“Find a job you enjoy doing and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Mark Twain’s famous quote is more than just lip-service. It’s our mantra.
Passion is contagious. It flows from one person to another, feeding the energy and drive from employees to customers. The projects that have the most success are those that our team and customers are most excited about. When we have these types of projects, our passion for design and product development translates into helping our customers realize their dreams.
Customers come to us with a dream of a product that they want made into reality. In order to give them the very best experience and end product, we have to share their passion for the project. If we don’t, then we know we’re not the best fit for them. That’s why we pursue work we know we will be great at and help potential customers find a team better suited to their needs when we are not the best fit.
A good example of a recent project that inspired us is the MilaBox. MilaBox is a creative new look at the traditional mailbox. This design took the ‘bread loaf on a post’ look we all know and turned it into a smart mailbox – an exclusive experience in receiving and delivering mail packages.
Before we started the project, we went through several iterations of concepts and styles. We reviewed and onboarded the customer with our team. We then worked with the customer to get the exact design he wanted for his product launch. What we came up with was pretty AWESOME.
How Our Passion Translates into Artistic Production
Focusing our business development to match our skill sets ensures that when we take on a project, we’re giving it more than 100%. Working on something that you’re both good at and enjoy doing, creates a more efficient work flow and creates a better end product.
OUR STEPS TO GETTING STARTED
Initial Consultation – we learn about clients and our clients can learn about us.
If we aren’t the best fit, we help them find a team that is.
Research & Concepts – we deliver several conceptual ideas of an idea for a low-cost, fixed fee.
We don’t expect anyone to sign any contracts with us before knowing how we may approach their idea.
Review & Initiate Design Phase Contract – once concepts are delivered, customers can then decide to move forward with us or take another path.
These steps have allowed us to better tailor the level of complexity and future costs to the customer’s needs. This is a win-win for both our team and our customers where they better understand how we are going to approach their project and we better understand how we can best meet all their needs.
The Catania team takes our customers’ projects seriously. We want to be passionate about what we deliver and passionate about what we do.
The best work doesn’t always happen sitting behind a desk…meet the Mobile Design Lab.
When we think about our primary goal, it’s to provide our customers the best product development experience. We do that by thinking outside of the box and sometimes outside of the office. This philosophy inspired the creation of our mobile design lab, a fully-functional working lab that allows us to provide better customer service while nourishing our love of travel.
What exactly is a mobile design lab? We’re glad you asked.
It’s Not Just An RV
From the outside it looks like a typical RV. The front half is our living space, but it's the back half that provides us the space we need to fully conduct our business.
Our workspace has everything we need: a desk, 3D printers, a cleaning station, welder, mini mill, a giant toolbox, solder station, and an assembly table. It’s also 100% solar powered with no generator. Using solar energy allows us to be completely independent. We can park in front of any facility without relying on an outside power source. We have developed a deployable 2500 watt solar array that allows us to charge our 15 KiloWatt-Hours of Lithium Iron-Phosphate batteries even in cloudy conditions. And when it is time to move, we can stow the solar array and be on the go in a matter of minutes. This makes our mobile lab fully off grid and allows us to provide a climate controlled workspace while being ecologically sound and sustainable.
The solar panel array when stowed for travel.
The desk area is convertible and sits atop a huge tool cabinet
A family friendly way to take our office to our customers.
The toy hauler design allows us to open up space for a second desk space.
Recently, we traveled to visit our customer Jaia Robotics to work on a prototype. We went directly to the owner’s facility. Using the equipment in our mobile lab we were able to put together a prototype JaiaBot and deliver it to them in real-time. Being onsite allowed us to facetime directly with the customer which provided us immediate feedback resulting in a faster turnaround time.
Another added benefit of the mobile lab is bringing different engineering disciplines together in one place. In this case, we designed the housings, mechanism,s and related hardware while Jaia developed the circuits and software internally. Being in the same place at the same time allowed us to work hand-in-hand to integrate the prototype.
In situations where we aren’t responsible for the complete design, working in a single location to get the initial builds completed helps speed up the learning curve on these first prototypes.
Having a mobile shop provides us the tools needed to make design changes in real time while working to integrate our customers or third party components into our design.
But wait. There’s more.
