LA NEW PRODUCT Development Team
The spirit of entrepreneurship conjures images of pioneers, trailblazers and solo acts. However, entrepreneurs, like others, thrive in collaborative relationships. Many entrepreneurs in northwest Louisiana have found they do not have to walk alone. Louisiana New Product Development Team has been there to guide them through the migration from concept to product.
Louisiana New Product Development Team sums it up in a simple mission statement: “Our mission is to execute your vision.”
LANPDT is a team of engineers, project managers, marketers and others dedicated to helping new and existing companies develop and improve their products. They assist startup and established businesses with product design, prototyping and manufacturing, as well as offer app development and marketing services.
For their efforts, LANPDT was one of 40 companies from Louisiana to be named recently to the annual Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. For co-founder Onega Ulanova, even that recognition isn’t about LANPDT.
“For me personally, it means that we are doing something bigger than ourselves,” she said. “What we are doing has value and impact. This is very motivational for me. I don’t like to do it for myself. I want to have a larger impact. I want to leave a mark. Our business helps others realize their dreams.”
The Inc. 5000 designation was the latest in a string of honors recognizing the company’s innovation and growth.
“That was our goal, to grow," Ulanova said. “This national recognition will help not only us to grow to other markets, but also our clients because it will be easier for us to open doors for them.”
Co-founder Konstantin Dolgan, Ph.D., said the recognition also validates the innovation taking place in Louisiana.
“The awards show that it is possible to do it here,” he said. “We have lots of creative people here. It proves that there is innovation happening here in Louisiana,” he said. “We have lots of creative people who want to act on their ideas, and they need support.
“Location doesn’t matter anymore. You can live in Louisiana for lower cost and still do creative stuff.”
The couple brought the vision for LANPDT with them when they immigrated from Kazakstan to Ruston to continue their education at Louisiana Tech.
“When I was getting my Ph.D., one thing I noticed is that, within the university, many ideas don’t go anywhere because of a lack of the mechanism to transfer it from a professor,” Dolgan said. “The professors, they are busy and focused on research. There are typically small commercialization units within universities, but they are also so occupied. There is a Valley of Death between the research and the commercialization. There is still some work to be done to make the technology market viable.
“I realized it’s the same thing happening in the commercial market. You have inventors who can come up with great ideas, and you have sellers who are ready to sell your product. But there is a gap in between. We can take that niche. We understand what the sellers are looking for. We understand where inventors are coming from.”
LANPDT has filled that gap for universities and businesses since Dolgan’s and Olanova’s days in graduate school at La . Tech. The company began as a student group on the Ruston campus. Dolgan, Ulanova and a group of like-minded students put their knowledge and expertise to work. Two years later, the group became a company and opened its first office in Shreveport in September 2016. The company uses 3D printing and other technology to help inventors design products and build prototypes.
“Inventors, entrepreneurs, businessmen, they need technical help,” Ulanova said. “We are engineering help, technical help, to realize people’s ideas. We know how to do it from a technical, engineering standpoint. We know how to prepare it for manufacturing, and help them introduce it to the market.”
While there is much technical work that goes on at LANPDT, success for the team and its clients still hinges on relationships.
“Those moments are priceless when you see someone who had an idea. People usually think about their idea for a year or two years. Some of them just think about the idea for 10 years. They come to us. The moment when they hold the product or a prototype, some people are almost crying. They had an idea, but they didn’t believe enough they could make it a reality. It’s a very emotional moment," Ulanova said.
LANPDT leverages partnerships to further assist clients. LANPDT helps prepare products for manufacturing or licensing. It has a partner in Shreveport that does injection plastic molding and makes three products for LANPDT clients. LANPDT has a partner that handles licensing deals, too.
“We are always working on our network of people and resources that might help customers go to the next stage,” Ulanova said. “We maintain and build those relationships to make introductions. We can do it for clients or folks who have grown past our ability to help.”
Ulanova said it takes special types of people to understand LANPDT’s process from the get go.
“I am not an inventor myself,” she said. “I know how to make things happen. When you see those people, they have a different spark in their eyes. They see things differently. They see the problem, and they solve it. The most successful cases are those where people work in their areas of expertise.”
One of those people is Lee Mallahan III. He turned to LANPDT to help develop his invention, the Tadpole tape dispenser.
“If you have a good idea in your mind, let LANPDT help put the prototype in your hands,” Mallahan said. “LANPDT has the resources to bring your idea to life.”
Recognition like the Inc. 5000 is motivation to every member of LANPDT, Ulanova said. But it’s also evidence of the company’s determination and perseverance.
“We are here to stay,” Ulanova said. “It was challenging to build market awareness … to let people know that, yes, you can do it here. You don’t need to go to Chicago. You don’t need to go to L.A. to build and design your product. It’s fun to see people realize we have almost everything you need here in Shreveport-Bossier.”