Notes from February 2021 meeting of Pueblo Makes

Jane began by stressing the inclusive definition of makers used by Pueblo Makes, from crafters to large manufacturers. Nick Gonzales is a maker and founder of the local company Tankmatez. Zach introduced Nick by saying Nick has started his own business and hired local people with his new and innovative fish trap. The business is located in Watertower Place.

Nick said he grew up building things and being an entrepreneur. He learned in the shops and businesses of his father and grandfather that if you need something, you make it. He started by pulling cars apart for his father’s salvage yard; he didn’t realize at the time how much he was learning. He loves being productive.

Nick had a successful career as a behavioral therapist with adolescents, working for the state of Colorado. He loved doing that and invented a tool to remove tattoos to help people who have changed their lives but still have visible tattoos. He showed this device on season 4 of Shark Tank. He spent two years preparing for the show and appearing on it helped him become more trusting and helped him learn to share his ideas. Not everyone is trying to steal ideas. Because of technical difficulties during taping, he got to just hang out with the sharks for about 45 minutes and he got a lot of good advice. He retired from the state to appear on the show since he couldn’t get the time off to do the show. His device was the #1 tattoo device for five years and was used by Soul Survivors Ink to remove tattoos from people with tattoos from being sex trafficked.

He also had a successful arcade business with arcades in CO, WY, and FL, but he lost everything almost overnight because of COVID. With his drop in income, he turned his passion for aquariums into a business. Since tank maintenance, especially cleaning, is the most performed tasks by owners, he invented a device to clean tanks, using magnetism.

He realized that what the aquarium industry really needs is a fish trap. Tank owners need to remove a fish for many reasons (including behavior and sickness) and the only two options were to use a net or to lower the level of water, both of which can cause high stress in the fish and can damage the tank. He invented a bubble trap using a clear acrylic globe with a piece of foam. He made a video and put it online and went viral with 60,000 views in four hours. The product has been very successful and people really like it since it solves a big problem for tank owners. The ratings are rarely under five stars, and when they are, he investigates and contacts the customer. There are many videos of the traps online since users post them a lot.

He has worked with various companies and engineers (and with Brett Raymer of the show Tanked) to move toward mass manufacturing, but the traps are currently still handmade and he can’t meet the demand for his products. COVID-caused supply chain disruptions are a problem.

He was going to move to Dallas, but Ryan McWilliams persuaded him to stay in Pueblo and locate in Watertower Place. He is very glad he did and has plans to create a large-scale coral terrestrial farm in the basement level there. He is working with CSU-Pueblo professors to create an advanced curriculum for tank maintenance and to do experiments on coral to create methods to help the corals survive global warming. They are also testing the water from the four wells at Watertower Place and hoping that it will turn out to be low deuterium water, which is in high demand and which could be used in experiments in growing coral. There will be a solar operation on the roof and a water-cooled Bitcoin operation at Watertower Place.

He is working on new products that will help fish owners engage with the fish and train them. Fish have personalities and interaction helps the person see the behaviors. While others say you shouldn’t play with your fish, Nick asks “why not?” He is also working on products to clean tanks.

In all of his businesses he has stressed being a disrupter, that is, to do things separate from what others are doing. He tries to be the dumbest person in the room so he can learn from others. He wants to solve problems by doing something so different that people have no other option but to buy from him.

He has tried to hire only disabled, including his shop manager, who has been with him for over five years. However, his efforts to work with PDI were not successful because his work changes too much day-to-day, instead of being a consistent task.

Nick is looking for glass blowers, glass artists, and wood workers to push the envelope in tanks. These objects could become part of tank. Others say “You can’t have that in your tank” but customers want variety.

Jane announced that Pueblo Makes will honor LaDoris Burton in the library’s 2022 Outstanding Women presentations. She shared this biography of LaDoris:

Drew reported on the STEM fairs at PSAS. Posters and judging will be at CSU-Pueblo with open house on 24 Feb.

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