We can provide all of Catania’s services straight from this mobile lab - including project management and product integration services. For example, Instead of a customer taking a product piece to a machine shop to be repaired, we can fix it for them in our design lab. This real time help provides solutions that save our customers time and money.
Travel is something we are truly passionate about, and the mobile design lab allows us to do that while still letting us work “from the office”. The inspiration we gain from new locations not only fills our creative wells, it makes us more productive for all of our customers, both near and far. No matter where we are, Catania is open for business.
Being there for our customers when they need us is just part of our service, now thanks to our mobile design lab we can also be there wherever they need us.
Studies show that organizations who use project management techniques are 28% more likely to meet their target business objectives.
But not all project management systems are alike.
Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.
Here at Catania, we individualize our project management techniques to provide the best fit to meet your needs. And it all starts with the people on our team.
Instead of focusing purely on project management, we focus on hiring people with passion who are at the top of the industry. Having personally worked in major corporations, we started Catania with the goal of helping others realize their dreams through customized strategies. We aim to produce the highest quality end-product–while at the same time scaling down the process to remove waste, save money, and keep the project running smoothly.
How Do We Get Results?
We start by meeting with you and your team to understand the core requirements for the end result- or the minimum viable product (MVP). As the customer, we want your experience with us to be as seamless as possible. So we’ll travel to your facility, attend your meetings, and dig in to learn all about your products and services.
Once we have a strong understanding of your needs, then we’ll develop a solid plan tailored specifically to your project, keeping in mind that flexibility with any plan is the key to success. We think long-term and invest in customers as partners.
Every project encounters its unique set of problems. We understand that. We also know that getting ahead of those problems is essential to saving money and keeping the program on schedule.
We avoid problems by making sure that we start off right. We staff our programs appropriately, knowing that more time spent by design and test engineers up front can avoid the need for a crisis team at the end.
And if we do encounter an unexpected challenge—because let’s face it—those happen, we do a complete root cause corrective action. At Catania, we don’t do Band-Aids. Instead, we fix the problem and move on. Our philosophy is the sooner an issue is caught, the simpler it is to fix.
How Can Catania Help You?
Maybe you’re considering hiring a full-time project manager, but you’re not quite there yet. Or you only have a short-term need.
Our experienced project management team is a great fit for companies looking to fill a temporary position. Our project managers use their diverse skill sets to wear multiple hats (project management, systems engineering, and program financing for example) and will represent you and your interests in front of your customers and staff.
Having big project management goals and expectations doesn’t mean using big company techniques. It means personalization and making the right decisions for the long term.
A product is more than the end result of an idea made into a real-life design. It’s your baby. Your brainchild. But seeing your dream made into a reality shouldn’t signal the finish line. The ultimate goal of any product is to serve its user beyond the original concept to give them the best results and experience possible.
The concept of user experience isn’t new, but it’s more important now than ever in today’s competitive global market. Here at Catania, we are passionate about creating designs that not only satisfy the customer’s expectations but also anticipate the user’s needs and wants—even if they aren’t aware of what those might be.
How exactly do we do that? We start by doing a deep dive into the user’s basic senses. Then, we ask questions and figure out how someone would use the product. Watching, “or imagining through a series of activities”, how the user interacts with the product allows us to anticipate potential problems and fix them while the product is still in the creation phase.
Recently a customer came to us with their design for an ab roller, now named the Ab Sculpt. The customer knew that he wanted the design to have better resistance than other ab rollers on the market. The solutions we came up with worked, but through pre-product testing, we realized the tire generated too much heat, making it unsafe for the end-user. We developed a heatsink that draws heat away from the system, protecting the user.
Enhancing user experience also involves the integration of aesthetics, the five senses, and perceived value. How a product looks, feels, and how easily it can be used all contribute to the user’s negative or positive reactions.
In the case of the Ab Sculpt, we anticipated features that would make it more valuable to use. We made the handles removable with 3 different angle settings and added a repetition counter that faces the user.
Creating an excellent user experience is more than just about the finished product. It involves all the stages of development, taking into account a user’s first interaction, subsequent experiences, maintenance, and the end result.
Making it all work together seamlessly is what we do at Catania.
