If the mark of an entrepreneur is seeing opportunity where others don't, then Jan Nytzen and Bjorn Lowenhielm, founders of Universal Cart Systems Inc. in New York City, are entrepreneurs par excellence. In the seemingly mundane world of food cart manufacturing, the pair developed techniques that dramatically rearranged the economics of the product and provided entree to a multimillion-dollar opportunity.
Rather than welded steel, Universal's carts, which can be used for food service as well as merchandising, rely on modular components made from aluminum extrusions. "What was made by five workers in five days could now be done by one worker in a few hours," says Lowenhielm. "[We realized] this was clearly something that had significant potential."
The funds spent on research and development got Universal into initial production. With several units occupying New Jersey's Giant Stadium and with what Lowenhielm calls rave reviews from food-service contractor Aramark in Philadelphia, the company is now ready to launch a full-scale rollout of the product.
To do it right, Nytzen and Lowenhielm figure they'll need an additional $500,000 and eventually as much as $1 million. But with $1 million already invested, the co-founders are looking for "angel" investors with the kind of equity capital that will drive Universal to its next growth level. While they know the money exists, there is less certainty regarding the kind of angel investor they need.
David R. Evanson, a writer and consultant, is a principal of Financial Communications Associates in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Art Beroff, a principal of Beroff Associates in Howard Beach, New York, helps companies raise capital and go public.