ShopTalk

With Gigs 2 Go, it’s BOLTgroup’s time to shine

For nearly 30 years, Monty Montague’s clients had all the fun.

Since 1985, the company he co-founded, a blended innovation design and branding firm called BOLTgroup, revamped its clients’ images and helped their products sell.

With co-owners Ed Holme, Bob Gibson and Jamey Boiter, Montague helps companies discover why consumers aren’t buying their products. They devise ways to beautify packaging in stores and brainstorm fresh ideas to help clients remain relevant.

The firm’s owners say the 25-employee company on South Church Street has a 40 percent year-to-year growth rate. They’ve developed metallic foil packaging for Comfort Revolution bedding, designed “Respose,” a line of disposable tips for biopsy forceps and engineered Lowe’s brand of Kobalt tools.

But that was all for someone else.

“We’ve got so many creative people here ... who always have so many great ideas,” Montague said. “Occasionally, we get tired of always doing the ideas and giving it to our clients.”

Montague, who oversees product innovation, assigned designers to make a product the firm could engineer and market in-house.

The result: Gigs 2 Go. It’s a pack of four thumb drives made of recycled paper-pulp plastic that stores up to 16 gigabytes of data and can be torn from tabs to share files.

The firm raised more than $17,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to develop it. In May, the Museum of Modern Art in New York chose Gigs 2 Go as one of several designed products funded through Kickstarter as part of an exhibit during New York Design Week. The museum sells Gigs 2 Go in its store, too, for $38.

Another firm, CustomUSB, handles manufacturing and distribution. With the product featured on design websites, including its own, BOLTgroup earns royalties that vary from $1,000 to $2,000 per month.

ShopTalk spoke with company leaders about building a successful reputation over the years that’s now paying off as the company touts its own products:

Maintaining client loyalty: When the firm first opened, Charlotte wasn’t yet a hub for certain sectors in manufacturing and commerce. So BOLTgroup reached out for business elsewhere, finding retail clients in New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and St. Louis.

As it won numerous national awards, potential clients started calling. And as clients advanced, they still called the firm with work, said Holme, vice president of business development.

The firm won’t work for two companies competing in the same marketplace. “We worked very hard to do what’s right for our clients,” Montague said.

Practicing what they preach: The firm immerses itself into clients’ products to understand everything about them, from what message the client wants to convey, to the types of customers it wants to reach. When crafting the Kobalt tools for Lowe’s, BOLTgroup knew the home improvement chain wanted to appeal to the “shade tree mechanic” – typical Joes and Janes who like to handle their own repairs. They came up with an easy-carry storage tray for Kobalt tools so these users can quickly find what they’re looking for.

Taking a close look: The firm’s researchers go into stores and shoppers’ homes to find out why a client’s product isn’t selling well. Researchers once spent weeks in the bathrooms of women who had volunteered to be videotaped using hair products. The maker of the products was a client who wanted to know why sales were slumping. When the videos highlighted the customers’ awkward grip on bottles, BOLTgroup designed a new line of easier-to-use products.

Montague said the firm applied that same practicality to Gigs 2 Go, taking the lead from users who wanted to share big files, videos and digital model renderings without running into firewalls or worrying about files too large for email.

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