Catania is founded upon the spirit of innovation because every member of the team is an innovator at heart. Most are also inventors. Christine Bralich is just one of those stories.
Christine has been working at Catania for a little more than a year. She is passionate about creating user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing products that provide solutions for customers. She is the perfect fit for the company’s mission and vision.
What is even more remarkable is that in her free time, she continues to create 3D designs and prototypes. In fact, she has equipped her home with a 3D printer just for the moment when inspiration strikes.
One example that comes to mind is Christine’s passion for surfing.
If you’re not familiar with surfing, just know that it involves wax. A lot of wax! In fact, aside from having a good board and some good waves, wax is the lifeblood of surfing. Surfers need to wax their boards before heading out into the ocean so they don’t slip off when that big wave comes. The problem with wax is that it melts, especially when it’s stored in a car with temperatures soaring into the triple digits. This waxy mess prompted Christine to design a surf wax dispenser prototype. The prototype collects the remnants then pushes them up from the bottom of the dispenser, creating a “wax stick” similar to a stick of deodorant.
After making a few adjustments to her dispenser prototype to get it working just right, she no longer has to worry about the wax mess and it is also easier for her to apply the wax to her board. Problem creatively solved!
When Christine graduated from University of Central Florida (UCF) with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, she started her career working in the corporate world, but most days she sat at her desk and did little hands-on work, which hardly satisfied her creative spirit.
“I feel like my impact at Catania is a lot more than my impact during my previous experiences,” said Christine. I get to see every aspect of the design phase of a product. I meet with inventors to get their requirements, come up with concepts for their ideas, model their concepts with the 3d modeling software, and build the final product. I get to work on everything from initial idea to final product,” she said.
What this means for Catania’s customers is they get a team of inventors and innovators that bring them through each phase of the design/build process to get their own products ready for market.
“I cannot think of a job that would suit me better. A job where I’m allowed to utilize my creativity and be super hands on,” said Christine.
The engineers at Catania have a creative flair and artistic approach to every design they do. This helps them envision limitless possibilities for their customers. Simply put, they are inventors who help inventors.
“When you work with Catania to design a product or invention, you are hiring a team of passionate individuals that work together to bring you innovative ideas that ensure the end-user will love your product,” said Stefanie Catania, CEO. “Christine is the perfect example of that. Her life and her designs are meshed together. She is doing what she loves and bringing her creativity and passion to every product she designs for our customers.”
“The majority of our clients, they come to us with an idea, having no sketches, and some high-level product requirements,” remarked Christine. “We have to take those requirements and run with it. We come up with creative solutions to solve their problems.”
“We have had customers who have come to us with ideas and we get back to them with concepts and it is nothing like there is on the market already. We bring them ideas they haven’t even considered.”
If you are ready to hire a team of inventors to help with your own invention or product, “All you have to do is come to us with an idea,” Christine added with a smile.
Engineers have made some pretty astonishing accomplishments in the past 100 years. In fact, it’s hard not to look at just about everything around you and not be amazed at how far technology has come in such a short time. So, with all these advancements in technology, how is it that the technology industry hasn’t done a better job of engineering a better work-life balance?
Most of us need to work. That’s a fact. But do we need to work on such a regimented schedule that our passion for what we do gets lost in the balance between work and life?
Some companies are slowly changing their view of the traditional 9-5, 40-hour work week to improve quality of life – believing a better quality of life will bring a better product. Catania is one of those companies. Passion is the basis to our success and the driving force behind our decisions; as a matter of fact, it’s the first thing we look for in new team members. Our team’s passion extends to the products we design, but that passion only thrives when it has been given the freedom and flexibility to flourish.
The irony in all this is that time and time again we’ve seen that the overall investment in time ends up being the same. When our employees are given the freedom and flexibility to manage their projects, they consistently return with innovative ideas and methods to tackle those projects. When the project is something they are passionate about, time no longer is relevant. They want to accomplish the vision for the product. In the end, it is a win for both our customers and our team.
Christine Bralich is a Catania Mechanical Engineer whose passion is evident both at work and in her free time. When not designing for Catania, Christine is passionate about advancing her knowledge in design and 3D printing. She attends Groundswell Startup’s 3D printing meet-ups and competes in their challenges for fun. Groundswell Startups is a Melbourne, Florida-based start-up incubator that helps start-ups succeed. She’s won many of these challenges as well as being a speaker for the event.
