By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
The inspiration for Lillipad struck just months before the demand for the unique portable workstation exploded.
In January 2020, Colin Dowdle had a dilemma. The Marquette University graduate lived in a small space with a number of roommates. He began working remotely several times a week and found his at home workspace less than ideal. Working at his kitchen table left him sore and lethargic. His bedroom had spotty wifi. The living room could work, but he could not set up a large desk in a shared space.
To be productive at home, he knew he needed a workstation that allowed him to both sit and stand with accommodations for his monitor and electrical outlets. But most importantly, it needed to be easily moved.
Within weeks, office workers across the country suddenly faced the same problem when the pandemic shut down workplaces without warning.
“That’s where I started thinking there should be a height adjustable table made for the home, not made for a commercial office, with all the necessary features that remote workers require,” Colin explained. “Like power and integrated monitor accessories. But most importantly, the ability to collapse and roll this height adjustable table away.”
Colin took the idea to his father, Jim Dowdle. Jim instantly saw the scaling possibilities in the portable workstation.
Jim told Colin, “that’s a great solution for the end user, but these companies are going to have to start supporting their remote workforces at scale.” When they realized the potential market for the workstations, the men grabbed their tools and went into the garage to begin building prototypes.
Inspired by an industrial scissor-lift design, they focused on creating a workstation that was adjustable, easy to roll out of sight, and would arrive at the customer fully assembled and ready to use.
After months of construction and countless trips to the hardware store, the Dowdles finally had a prototype ready to be refined by an industrial designer.
“The industrial design firm did a phenomenal job bringing our concept from the garage to a manufacturable product and doing all of the ergonomic assessment and engineering down to the exact millimeter,” Colin said.
With the design of their unique workstation perfected, the Lillipad team began to look for a contract manufacturer to produce the desk.
Colin recalled an early mentor of his said, “if it can’t be built in Wisconsin, it probably can’t be built in the United States. And that’s just from a custom engineering or custom machine shop viewpoint. We found that to be pretty true
.That says a lot about the state of Wisconsin!”
“It’s very difficult to start a hardware company with dozens and dozens of custom components and find people who can make those components within a two-hour drive,” he said. “We’ve done that here. It’s been huge for us to have the skilled workers that we have in Wisconsin to bring a dream and custom components to life.”
Lillipad has had robust direct to consumer sales through their website. However, B2B sales have boomed since the product launched. The portable workstations have become popular with construction companies that use onsite trailers and other remote workplaces and scores of other industries that require the flexibility offered by the portable workstation.
As sales continue to increase, Lillipad has quickly become the must-see product on the tradeshow circuit.
“We went to the National Ergonomics Exposition in Las Vegas this past November,” Colin recalled. “The show was filled with exhibitors in the office furniture industry. It was pretty surreal to be in the public eye at the show because we had the most innovative product on the floor. No one has ever achieved the feat of shipping a height adjustable workstation fully assembled and now we have. It was a big light bulb moment for a lot of people at the show.”
Lillipad lowers down to 6 inches and rolled underneath a couch or bed to be stored away. Seeing the reaction from ergonomic industry experts has been pretty cool,” he continued.
The source of all of this success is father and son partnership between Lillipad’s co-founders.
“It’s been great,” Colin said. “It came about pretty organically. We just hit the garage like we were doing a weekend project and one thing led to another. The opportunity was there for both of us to pursue and we’ve always wanted to create something together. Here we are today with the most innovative product in the home furniture space! Very proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.”
The revenue-generating company raised a $1.2 million seed round at the close of 2021. The money is earmarked to scale the company.
“We are focusing on marketing, adding employees and business operations, primarily. We want to get the word out about Lillipad. Our goals for 2023 are making sure we’re a lean operation, while growing the business everyday” said Colin.
Lillipad adjustable workstations are available in two sizes and arrive fully assembled. To learn more about the workstations, or to connect with the company, click here.