JobSmith: An invention waiting for a market
It's the brand name of a unique product you've never heard of-yet.
And the "Jobsmith" mastermind is none other than ga lifelong "shadetree mechanic" from Dent: Dan Darco.
The JobSmith, as vastly oversimplified explanation, is a lawnmower-shaped power unit with the ability to convert to a snowblower, posthole digger, pressure washer, power generator, trencher, chipper-shredder and more--in only 30 seconds. Each different attachment, and there could be as many as 30 of them, fits seamlessly and easily to the front end of the power unit.
Now, if only Darco could get the prototype into production and off to the market.
With its 18 horsepower, two cylinder, industrial-grade engine, the JobSmith is a unit aimed at the more discriminating customer.
"We're not necessarily aiming at the mass market," said Darco, a 1974 graduate of Perham High School. "We're looking at the Baby Boomer who is retiring, buys five acres of land, and needs a higher grade piece of equipment."
So, while the JobSmith is built for the more ambitious homeowner and landowner--it is also commercial and industrial grade.
JobSmith idea born out of frustration
Darco's idea surfaced over the past two years. It was an Easter weekend when the light bulb first lit in his mind. He had rented a stump grinder. Sure enough, he brought it home and it wouldn't run--so Darco the mechanic ended up cleaning the carburator and tuning it up.
One of the problems with single-application equipment, such as a snowblower, is that they're used for a month or two, then they sit for months at a time.
"When you need it, the carburator is all gummed up, a mouse has built a nest in it, and it won't start," said Darco. With the JobSmith and its multi-use, multi-season applications, "it's ready to go."
For these reasons, Darco also sees great potential for the JobSmith at rent-all equipment retailers. With the JobSmith power unit, customers can rent any attachment they need--and the engine is tuned and operational.
Will JobSmith become the "Bobcat" on the market?
"It's a unique product...we haven't seen anything quite like it out there," said Darco.
There have been a few vaguely similar ideas, but Darco described them as "feeble attempts."
"When we hit the market, we will have imitators coming out of the woodwork. That's why, when we are ready to move, we have to hit it hard and fast," he said. "We want to be the benchmark. Like Bobcat. Even though there are lots of other manufacturers, people call them all 'Bobcats.'"
He's also considering an ice auger attachment to the JobSmith. With its industrial grade engine, power steering and five speed transmission, the JobSmith could bore through enough ice for a major fishing tourney in a matter of minutes.
Invention billed as a time-saver
"Because time is more than money..." is the slogan for the JobSmith, noted Darco. That's why the unit should be especially appealing to the young retiree and hobby farmer who values recreational and leisure time--along with time working on the property and land.
"People don't realize what it takes to go from an idea to the marketplace. My mind is a whirlwind--and I haven't even gotten it into production yet."
Darco is looking for an investment group that would be willing to take a gamble on the JobSmith.
"For our group alone, it would take a long time to get going," said Darco. "But if we had a broader investment group, we could get it rolling in six months. Ourselves, it would take a couple years."
Darco's present team includes a retired mechanic, a veteran salesperson, a machinist and other advisors with strong business backgrounds.
Dealers would most likely be companies specializing in outdoor power equipment, tractors and higher-end equipment.
"You wouldn't see it at a Lowe's, Home Depot or Menard's," said Darco, who is projecting that the power unit and three basic attachments will retail for about $9,000 to $11,000--depending on the attachments. Others can be purchased individually.
Darco a tinkerer since he was in Dent grade school
"I started repairing bicycles when I was about six-years-old...and lawnmowers when I was nine," said Darco, who followed in the footsteps of another lifelong mechanic and tinkerer--his father, the late Dan "Jay" Darco, who owned Dent Oil for decades.
"He was always monkeying around and tinkering with stuff," recalls his mom, Joanne. Dan Jr. worked at the family's Dent shop from essentially the age of 6 to 1994. He also owned the OK Tire shop in Perham until 1996.
Dan's father Jay died in March 2008, but Dan is carrying on the family tradition in many ways.
Not only did he invent and patent the JobSmith, but he continues in the tire and auto repair business. After selling his interests in the Perham tire store, in about 1996, he moved to Pelican Rapids, where he owns and operates the OK Tire franchise.
Dan's "formal" training can be traced to Perham High School--and Detroit Lakes. When he was in school, he spent most of his mornings in the small engine and mechanic vocational programs offered in Detroit Lakes.
Darco lives in Perham, in a new home built in the Mosquito Heights area.