Ray Catania, CTO, and Stefanie Catania, CEO, are leading the team to have an optimal work-life balance. They both love to sail, travel and experience the world, and they integrate that passion into their work.
“We like to bring what we are experiencing in the world to our customers,” Stefanie said. “When we travel, we go to museums, art galleries, or walk around the city to see different types of architecture. Our experiences often prompt creative ideas to complex problems we’ve faced, or it may inspire us to modify a design or process, or even create something new.”
Stefanie adds, “The Catania team mentality is to have freedom outside of work to truly rejuvenate and bring an individual’s passion into their projects at work. We created this company so we could provide a transformative work environment for people. We want the people who work with us to have a life because there is more to life than work. For me, the love of running a company is enhanced by being able to travel with my family and homeschool my kids. Our focus is not to be the next 40-hour work week engineering company, but to create an environment that works for everyone.”
On Christmas Day 2021, SwiftPaws® was given the opportunity to show off the latest version of its lure controller at ESPN’s American’s Fastest Dog Competition.
In business for the past decade, SwiftPaws® (www.swiftpaws.com) holds the patent for lure coursing equipment and is currently the only professional manufacturer in the industry.
The competition took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Three-year-old Reas, a Whippet (a medium-sized breed of English origin descended from the Greyhound), raced the 100-yard dash in 5.669 seconds, with an average speed of 35.36 mph, according to disneysportsnews.com, in order to capture the coveted canine title.
Indeed, “capturing” is the key to winning the competition. In order to be the fastest, canines chase a lure. Dogs are visually stimulated, and the lure, which they believe to be a rabbit or squirrel, is actually a white plastic bag attached to a string. The lure can travel at speeds of up to 60 mph via a system of pulleys, using a remote control.
“The pulley system and controller are what set us apart from what’s been around,” explained Meghan Wolfgram, CEO and Founder of SwiftPaws®.
The controller uses a trigger mechanism similar to that of a power tool, can be set to various speeds, and can also reverse.
Speed control of the lure is vital to ensuring fairness and equity during such canine speed competitions especially due to various breeds competing against one another. This allows the human controller of the lure to take into account a canine’s personal preferences and idiosyncrasies during competition.
Ms. Wolfgram of Melbourne, Florida, is a canine aficionado, who wanted to design and mass-produce lure equipment not only for use during competition but to also provide dog lovers everywhere with options for exercising their beloved “best friends” wherever they live and play. From that desire came the creation of SwiftPaws’® products, including the SwiftPaws® Pro Alpha, for competitive use, and SwiftPaws® Home, for indoor and outdoor use.
One week before the competition, Ms. Wolfgram received a call from ESPN asking if she’d like to be interviewed at the event. The next thing she did was call Catania Enterprises. She had a makeshift controller to work the lure equipment which worked but she did not think it looked professional enough to represent her brand.
With only a week to go from concept to prototype, Catania Enterprises had to work quickly and also accurately. There would be no time for second chances. They had to get the controller housing designed correctly the first time around. Because SwiftPaws® and Catania Enterprises are located in Brevard County, Florida, both companies were able to work together in person to make Ms. Wolfgram’s dream a reality. Hand measurements were carefully taken to ensure accuracy, and a housing was created, taking into account previous internal designs that Catania Enterprises had not created themselves. Before one week, the prototype was delivered. Ms. Wolfgram was happy with the results, so much so, that Catania Enterprises has done two additional designs then started mass producing the controllers.
Catania Enterprises focuses on mass producing their designs, taking pride in creating “user-centric” products, such as handles or controllers, focusing on aesthetically pleasing designs, as well as ergonomically designed ones.
“They made a miracle happen,” said Ms. Wolfgram of the prototype controller.
To this day, she still receives telephone calls and emails about the ESPN interview and requests on how to purchase SwiftPaws® products.
“We have clubs all over the country that use our equipment,” added Ms. Wolfgram. “We aspire to be the Nike of dog sports.”
Even though they love to travel, Ray Catania, CTO, and his Stefanie Catania, CEO, realize that Brevard County is still home.
