FACETIME- Shredding: Childhood dream goes big time
It started back in Cleveland as a garage band jury rig. John Keefe, his brother, and their middle-school friends taped sheet music together and affixed it to the wall so nobody would be encumbered by music stands or turning pages.
"We said, 'We could sell these someday!" recalls Eric Braun, one of those friends.
And how. Twenty years later, Keefe and Braun have that youthful brainstorm to thank for "Shredhed," an award-winning product that's on its way to major retail stores across the country and could change the way consumers learn to play music, to cook, to build furniture– in fact, to do anything that requires instruction.
The concept– a laminated sheet, approximately 2' x 3', that can be hung on the wall, folded into a triangular self-supporting music stand, or completely collapsed into a "trapper keeper" style folder– already has some big name musicians on board, including the Black Crowes and R.E.M. It also won appreciation at the National Association of Music Merchants Summer Show in Nashville last month.
"The great thing is the versatility," says Frank Alkyer, editor of Music Inc. magazine, which awarded Shredhed a "Best in Show" award at now-internationally oriented NAMM.
Keefe says the old idea got new life back in 2000 when he was living in Austin and his Charlottesville-based big brother, Peter, came to visit. When the brothers pulled out their guitars, they saw the promise.
Soon after that visit, John Keefe moved to Charlottesville hoping to make their invention materialize. But tragedy intervened.
In 2005, then-35-year-old Peter Keefe died unexpectedly. John Keefe, now 32, declines to discuss the details of his brother's death, but he says that after his initial despair, he grew more determined to see the dream succeed in his brother's honor.
In his childhood friend, Braun, also 32, he found an ideal business partner: someone who was there for the idea's genesis, and someone who, after working for a variety of dot.coms in California, had the business acumen to push the product along. In 2006, Braun moved east, and together they formed Inktree Inc.
In addition to Shredhed, they've created two other products: The Big Fold, for classroom instructional materials, and IsePack– a new– and green– way to package CDs, DVDS, and games.
Keefe says the company has already signed contracts with various major national retailers, and he expects the Shredhed product to hit shelves by the end of summer, with The Big Fold and IsePack not far behind.
Altogether, not too shabby for a childhood dream. "This is really happening," Keefe says, "and we're thrilled."