Thunderstruck Studios sparks downtown entrepreneurship

Jon Davis, Contributing Writer

Many great ideas begin with a single spark, but some ideas require a lot more electricity. Samuel Wiley ’17, Andrew Cannavo ’17, and Luke Giugliano ’17 worked together to establish Thunderstruck Studios, a company that uses electricity to create one-of-a-kind products.

Thunderstruck Studios specializes in a wood modification process. The first step involves soaking wood in water before delivering a massive electric shock to the wood. The electricity scorches a beautiful, unique pattern into the wood. The burn marks are filled in with colored photo-luminescent powder. The powder glows, showing off the distinct pattern late into the night. After covering the powder with epoxy in order to seal the powder into the wood, the product is finished. The final product brings the beauty of lightning into a customer’s hands.

The major event that transformed Thunderstruck Studios from an idea to a business was the University’s BizPitch competition. BizPitch is an annual event in which student entrepreneurs compete with their business ideas in order to receive funding and support from the University.

Despite only deciding to participate two days in advance, Thunderstruck Studios placed in the top six. While they did not make it to the final round, the people that they met at BizPitch would become critical to the company during the next few months. BitzPitch put them in touch with the Small Business Development Center.

“Once we applied for that [BizPitch], it was more than just a foot in the door. It was a kick in the right direction,” Giugliano said.

This gave the studio connections with local entrepreneurs and advice on how to grow their business. One such local entrepreneur is Nicholas Gilson, owner of Gilson Boards, a company that designs and manufactures snowboards. Their snowboards’ cores are made out of wood from local Pennsylvania poplar trees, which is visible through the fiberglass and epoxy.

“Thunderstruck Studios wondered if together we could successfully electrocute a snowboard core using their tech. It took a bit of experimentation, but in the end, I think we nailed it, but that’s for you to decide,” Gilson said.

The experimentation destroyed several cores, but that is part of being an entrepreneur. Gilson is a believer in the value of failure.

“Don’t waste failures. Do it quickly and often. Failure is when you learn the most, and that experience should be squeezed for every last drop of insight every time it happens. A success is either an accident (we’ve had a few of those), or it is the culmination of all the lessons learned during repeated failures,” Gilson said.

Thunderstruck Studios is still deciding on their product line. What is certain is that figuring out which products will come to market will rely on a lot of testing, a lot of failures, and a lot of electricity.

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