Entrepreneurial Spark

Chris Tassin (MSE ’08) was enjoying a relaxing day with his family when his uncle, Mike, made an innocent comment that inspired a great idea.

“He had been dissatisfied with several over the door storage bags and racks on the market because things were constantly falling out, they were damaging his doors, and everything stored within them was in plain view,” Chris said. “He said there had to be a better way.”

Mike’s harmless remark became an entrepreneurial spark for the Tassin family. After five years of development, Mike, Chris and Chris’ father, Tim, created and patented the Cabidor, a cabinet that can attach to any standard door’s hinges. The Cabidor provides much-needed storage space, is customizable, conceals items stored within it, and does not damage the door on which it is installed.

The Cabidor was officially launched in 2012, and has been receiving rave reviews. The Cabidor won Best New Product at both the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago and the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, and received the annual Innovation Award from Housewares Executive Magazine, a top trade publication. The product was featured on the Today Show on March 12 signifying an important moment for Chris and his family.

“I was in the studio when they filmed it, and it was incredible,” Chris said. “Being on the Today Show gives you so much credibility. You feel like you’ve arrived.”

Chris had a firsthand insight into entrepreneurship growing up because his parents were business owners. Tim was a contractor and real estate developer and his mother, Debbie, owned a blueprint company. Chris knew he didn’t want to work for a big company, and his experience in the MSE Program (Thomas S. Johnson Master of Science in Entrepreneurship Program) roused his entrepreneurial spirit.

“That was my awakening,” Chris said. “It was an awesome experience. The MSE program was a great test bed for my new venture. I used it [Cabidor] for my capstone project, entered it in a venture pitch contest. I was able to receive expert feedback which helped a lot.”

Chris remained immersed in entrepreneurship and innovation working at UF’s Digital Worlds Institute and as MSE’s Program Director from 2011 to 2013. But as the popularity of Cabidor increased, as well as his duties as Chief Operating Officer of the family’s new company, Hingenuity, Inc., Chris was spreading himself too thin. He reluctantly left his position at MSE and devoted himself full-time to the family venture.

Chris said he’s pleased the Cabidor has been featured in some of the top online catalogs and sites like Costco, Home Shopping Network, Grandin Road, Bed, Bath & Beyond among others, but the product has yet to be introduced in brick and mortar stores. With the Cabidor benefitting from all this positive exposure, it may be tempting for Chris to quickly position the product in stores. It’s a quandary he knows too well.

“It’s a constant struggle,” Chris said. “You want to go full bore and grow as fast as you can, but you don’t want to run out of fuel in the process. It’s a huge risk, but my experience in the MSE program has better equipped me to mitigate such risks while maximizing opportunities.

“You have to take a hard look at your finances and take emotion out of the decision.”

Having the opportunity to make those life-changing decisions is what entrepreneurship is all about, and Chris is relishing the journey.

“The MSE prepared me well, but I still didn’t realize just how hard this would be,” Chris said. “But what I also didn’t realize was that it would be this rewarding.”