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Flexdisk rises from rubble of hurricane

Madison — As with most Mississippians, Scott Sanders and Dwayne Walley were affected by the misery and consternation suffered by Hurricane Katrina’s victims. The two men saw the suffering first hand. Both worked in their church’s evacuee center, with Sanders serving as director. In addition, Walley’s parents lost their second home in Bay St. Louis, a home Walley had visited regularly from the time he was a boy.

Friends before the disaster, Sanders and Walley, both of Madison, identified two major problems facing the storm’s victims — the search for missing friends and family members, particularly children, and the loss of personal financial information. They brainstormed on what products could help remedy these problems in the future, and a new company was born called Flexdisk.

“We were looking to give people a tool that could use in the case of disaster,” Walley said. “We came up with the motto ‘The Key to Securing Your Future.’”

Moving quickly

Once Sanders and Walley had their concept set, they worked at whirlwind speed to get their software products — EstateStick and pIDstick — to the marketplace. The storm hit in late August 2005, and Flexdisk launched its two products in January 2006.

This break-neck launch was even more noteworthy considering that neither Sanders nor Walley had any experience in software design and development, financial information storage or missing-person products or services, and both have “day jobs.” Sanders is the owner of Moonjump, a party service company, and Walley is an electrician by trade.

However, Sanders does have a background in insurance, which helped in the financial information arena, and Walley has moonlighted in Web site design, so both had the prerequisite entrepreneurial spirit. And through prior Web design work, Walley met a computer programmer he liked and trusted and recruited that person for software design and development. A mere handful of weeks later, Flexdisk was promoting and selling EstateStick and pIDstick online (www.flexdisk.com/).

Both EstateStick and pIDstick are very small devices that fit easily in a pocket or on a keychain and plug into a USB port. They are double encrypted, password protected and can be used on any computer with Microsoft USB support. EstateStick allows users to store their financial records in one place. Storable information ranges from real estate and rental property information to bank and stock records and estate planning data. EstateStick enables users to take a home inventory with photographs, and even has room for details such as users’ final arrangements. Other accessories allow for the storage of e-mail contacts and phone lists, even passwords.

While EstateStick is dedicated to the inventory of possessions, pIDstick (short for portable ID stick) is designed to track people. pIDstick allows users to store and distribute photographs, personal identification and other information for locating lost family members. Information bulletins can be printed as well as missing person posters. It is loosely built upon the concept of the missing child system Amber Alert.

“In the days following Hurricane Katrina, something of this nature would have been quite useful,” Sanders said.

Growing the company

On April 4, Walley and Sanders exhibited their wares at a tradeshow held at Madison Avenue Upper Elementary School. It represented Flexdisk’s first sales effort outside the Internet and word-of-mouth promotion by the principals.

Walley said approximately 20 of Flexdisk’s sticks had been sold by that date. “I’m pleased, but not satisfied,” Walley said. “You have to crawl before you can walk.”

Accordingly, Flexdisk was in negotiations with prospective resellers located in Kentucky and Virginia at press time. The company was also talking with a firm that would emboss “Flexdisk” on the company’s sticks.

Currently, Flexdisk’s products are labeled with printed tape to hold down costs. Every penny invested thus far in the company has come from the pockets of Sanders and Walley. However, at press time Sanders was talking with an area bank about much needed capital. Walley said he felt Flexdisk would land the funding it needs to not only survive, but grow.

Growth is already being bantered about at Flexdisk. The principals are currently conceptualizing other products. These products could be sold individually or bundled into a suite on a “gigstick,” offering up to five software applications on one device.

Flexdisk also sees a much larger customer base in its future. Walley said he believes that government is a huge potential buyer, and is anxious to get Flexdisk’s products in front of others, as well.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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