Entrepreneur learns the business side of science
armONx of Pasco County
Cyrus Robinson noticed a problem. It’s a problem that most homeowners have experienced at one time or another: dark, unsightly oil stains on their driveways.
Using his 30 years of experience working in the surface science industry, Robinson set out to find a solution to this problem. While there were already several cleaning solutions on the market directed towards this problem, he wanted to create a product that would clean the concrete without having to rub and scrub.
“Our solution works automatically with just sunlight and it works durably,” Robinson said. “What that means is that when you apply this to the surface of concrete, the concrete becomes self-cleaning with sunlight.”
In 2011 he created a product that breaks down oil stains, mold, and mildew on concrete by harnessing the natural power of the sun. The solution he’s created can be applied to the surface of existing concrete or stirred into the concrete directly during the mixing process.
“Our biggest challenge was the fact that we had a brand new product,” he said. “So to be able to entertain folks with its benefits, show them what those are, and convince them of that, especially when it sounded to good to be true, was difficult.”
That is exactly why Robinson reached out to the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development. He needed answers to the nuts and bolts questions regarding how to start and operate a business. He got those answers from consultants Mario Iezzoni and Wayne Brass.
Robinson worked with Iezzoni, a CPA, on the basic accounting and tax issues at hand. Iezzoni also assisted Robinson when determining the appropriate type of corporation for his business and the advantages they came with.
Brass has been assisting armONx on and off since a year before the inception of the initial product. Over the six-year stint, the two have worked together in a plethora of areas including marketing, sales, and networking.
“Wayne has been very helpful in coordinating our contacts with other experts,” Robinson said. “He’s helped us out with ideas with respect to making our product standout. It’s a unique, new product but it still has to standout when sitting next to other products, especially ones that may not have worked in the past.”
Currently Robinson and Brass are developing a plan for winning new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. With competition being intense for these grants, they are working on showcasing the correct aspects of armONx. When it comes time for Robinson to talk with government agencies interested in funding new high tech projects, he will have a more refined, focused pitch.
While growth tends to be a slow and grueling process, their hard work paid off recently when Skanska, one of the largest construction companies in the world, started using Robinson’s water resistant self-cleaning concrete.
“They’re using the product in their proposals to attract customers to them instead of other construction companies because they have access to this brand new technology,” Robinson said. “We’re very pleased that we’re having some success in the market. We can always have more of course, but at this point we’re very pleased with the way things are going.”
Robinson says he looks forward to years of continued fruitful collaboration with Brass and the Florida SBDC at PCED.
“I believe that other small business can also avail themselves of the services here at the Florida SBDC at PCED,” Robinson said. “I think the wealth of experience and the depth of knowledge that one has access to is a real tool that is useful and very helpful. I think it’s really a great resource and it certainly has helped us over the years.”