Steve Charles—Indianapolis alums and fans of Tom Runge’s “Grunge Report” on the Wabash website may recall Andrew Shelton ’03 and his “new generation of cool.”

Tom linked us to John Russell’s Indianapolis Star feature about Andrew and his invention, the TrackPack Cooler, back in March, when Andrew still had most of the 11,000 backpack coolers left at his Northwest Indianapolis warehouse.

He’s since sold more than 8,000, is selling through Kroger, Marsh, and United Package Liquors in Indiana, and has been pleased to discover NASCAR is his biggest market. He’s put together promotional deals with Camping World, even made 30 special coolers for Crown Royal.†

Facing a three-month road trip to promote the product, he bought an RV that also serves as a rolling billboard, and last he Saturday drove south to the Bowl Championship Series in New Orleans.

He’ll be meeting with owners of 26 stores there, then heading out to conventions in Utah and Nevada before hitting the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR circuit that he become his bread and butter.

All this from an idea he came up during his days as an English major at Wabash.
You can read that story in the Star article.

My time with Andrew last Friday was spent photographing him for the “That Entrepreneurial Spirit” issue of Wabash Magazine and a series called “39 Under 39” that the Public Affairs staff is doing about young alumni. And what captured my attention—beside the fact that the TrackPack really is an ingenious product that would look great with a WABASH logo across it—was Andrew’s remarkable energy and his long-range vision for his company.

That energy and commitment was as important as his networking skills as he struggled to find a product designer to build the prototype (backpack innovator Larry Reid of British Columbia, whose Bora pack revolutionized that industry in 1995) and a manufacturer to build the final product overseas.

Getting an idea to the market is a tough road to navigate, and one of Shelton’s long-range goals is to make that road easier for others.

“Ultimately I’d like to help others take product from development through marketing and sales,” Andrew says. “Do for others what I’ve learned, and let people share in the ownership.”

Andrew says that when people sell their inventions to large companies, the name of that person and the story of how the invention came to be often gets lost.

“I’d like to make sure that doesn’t happen, bring the human story to the product,” says the former Wabash English major. “That human story is very important.”

Check out Andrew’s road trip schedule here.