Owner of lighted vest business gets start-up help from Awesome Inc.

ctruman@herald-leader.comApril 13, 2014 

You can see Seth McBee's company product from blocks away. And that's the point.

You Saw Me is a company that's all about enhanced visibility — for everyone from bicyclists to safety personnel.

McBee, 26, graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Maryland, moved to Lexington in 2013, and his company came with him.

You Saw Me manufactures and markets lighted vests for runners, walkers and others who need extra visibility for safety purposes. The lights can be programmed for different colors, intensities and speed of flashing.

McBee and his partner Kevin Winzer had been working on the device since 2009 and received patent grants in 2013. McBee resigned his job as a nuclear engineer and moved to Lexington to launch the You Saw Me brand of what McBee calls "retroreflective customizable embedded LEDs."

He found Awesome Inc., Lexington's local business accelerator, while searching for local entrepreneurs and was invited to pitch at a contest put on by the Bluegrass Angels seed investment group, which he won.

The Bluegrass Angels gave McBee $25,000 for a stake in his future success. In November, 2013, he placed fourth in the third annual Stand Up for Your Start-Up Pitch Competition at Commerce Lexington.

His business is now one of three small companies in a fellowship sponsored by Awesome Inc.

You Saw Me began full manufacturing production on April 9. McBee is working with a factory in Liberty to get his vests sewn. From there, the lights need to be attached. McBee is wiring and assembling all the electronics and has set up a mini-assembly line to wire a sub-assembly at Awesome Inc. that the Liberty company can integrate into sewing the vest.

McBee already has a Website from his potential customers can pre-order: Yousawme.com.

McBee and the heads of two other companies are now working with Awesome Inc. as fellows, which are selected on a rolling basis. The others are Grant Weherley's Control My ADHD — Controlmyadhd.com — which provides alternatives for those who find medication and other methods inadequate for controlling their symptoms and Shane Howard's Custom College Recruiting — Customcollegerecruiting.com — which helps student athletes outside the top tier of sought-after athletes work at obtaining basketball scholarships.

Fellows are selected using criteria such as being fully committed to their ideas, whether the entrepreneur's skill set will allow them to create and market the product and whether the idea has such appeal that it can be or has already been sold, said Brian Raney, co-founder of Awesome Inc. Kentucky companies are given preference.

"One of the main purposes ... is to use this program to help companies like Seth's," Raney said. Along with Luke Murray, Raney started Awesome Inc., in 2009. At the time Murray proclaimed: "We would like for the next Google to come out of here."

While the next Google may not yet have emerged, companies such as You Saw Me are promising. McBee has already sold to more than 100 customers.

"That validates it," Raney said of McBee's company.

Awesome Inc. provides the startups in the fellowship "with an atmosphere ... where startups can stay in Kentucky." While informal, Awesome Inc., offers business advice and puts emerging businesses in a creative environment where they can benefit from sharing information and seeing how other organizations overcome challenges.

Businesses grown locally, "have the potential to create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, commercialize new technologies, and strengthen local and national economies," according to the National Business Incubation Association, based in Athens, Ohio.

Once selected, those in the Awesome Inc. fellowship are encouraged to set both short- and long-term goals, have frequent accountability meetings with Awesome Inc. employees and by the end of the program to complete the goal set by the company such as offering a product or service.

McBee says of Awesome employees: "The back and forth is extremely useful. So is the pushing me to meet certain goals."

He also likes being around other entrepreneurs with startup companies. McBee describes goal-setting as a weakness, and he likes the encouragement he gets.

McBee also deals with manufacturing patents, taxes, distribution and assembly as he works to launch his company: He's always more or less at work, which can be stressful.

But with Awesome, he said, "These guys bring the fun and they're here to help. I lucked out."

You can see Seth McBee's company product from blocks away. And that's the point.

You Saw Me is a company that's all about enhanced visibility — for everyone from bicyclists to safety personnel.

McBee, 26, graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Maryland and moved to Lexington in 2013, and his company came with him.

You Saw Me manufactures and markets lighted vests for runners, walkers and others who need extra visibility for safety purposes. The lights can be programmed for different colors, intensities and speed of flashing.

McBee and his partner Kevin Winzer had been working on the device since 2009 and received patent grants in 2013. McBee resigned his job as a nuclear engineer and moved to Lexington to launch the You Saw Me brand of what McBee calls "retroreflective customizable embedded LEDs."

He found Awesome Inc., Lexington's local business accelerator, while searching for local entrepreneurs and was invited to pitch at a contest put on by the Bluegrass Angels seed investment group, which he won.

The Bluegrass Angels gave McBee $25,000 for a stake in his future success. In November, 2013, he placed fourth in the third annual Stand Up for Your Start-Up Pitch Competition at Commerce Lexington.

His business is now one of three small companies in a fellowship sponsored by Awesome Inc.

You Saw Me began full manufacturing production on April 9. McBee is working with a factory in Liberty to get his vests sewn. From there, the lights need to be attached. The wiring and lighting is being assembled at Awesome Inc. in Lexington.

McBee already has a website from which his potential customers can pre-order: Yousawme.com.

McBee and the heads of two other companies are now working with Awesome Inc. as fellows, which are selected on a rolling basis. The others are Grant Weherley's Control My ADHD — Controlmyadhd.com — which provides alternatives for those who find medication and other methods inadequate for controlling their symptoms, and Shane Howard's Custom College Recruiting — Customcollegerecruiting.com — which helps student athletes outside the top tier of sought-after athletes obtain basketball scholarships.

Fellows are selected using criteria such as being fully committed to their ideas, whether the entrepreneur's skill set will allow them to create and market the product and whether the idea has such appeal that it can be or has already been sold, said Brian Raney, co-founder of Awesome Inc. Kentucky companies are given preference.

"One of the main purposes ... is to use this program to help companies like Seth's," Raney said. Along with Luke Murray, Raney started Awesome Inc., in 2009. At the time Murray proclaimed: "We would like for the next Google to come out of here."

While the next Google may not yet have emerged, companies such as You Saw Me are promising. McBee has already sold to more than 100 customers.

"That validates it," Raney said of McBee's company.

Awesome Inc. provides the startups in the fellowship "with an atmosphere ... where startups can stay in Kentucky." While informal, Awesome Inc., offers business advice and puts emerging businesses in a creative environment where they can benefit from sharing information and seeing how other organizations overcome challenges.

Businesses grown locally, "have the potential to create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, commercialize new technologies, and strengthen local and national economies," according to the National Business Incubation Association, based in Athens, Ohio.

Once selected, those in the Awesome Inc. fellowship are encouraged to set both short- and long-term goals, have frequent accountability meetings with Awesome Inc. employees and, by the end of the program, to complete the goal set by the company such as offering a product or service.

McBee says of Awesome employees: "The back and forth is extremely useful. So is the pushing me to meet certain goals."

He also likes being around other entrepreneurs with startup companies. McBee describes goal-setting as a weakness, and he likes the encouragement he gets.

McBee also deals with manufacturing patents, taxes, distribution and assembly as he works to launch his company. He's always more or less at work, which can be stressful.

But with Awesome, he said, "These guys bring the fun, and they're here to help. I lucked out."

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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