Today we’d like to introduce you to John O’Kelly.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Newcastle Systems was established in March 2005 in the basement of my Wakefield home. Having taken an entrepreneurship class at the Harvard Extension School, I came up with a new product idea: The Omni-Cart. Inspired by carts designed for hospitals, we created a powered, height-adjustable cart which helped us launch the products we use today.
Today, Newcastle Systems offers a variety of customized mobile power systems for warehouses and distribution centers, medical equipment, airport security, aerospace and military.
My prior experience was in sales and marketing, presenting material handling solutions such as lift tables and work benches to electronic manufacturers like EMC, Raytheon, Flextronics and Motorola among others.
Initially, we subleased space from one of our suppliers. In September of 2007, we rented our first office and production space for Newcastle Systems in Woburn. Moving out of my basement gave us the confidence that Newcastle was becoming a real business operation.
As our business continued to grow, we moved to Middleton in 2010 as our operation needed more space. Early in 2016, we moved to a new 20,000 square foot facility in Haverhill that gives us more capacity and further room to grow. Now, we’re providing customized powered stations for customers all over North America and Europe from our own warehouse.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As with any endeavor, there were challenges along with the successes.
In 2005, I began researching various markets and looking for a place for our solution. Gauging market demand for a product that most people have never heard of was challenging. My research showed that our initial target audience of labs did not really have a strong need for this solution. This led to revisions to the product concept to ensure we were meeting the needs of more receptive sectors such as warehousing and distribution. As consumer demand grows for faster and more accurate shipping and handling, our products provide the speed, accuracy and consistency that consumers want and companies like Amazon need.
Some other struggles included: Developing prototypes, gaining broad market awareness for an unknown product concept and finding vendors that have the same quality and service standards as us.
I recall having to stop traffic on Main Street in Wakefield to facilitate truck deliveries!
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Newcastle Systems helps companies with process improvement, especially warehouses and distributions centers. We have targeted the shipping and receiving functions within these businesses and provide mobile power to help improve their processes and procedures. We work with many Fortune 500 companies in all kinds of businesses including retailers like Amazon, TJ Maxx and Home Depot. Our mobile stations provide access to real time information anywhere in a warehouse and dramatically reduce the unnecessary walking employees do every day in a distribution center.
Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?
My advice especially to immigrants coming to Boston to start a business, you have to do your research and homework. Stick to the markets and customers where you have experience and knowledge. The State of Massachusetts offers good support to businesses, especially through sponsored training programs and support with projects to help expand your business, like the Work Force Training Fund.
Greater Boston is very receptive to new technology and to change. Immigrants from all over the world are welcome here and are part of the fabric of this region. While property values are expensive as you get closer to the city there are more reasonable facilities in the greater Boston area, especially for industrial facilities. One also needs to prove that your business idea is viable before spending on facilities and taking on significant debt.
The Greater Boston area is a good location to start a business with a highly-educated workforce and good infrastructure in place. The state could offer more facilities for startups and possibly support establishing international markets to help small companies get a foothold.