“We take a lot of pride in the companies here. There is a lot of talent in the area,” said Ray Catania.
“There are a lot of engineering resources in our area,” remarked Ms. Wolfgram. “But there is a lack of mechanical engineering resources that know how to work with something that can be injection molded. Designing for mass manufacturing is a real skill.”
Catania Enterprises’ company culture is based upon the premise that freedom begets creativity.
Ray Catania, CTO, Catania Enterprises, is a mechanical engineer who has always been passionate about creating innovative solutions. He and his wife, Stefanie Catania, CEO, started their business to help other small business owners and inventors turn their ideas into functional products with an artistic flair.
Before leaving his corporate engineering job in 2018, Ray recognized that the traditional 9 to 5, 40-hour workweek (which has morphed today into an 8 to 6, 50-hour workweek for many technical companies) breeds stress in employees, from the “TGIF syndrome on Fridays” to “I hate Mondays” attitude. After his first son was born, Ray was permitted, by the company he was working for at the time, to reduce his schedule to a 36-hour, four-day workweek, giving him more time to spend with family. A nice by-product of that decision was that he was much more efficient in his work, and a lot happier, too.
The Catanias realize how a happy work-life balance sparks creativity instead of putting out the fire. Having learned firsthand how much more efficient and happy employees can be when given a flexible schedule, the couple encourages employees to design their weekly schedules in order to be more successful in both their work and their personal lives. Because employees are more productive with this type of work arrangement, customer satisfaction is often exceeded.
Therefore, balancing employee flexibility with meeting customer’s needs is key.
“We will never put our employees in a situation where they are being worked to death or aren’t being treated fairly by us or one of our customers,” said Stefanie. “On the other hand, we will never let a customer down and we always ensure their needs are put first whenever possible.
“Most importantly, we want our employees to feel the freedom of the job. If they want to work from a mountain top somewhere in Colorado for two months to go skiing, they can. We will work it out.”
Sometimes face-to-face meetings are necessary, or assemblies need to be made in one location. Many times, however, meetings can be held via Zoom.
The couple has always enjoyed traveling and realizes that changing the scenery once in a while can trigger creativity. Not sitting at a desk every day at the office.
“A lot of the ideas that we have, we get during travel. We will see something in a museum or see a part on an airplane that can give us an idea on how to solve a problem for a client. Or we will be travelling through an area of the country and see a shape of a building which could be the inspiration for the next design of a product we will be working on,” said Ray.
Before Catania Enterprises, both Ray and Stefanie were employed full-time. During their time off, they sailed down the Atlantic coast in increments from Boston to Florida in between their work schedules. Now that they own and run their own company, they enjoy living in their sailboat and traveling the East Coast. When they need to visit or work directly with customers, they live in an off-grid RV that serves as both their living quarters as well as their mobile design lab, which is set up for welding, soldering, 3-D printing, basic milling operations and prototyping assembly. This has allowed them to not only visit with customers face-to-face, but to also provide them with quick-turn and real-time design and prototyping services, without sacrificing their own dream of traveling.
For many inventors and start-ups, success or failure all hinge on proper initial research. This can be one of the hardest things for enthusiastic entrepreneurs to focus on. It is easy to get so excited and emotionally invested in your idea that you do not take the proper time to research your idea for viability and design goals. Failing to properly research your idea can lead to a less than stellar product or worse, a non-viable product that may be too difficult or too expensive to make and sell. We’ve broken down the main steps for the research process below. Follow these steps to give you a solid start on your research!
STEP 1: Feedback is King
Your idea may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. You may be the next great innovator of your time, but finding someone to help make your idea come to life is imperative. So how to you get this great idea out of your head and make it a reality? First, identify someone you trust who has a business mindset and experience in product design.
Once you have taken this first leap , it’s now time to protect yourself and all parties involved by signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). The NDA is an essential part of the development process, and you should have one in place for anyone you discuss detailed/technical information of your invention with.
Your qualified design team should be ready to test your products stability with a battery of questions including the ones below.
How does your product/idea solve a current problem?
