back and forth to China, Zikes are currently made in Disney-approved factories, which Scolari said are held to the highest standards.

Testing, quality control and any repairs for customers are done in Greenville.

The Zike team works closely with its lawyers, McNair Law Firm, on patents. Scolari said he has about 60 patents he is either working on, are pending or already awarded.

New inventions are kept in a locked room referred to as “Deep Six.” Scolari said the name is taken from the nautical term that means to dive deep to six fathoms. Zike’s Deep Six room is top secret and off limits to the public and even some Zike personnel, protecting the company’s most important ideas.

The Deep Six room contains “bikes unlike any other bikes and scooters unlike any other scooters,” Scolari said.

An Upstate test market

 

Zike uses its retail location on Pleasantburg Drive as a test market, asking customers what colors they like best and what they like most about the products they’re trying out.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.33.17 AM“It’s a great way to get feedback,” said Scolari. “As we unfold products, we’ll first sell them in Greenville and then distribute nationally and internationally.”

So far, Zikes are sold in just a few toy stores, novelty and bike stores across the country. This is the company’s second Christmas with the product, and they hope to sell around 30,000 this year. A new aggressive marketing campaign has just kicked into high gear with a redesigned website and commercial ad spots running on Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network. Zike also just launched a video-editing contest through its Facebook page.

The company also has its first shipments headed for a trial run in just over 100 Toys R Us stores this week. Scolari hopes this will open doors, and he expects to be in additional big-box stores by spring 2015. A trip to a toy fair in Cologne, Germany, this year may open new international opportunities.

A new line coming out next year is slated to be made in Tennessee. “It was very important for us to have a made-in-the-USA product,” said Scolari. He hopes to one day move manufacturing of all Zikes to either to South Carolina or at least close by in the U.S.

For more information, visit zike.net.



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