How did we end up here?
It is a tale 30 years in the making. It involves a lot of learning, a lot of research and the acquisition of a lot of top shelf equipment. So much has happened but I'll try to keep it brief. It all begins on a rural horse farm on the edge of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
It was here that a family started the journey. They were passionate about innovative design. Addicted to equipment and fortunately had an aptitude for business. Not satisfied with the rigors of being employed in the typical workforce, they were looking for the opportunity to pursue their ambitions of having a company of their own.
A chance encounter with a friend from a local theater got them to thinking that Gobo manufacturing might be the opportunity that they were looking for. At this time in the early 1990's there were only a handful of companies that could make gobos. Their initial research indicated that gobos were needlessly expensive and that the few existing sources weren't providing the level of service that customers expected. That's what opportunity smells like.
They started learning how to make gobos and trying to make connections to potential customers. It took some time and effort but they eventually were able to enter the market as Apollo Customs. They soon were selling lots of custom gobos to a network of authorized dealers. To meet the demand, they had to hire some artists to help convert the customer's vision into a tangible product.
So what do you do with a room full of graphic artists? You start to develop some original designs to sell as "Standards". They created a full catalog of standard gobo patterns under the K-MAX brand. Eventually, they decided to change the name from Apollo Custom and roll the K-MAX standards under a single brand and Apollo Design Technology was created. Equipment was purchased to streamline and expand the chemical etching capabilities used in the production of metal gobos.
Sales grew and Apollo routinely won awards for their service and products. Always in pursuit of development and innovation, work on glass gobos began. Metal gobos faced some limitations in resolution by the nature of their composition. Glass gobos would not be saddled with this restriction. This meant that some new imaging techniques and equipment needed to be researched and acquired. One of the key talents of the Apollo leadership is the ability to connect dots that you typically wouldn't consider. The printing industry held the key to our resolution problems. With new equipment came new challenges and new expertise and just when they mastered the chemical etching process, they decided to change everything. Enter the lasers.
Remember back at the beginning? I mentioned an addiction to equipment. While Apollo was enjoying the success of very high resolution full color glass gobos, an eye toward the future indicated that lasers would be a more environmentally responsible alternative. Chemical etching is effecting but it involves a host of hazards in the form of caustic chemicals and waste.
Another change that was occurring at the time was the push into digital media. Everything was going digital and getting highly interactive. Apollo decided that they could benefit from a digital injection in their marketing efforts and rather than outsource to a firm, they hired some digital wizards to take care of it. As that facet grew in size and capability, it wasn't long before they were getting requests outside the company. What do you do when you have a group of digital developers hanging around? That aptitude for business spurred on the spin-off into Blue Pony Digital.
Blue Pony would still take care of Apollo's digital needs but they would also operate independently under their own business model with their own clients. What started out as web marketing blossomed into a full interactive experiences and mobile app development. It would be difficult to not see some of Blue Pony's work at any trade show or interactive kiosk.
Meanwhile, Apollo was getting requests to expand their lighting product offerings. Through internal design and development and strategic partnerships, more ambitious products were under development. To facilitate this innovation, engineers and product designers we added to the staff. They would design, prototype and develop the next generation of products for the lighting industry. What do you do when you have a room full of engineers and product designers in the room? It wasn't long before there were requested to assist others in their design, development and prototyping needs. The engineering wing took flight as Avid Labs who does high profile engineering services behind the scenes for numerous interests around the world. Their patent portfolio continues to grow.
The innovation and design never stops. The acquisition of equipment and subsequent repurposing is ongoing. What do you do when you have a facility full of graphic artists, designers, engineers, developers, production teams, customer service representatives, decades of experience and warehouse full of top end equipment including a fully functioning CNC machine shop? Just about anything.
Apollo DesignScapes started out as something we did in the office. We already had the equipment to produce them. The art team would make them by request. It was until later that we learned about how they could help with problems caused by fluorescent light. Now you can find over 400 DesignScapes right here.
The Apollo Popper was born out of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the world was ordered to stay home, exploring the idea of the Apollo Popper was viewed as the right way to use the downtime. Apollo decided to bring a stove top popcorn popper to market. The idea had been in the back of Joel's mind for a very long time. After a summer of development, prototyping and delicious tests, a successful Kickstarter campaign was launched and now you can find the Stainless Steel version of the Apollo Popper right here.
You remember back 14 years [7 paragraphs ago] when Apollo switched from Chemical etching to lasers. Well, you can't make great gobos with any old laser. So Apollo invested in a fleet of high precision industrial lasers to make their high resolution gobos. So what do you do with a facility full of top tier precision lasers and skilled laser technicians? You provide laser marking, laser etching, and laser cutting services.
This expansion of capabilities that exceeded well beyond the original realm of gobos led to the realization that Apollo Design Technology wasn't a gobo company that did all these other things. Apollo was a company that did a lot of things of which gobos were a part. Cue the expansion and realignment. It was decided that some changes in branding and organization were in order. Enter Apollo MFG.
So how does Apollo Design Made fit into this. Well, most of Apollo MFG's endeavors are Business to Business either through partnerships, contracts or authorized dealer networks. ApolloDesignMade.com is our direct to consumer channel. After all, what do you do with an innovator, graphic artists, engineers, designers, service specialists, laser technicians, machinists and all this high end equipment? You make a few things and offer them online.