Charlie Sotirkys retired in February 2009 from the U.S. Postal Service in Plymouth, Mass., to launch a new career selling self-supporting shade structures that fit trucks, boats and campers. Sotirkys had an idea, and when he discovered his neighbor, Kenn Medeiros, owned KM Canvas, his own boat cover design business, a partnership formed. “We’re both aggressive,” says Sotirkys. “We think the same, which is scary.”
Three years after this meeting of the minds, TailGators Shades LLC has shipped the patented product to 37 states, Canada and Ireland. Interest in the TailGator is broad-based, and contacts have included a potential distributor in Finland, NASCAR and the U.S. military. The TailGator shade won Sotirkys and Medeiros a nomination for a 2009 Smithsonian Institution Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum award, and the team isn’t done inventing. “We’re also available to help other people with prototypes … and offer design suggestions,” says Medeiros. For more information, visit www.tailgatorusa.com.