Quirky, the New York startup that empowers amateur inventors to put their designs into production, releases new products at a breakneck speed. Two per week, to be exact, sold on the Quirky website until demand subsides. But a recent submission from a Georgia Tech grad named Jenny Drinkard struck the company’s team of designers and engineers as special—special enough to warrant major changes to Quirky’s tried-and-true system of manufacturing and distribution. Her design will be the first product Quirky has ever produced stateside, and it’s already been picked up by retailers like Fab.com and Target.
Drinkard’s idea was to reinvent the milk crate. She patterned it with modular holes that accommodate a number of accessories, from whiteboards to wheels, and made it stronger to accommodate heavier loads. Quirky’s team immediately saw huge potential in the simple submission. "When Jenny came to Quirky, she had a really good definition of what the problem she wanted to solve was," says the 25-year-old founder of Quirky, Ben Kaufman, on Vimeo. She was pitching the perfect piece of college dorm furniture. It could stack to form strong bookshelves or a little stool, it rolled easily, and (importantly?) it could be easily cleaned.
But in order to have The Crate ready to ship in time for back-to-school season, they’d need to move at a breakneck speed. To cut down on shipping time, the young company decided to make their first foray into U.S.-based manufacturing. "For over two years we’ve been doing business overseas," says Kaufman. "Now, we’re bringing the business back here." The Crates are tooled in New Jersey and assembled in Vermont.
Fellow design startup Fab.com nabbed first dibs on selling the crates (there’s about a day left on the sale), but they’ll be available at Target nationwide on July 1st. That’s a huge step forward for Quirky, not to mention Drinkard, who was working in China when she sold the concept to the website for development.
Though The Crate is Quirky’s first U.S.-made product, it won’t be the last. Kaufman says that the company will continue developing products for U.S. manufacturing, and they’ll document the ongoing process in a series of bi-weekly videos.