NICK WILLIAMS was working as an angel investor when he noticed that the companies he was interested intended to stumble at the same place: They needed the right companies to work with, and few could find them. Eventually, he decided that giving people money with no further direction didn’t make sense. So he created a business that would help people with their ideas rather than just investing capital in a startup and expecting them to spend it wisely.
That company is One Off, located in Naples on Old 41. It specializes in ideation, or taking an idea from a napkin sketch all the way to production. Its in-house industrial designers, graphic designers, 3D printers, prototype tooling and injection molding capabilities ensure that everyone in the process is in the same building and talking to each other about each product.
“We don’t have the disconnect entrepreneurs run into, which always becomes a blame game. By consolidating [departments in one place], it speeds up the whole process and we can catch mistakes that we’d miss if those teams weren’t on-site,” Williams says.
In 2012, Williams began making prototypes with one machine in a 1,000-square-foot garage space near a dog track. His product ideas grew rapidly—and so did the garage’s electricity issues—so it was time to move up.
Williams then found a building with enough amperage for three-phase electricity in Naples, and from there, One Off grew to a nimble team of seven people across three different departments.
“We keep pretty quiet. A lot of people don’t know what we do, and that’s what we like. It keeps the sales guys out,” says Williams.
One Off’s premiere product was Flugz, customizable hearing protection made out of material that could be formed to each individual, similar to a mouth guard. Flugz came from Williams’s background work in the military and firearms space, where hearing loss is an important issue he rarely saw addressed.
“You really can’t get enough hearing protection at [shooting] decibel levels. It takes over 2 minutes to properly get that protection out of foam earplugs, so nobody uses them correctly,” Williams explains.
While Flugz is Williams’s favorite product so far, One Off worked on about 20 new projects in the past year, up from five in its first.
With the success of Flugz, One Off plans to expand its hearing protection products and move into the personal protection industry. The company is always taking on new product ideas, but Williams doesn’t advertise and prefers to get his clients via word of mouth from others in the industry. For instance, the printer across the street from them sent over a retired man with an idea for a golf divot fixer. This year, the company is looking at new ways of forming composite materials (such as carbon fiber), so the military could create lighter products, which would ultimately save money in transport.