LITTLE ROCK – This was a big week at Walmart’s headquarters as entrepreneurs from around the country pitched their products at the company’s fifth Made in America event. It is an open call where new products are presented to Walmart with the goal of creating new manufacturing jobs in the United States.
This annual gathering is a celebration of America’s love of innovation and Americans’ unrivaled vision for improving the world. And the event puts some hard-working dreamers on the path to success.
The story of Brad and David Hill, father and son physical therapists in Bentonville, illustrates what can happen when creators find a way into the system. It is also a terrific story of a home-grown family company that has grown to include other Arkansans, who created a company of their own to take over the manufacture and sale of The Landle.
Brad and his dad invented The Landle, which is shorthand for the lifting handle, an idea that came to Brad in a dream. It is a heavy duty, extra wide strap with plastic handles that minimizes the strain and the risk of injury when you lift heavy or hard-to-handle articles such as couches, dressers, large boxes, and landscaping materials.
Over the next ten years, the Hills built a prototype, showed it around, refined the design, and found a manufacturer. Their first clients included DIY Network. It became a family business. Brad’s young children helped him box up the straps, label the boxes, and ship them.
Last year, the Hills presented The Landle at the fourth open-call, and Walmart picked up their product.
Suddenly, they found themselves with a Walmart-size order. Brad contacted childhood friends Weston Geigle and Michael Rateliff, whose education and experience were in business and mass retail. Weston and Michael bought the Hills’ company, and founded 12 Stone Brands through which they produce and market The Landle.
The Landle is made entirely in the United States. An injection molding company in Bentonville manufactures the handles. A company in Pryor, Oklahoma, sews it together.
The Landle is in more than 1,700 Walmart stores. QVC has shown it twice. It’s available on Amazon, and several other retailers have shown interest in The Landle. Brad attended this year’s open-call to pitch a new version of The Landle.
The Landle story has so many interesting elements, and it’s the kind of story a governor loves to tell because it embodies so many things that I think are important to making a state great.
There is the obvious entrepreneurial spirit that led to the creation of a product and two companies. There is a faith-based element: Weston and Michael took the name of their company from the story in the Bible in which God instructed Joshua to build an altar with twelve stones as a reminder of what God had done. There is the family element – a grandfather, son and grandchildren working together.
With Father’s Day on Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to mention the special relationship between Brad and David Hill. From the first time Brad mentioned his dream, his father was supportive. His father’s positive reaction was all he needed to pursue his dream. Brad tells people that without his dad, The Landle would not exist.
Congratulations to the Hills and to 12 Stone Brands. And thanks to Walmart, a company that constantly expands the vision of Sam Walton. These are the elements that have combined to make Arkansas a great place to live and work.