MBAe grad’s oil-change wrench removes grime, saves time
Steven Owens isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty, but he’d rather not.
An August graduate of Clemson University’s MBAe program, Owens isn’t unlike the millions of do-it-yourselfers, and professionals, who drain and change motor oil in vehicles. What separates the Gaffney, S.C., entrepreneur from the masses is the specialty tool he has designed that eliminates the mess, saves time and simplifies the oil-change process for DIYers and professionals alike.
“Last Drop Wrench” is the self-proclaimed gear head’s entry in a national aftermarket automotive products competition against 15 semifinalists. Online voting pares the field to 10 finalists who pitch their products at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Launch Pad Competition in late October in Las Vegas.
“It’s a specialty tool made from injection-molded plastic and hardened steel that drains an engine’s oil without having to remove the filter from the vehicle,” said Owens ’05 mechanical engineering. “The tool punctures the filter allowing oil to flow through the Last Drop Wrench and into a drain pan. Then, it’s used to remove the old filter. The Last Drop Wrench makes the traditional, messy oil change a thing of the past.”
Owens’ day job is that of an engineering section manager of manufacturing technology for Timken at its bearings facility in Gaffney. His entrepreneurial energies are directed at Creative Fabrications & Coatings, a start-up he founded in nearby Blacksburg.
“It’s a powder coating business I started while in the MBAe program. I hope to spin some ideas, like the Last Drop Wrench, out of the business and hopefully it will help with cash flow in taking some of my business ideas to market.”
The origin of the Last Drop Wrench is rooted in a short-lived summer job Owens had as a teen-ager growing up in Gaffney.
“I was hired to change oil at a local Chevrolet dealership. They had a $19.95 vacation special. I did 89 oil changes in the four and a half days I worked there. I had hot oil running down my arms and onto my clothes, and spent a good deal of my time cleaning up the mess,” he said. “I left the job after being paid on Friday, but the idea of ‘there had to be a better way’ stuck with me.”
Owens dusted off that idea while in the MBAe program. Cohorts are required to bring business ideas to life, so his experience that summer and his mechanical aptitude led to the design of the Last Drop Wrench.
“The market for this automotive product is two-pronged. For certified mechanics and quick oil change operations, it’s an efficient and controlled way to drain oil, and it saves them a lot of clean-up time. It’s time they use in getting another vehicle in their bay,” Owens said. “And for the DIYer, it eliminates the mess on them and oil stains on the driveway.”
The 36-year-old won the MBAe program’s shark tank-like EnterPrize competition in Charleston. Owens’ cohorts and professors encouraged him to take his idea to market, so he is in the process of securing a provisional patent. About the same time, he learned of the SEMA Launch Pad competition.
“I knew that was just the audience I had to get my idea in front of, so I entered,” he said. “I became one of 15 semifinalists from close to 200 entries. In order to become one of the 10 finalists, I need the votes. The grand-prize winner receives $10,000, and a SEMA membership, which gives them access to the talent and resources of the international organization.”
Finalists present their 2-minute pitches to a panel of industry judges. They also get a kiosk on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center where they can display and explain their products to the tens of thousands of SEMA’s aftermarket members attending the event.
Owens credits the MBAe program for helping him move his idea forward.
“The thing about Clemson’s MBAe program is that it’s taught by those who have been there and done that. The professors are entrepreneurs themselves, and hearing their stories instills a sense of hope that the right idea, with hard work, can result in success. I’m hoping the idea that I’ve had since high school will be one of those success stories.”
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