Sawtooth started after DJ Potter went on a camping trip to the Sawtooth Mountains. During a rainstorm, all of his gear got soaked and muddy because he didn’t have a cover on his truck bed. When he returned home, he searched for a solution, couldn’t find one, and eventually arrived at a novel idea: a new type of tonneau, or truck bed cover, that stretches to fit the size and shape of your cargo.
Fast forward to today, Potter is now in the Master of Business Creation program at the David Eccles School of Business with patents pending on this and another product for cars. “With Sawtooth you can load more, haul more, and do more,” he said. Potter is now on his way to growing a $30 million company within five years. “While in the MBC program I have gained additional tools and skills that have allowed me to look at business and, more specifically, my startup with a critical eye,” he said.
Learn more by reading the Q&A below with Potter or visiting the Sawtooth website at sawtootht.com.
When did Sawtooth start, and what inspired it?
Sawtooth has been in the idea stage for a couple of years. It was only in the last two months have we actually started working with suppliers for production and taking pre-orders. I created Sawtooth because it was a need I had and there was no clean solution, before mine, in the market. I was on a camping trip to the Sawtooth Mountains. We had a lot of gear in my pickup truck bed. It rained, and the dirt roads turned to mud. Rain and mud ended up coating all of our camping gear. On top of that, we lost some gear. The trip was ruined. When I got home, I tried to find a product that would cover all of our gear. Nothing on the market existed that would neatly and cleanly expand over tall cargo, protect and secure it. Recognizing an obvious gap in the market, I designed and built the product I needed.
What products do you have at Sawtooth?
Sawtooth has two products. Our first product is the tonneau cover. A tonneau is a pickup truck bed cover. Ours is unique in that it is the only one that will stretch and expand over cargo taller than the bed walls. No other tonneau made by any other manufacturer does this. In fact, if cargo touches their tonneaus, it voids their warranties. There are about 52 million registered pickup trucks in the U.S and less than a fourth of those have tonneaus.
Our second product is the world’s most aerodynamic, most compact, and lightest cartop cargo carrier. It’s similar to our tonneau in function and, like the tonneau, is the only cartop carrier on the market that lays flat when not in use and can stretch to cover cargo. Our cartop carrier is attractive to the eye both flat and when loaded with cargo. We have patents and patents pending in North America and Europe. Our patents and patents pending alone cover half the world’s vehicles.
Why are you interested in the cargo industry?
What excites me is that we are offering products no one else offers. We have a contrarian opinion about cargo management that is unique in the industry. We think you can load cargo faster, carry cargo easier, and look better in the process with more and better functionality. No longer are you limited by other cargo management companies’ products. With Sawtooth you can load more, haul more, and do more.
What’s your background?
Prior to returning to the University of Utah to get a Master of Business Creation, I had recently left the corporate world to pursue building and growing my own business, Sawtooth. I was a senior project manager for one of the world’s leading engineering firms. I was managing international projects. Some highlights from my career include being an integral member of the construction management team that built the Miller Motors Sports Park (now Utah Motorsports Campus) and operating the largest wind farm in Southern Idaho. Furthermore, I have managed projects from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Lima, Peru. I obtained a BS in construction management from Weber State and a graduate certificate in wind energy management from Texas Tech University.
What have you accomplished so far with the company in MBC?
When I entered the MBC program, my startup, Sawtooth, had a prototype product, a website, and some industry contacts. While in the MBC program I have gained additional tools and skills that have allowed me to look at business and, more specifically, my startup with a critical eye. This critical perspective has helped me think in a way that has allowed me to come to market quicker. Also, the program made me think about Sawtooth as more than a single-product company but rather a company that will produce many unique products over the next five and 10 years. By the end of the program, we will be fully operational and shipping product. Most importantly, Sawtooth has made its first pre-order sales directly to consumers since joining the MBC program.
What is the best thing or things about the MBC program?
The best things about the MBC program are the professors, teachers, and cohort, and the expertise they bring. The professors and teachers have already been in our situation. Their sharing of their startup knowledge and experiences have been tremendously helpful for me in starting and growing my business. This is truly a unique program and opportunity. In the program, you feel a lot of excitement. The MBC professors and teachers are engaging, thought-provoking, and most importantly willing to provide guidance. I believe the MBC program has given me the foundation to build a world-class company. I feel fortunate and grateful to be in the MBC program.
What do your sales look like?
We just started pre-order sales. Our first shipment will go out in March. We are forecasting our first-year sales to be just under $1 million. Our goal is to be roughly $30 million in annual sales by year five.
Do you have any other major business milestones to share?
We have made a lot of headway considering we haven’t even shipped our first unit yet. We have introduced our products to major US automakers. The feedback we have received from these companies has been overwhelmingly positive and we are in discussions with them to help us sell and distribute our products. Additionally, we are in discussions with nearly all the major automotive accessory distribution companies. We have the right contacts and relationships to make Sawtooth into truly a world-class operation.
What are the short and long-term goals for the company?
Our initial immediate goal is to release our first shipment in March. After that, our goal is to build out our production, sales, and marketing teams. We have a detailed and robust plan that is broken into three-to-six-month segments for the next 60 months, demonstrating how we are going to accomplish these goals. We have planned our work. Now, it’s time to work our plan.