Patagium’s story began at Irish Boat Shop in Harbor Springs, Michigan in 2012, right as the stand up paddleboarding craze began to catch on. Cathe, a lifelong sailmaker, who worked at the shop, watched as the store sold out of paddleboards time and again. While she had yet to try one out herself, she always had ideas and inventions floating around in her head and thought, “If a SUP is like your own small boat, why not put a sail on it?” Excited to share her idea, Cathe sat down to make a quick drawing of a sail that would use the paddle as the mast, before running it by a friend at the boat shop. The feedback she received was positive overall, but her friend did have a suggestion or two for improving the design, which she was quick to improve upon further.
Using an old sail for material, Cathe was able to build the first Sugarglider prototype by the end of summer and have a friend with a paddleboard take it out for a test run. Her friend’s response was “IT WORKS! IT was FUN!” Cathe began work on creating a pattern, sourcing materials, and developing collateral over the winter. While working on creating a logo for the company, Cathe got inspiration for its name, Patagium, and its feature product, the Sugarglider, from the designer she was working with who had a pet sugarglider (an australian marsupial that has gliding membranes called patagium similar to a flying squirrel).
In the spring Cathe launched the Sugarglider SUP sail on an e-commerce website but marketing was limited, sales didn’t go as expected, and Patagium was put on the backburner for a time. Then Cathe moved to Marquette, Michigan where her daughters had attended college at Northern Michigan University. Shortly after moving to Marquette she was introduced to the Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Invent@NMU who advised her to sign up for their entrepreneurs bootcamp, LaunchPad. Through the program she was able reignite Patagium and make local connections who have been able to help her boost the product’s presence, reinvent her website, and start promoting her product. Thank you for joining us on this amazing journey!