You should be able to explain what solution your idea brings to the table. Some of the things to keep in mind should be why this idea came into your life in the first place. Is this something you need to help solve a problem in your daily career? Is this a new technology that you see as a useful application in either your professional or your personal life? What are the key features of this idea? Will this idea have value to others in a helpful manner? Are there already similar products on the market?
Be aware that if your idea is not a problem-solving idea, you will need to market to the end-user with different strategies. If your idea falls into a category such as luxury items, toys, novelty gifts, etc, then be sure you are ready to address your target market appropriately. Your idea isno less important, it just will require different ways in which to get it out into the public eye.
Lets talk Competition
Who has it already? Is there a similar product out there; if so how are they different? Is this a newer, more innovative item? What is its worth on the market? How is your idea a better solution than what is currently available? While your idea may be different, it may not be new or the only product available. Make sure that you are searching for similar items by searching multiple criteria.
Are you Special?
So your idea is different than the others, how so? What makes you stand out from the rest? What are the reasons someone should choose your product over the next? Do you have more options, a higher quality product, a lower price? Are you a completely new technology or something totally different?
If at this point you are confidently answering your questions and believe you have something great to stand behind then let’s keep moving forward!
STEP 2: GOALS! What are your goals for this item?
If you found an amazing idea to solve a problem that plagues so many and you’ve adjusted your idea based on research and feedback, you have now made it past the point many before you have failed.
During step 1 you thought about and realized where your concept came from. You know you are going to help many people with your solution. You know that people are waiting to buy your item, or you know that there are people looking to purchase your new want item, i.e. luxury item or toy.
What’s next to think about is the effort you must take to move on to the next phase. It’s time to ask yourself honestly: What’s your personal goal for this project? Where do you want to see your idea end up, what’s your vison? Are you looking to form a personal business around it? Are you looking to be the center of its development, or have someone else run it? Do you have someone in mind for this job? Is this project something to help you transition from your current employment position, and in what timeframe are you looking for? How much time are you willing to commit to the project? Do you have others willing to help develop it? Are you willing to share licensing with others?
Answering these questions openly and honestly to yourself helps to develop your business model. This is especially important if you are determined to lead this business. You need to have clear goals and values outlined from the beginning.
STEP 3: What can you afford?
Let’s be honest here, we all want to make money from our ideas and products. But the adage is true, it takes money to make money and being honest with how much money you are capable of spending to launch your product from the beginning is key. Effort is essential to getting the project done. Effort is a combination of time, money and skills.
Let’s look at the things you need to have to get your project going:
What skills are you contributing, what skills do you need from others on your team? Are you able to do your own design work? Do you have a background in marketing? What do you know about intellectual property? Do you need designers with mechanical, electrical, software and technical backgrounds? What are the limits of your capability?
Is time on your side? You need to look at all your professional and personal commitments to see how much time you have to be involved in your project. If you are going to manage it, how much time will you be hands on with it vs delegating? Do you need to hire someone to ensure the success of you and your project?
You need to be clear about the people and the skills of those people on the team you need to complete your project.
Money can be a stumbling block for many great ideas. Unfortunately, research and development can be expensive. Starting from the ground floor and running with your idea to maturity to marketing and full production will take time and money. You need to know your limits when entertaining the idea of development. Developing things on your own may sound much more financially feasible, but the money you may save could cost you time and your idea may soon become someone else’s. Another pitfall many fall in is taking time and money to develop an idea/product as cheaply as possible, then realizing much must be re-done to truly manufacture the product to get to market. There are many sources of funding you should look into during this phase, including: grants, partnerships, awards, crowdfunding, venture capitalists, angel investors, loans and more.
Remember…. Often, time is money.
So there you have it, start with these steps and work hard, and you will be well on your way to success! We would be happy to discuss any ideas or questions you may come across during your research. Until then, good luck!
We have loved being a part of the Groundswell Startups community and are happy to see such a great article summarizing the hard work and fantastic resources available in one area.
As Groundswell COO Jarin Eisenberg states: “We see Groundswell Startups as being a catalyst for change. We have created a space where people can take risks, pursue their dreams, and do it within a community of incredibly talented individuals who are willing to step in and help. They are deeply invested in each other’s success.”
“Everything you need to get your business started can be found through the connections made at Groundswell,” said Stefanie Catania, CEO/CFO of Catania Enterprises.