By Travis Hairgrove
Freshmen in Greenville High School’s engineering-centered Early College High School program Thursday gained a new level of understanding of the product design, production, marketing and the sales process as they toured Innovation First’s facility in Greenville.
The tour was led by John V-Neun, president of Innovation First’s RackSolutions division. The tech company’s other two divisions are HEXBUG and VEX Robotics.
As he led the students through the facility, V-Neun explained how engineers, market analysts, graphic designers, video producers, distribution warehouse personnel, metal benders and a myriad other professionals work together to create a product.
“When Tony (Norman) and Bob (Mimlitch) started Innovation First, they weren’t even sure what product or area they wanted to work in … but they knew they wanted to make new things that no one else is doing and they wanted to put creativity first, so they came up with the name, Innovation First,” V-Neun told the students.
“The process of releasing a product involves lots of people,” he continued.
“We have people who determine how a product would fit in the market … we have shelves that make it look like we sell HexBugs here, and that’s so we can come up with ways to present the products in stores, so that once we know how much shelf space they’ll have at Target, we can have a layout for them … we have people who make mockups for large toy fairs … we also have a full television studio, because every commercial made for our products is made here … and have engineers of all types working here, mechanical, electrical, pretty much all kinds of engineers except for nuclear,” V-Neun said with a chuckle.
Almost overwhelmed by the scale of the operation, many of the students’ questions dealt with numbers, such as “how many products do you ship each day,” “how long does it take for something that’s been designed to be ready to sell,” etc.
To almost all of the questions, V-Neun’s answer was that it depended on many, many variables, to give the students a sense of all the “moving parts” in production.
Throughout the tour, the chancellor of the early college high school program, Casey Chaney, made several comments, to help link what her students were seeing to what they’ve been learning in class.
“Learning from failure and not quitting when you don’t get something right the first time is very important in a field like this, but it’s also not the place for egos. Communication skills are also very important” Chaney said.
V-Neun added to Chaney’s comment, “I like to say that this place is built on mistakes, because you just have to keep making things a little better each time.”
But, if you think your idea is better than someone else’s, you really need to have solid proof that it’s a better idea and it’s not just because you like the idea more.”