LAPEER — If you’ve ever thought up a great product but didn’t know how to get it off the ground, talk to Joe Engle. He’s got experience.
Last Christmas, Lapeer resident Engle built a weatherproof enclosure so that his parents could watch TV outdoors during the spring, summer and fall seasons.
His gift was the enclosure with a 32-inch flat panel television and a mount for installation on their deck.
“I’ve wanted for a long time to be able to watch the Red Wings or Tigers out on the deck on a nice day and not be cooped up inside,” Engle said.
He said he looked for outside TV enclosures but couldn’t find them. So, he decided to build one himself. After showing the enclosure to his friends, they all said more or less the same thing — great idea, you should sell it. So that original became the prototype for what is now called Rain Case.
The case is both weather and insect resistant and can be safely installed on a universal mount for the appropriate size television. It’s also equipped with a lockable latch to provide security for the TV inside.
Rain Case is built with painted powdered aluminum on the back and sides of the TV, with sealed holes in the back for cords into and out of the TV. The front of the enclosure is a removable cover, so when it’s time to watch TV you’re watching the actual screen, not a screen filtered through a plastic cover.
Engle said getting the case produced and marketed, and finding its capital funding, seemed a daunting task for a full-time mechanical engineer. At least until Engle found kickstarter.com, an online fundraising site for business ideas. Engle is using the site to help determine if there is a market for the case before fully funding the production.
So far so good for Rain Case, Engle said.
The product can be viewed at www.kickstarter.com/projects/raincase/rain-case-tv-entertainment-for-your-great-outdoors.
“We’ve had about a year of testing on three different prototypes, and we’ve sold about 10 by word of mouth,” Engle said. “We’re using a company called Precision Prototype in Lansing to do the laser cutting, welding and painting. We do the final assembly in a large pole barn in Lapeer.”
Engle is currently taking orders for the first run of production of his new invention. The price is $325, and the case is available in the colors of rust, sandstone and black. If orders take off, Engle said he’ll soon be looking for larger manufacturing space.
Engle graduated from Kettering University in Flint with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a management minor. He is currently a graduate student in Kettering’s MBA program.
More at www.raincase.com.