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Customer Spotlight

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March 2024

Make Your Cart Go

There’s got to be a better way

Jason Knoll wasn’t thinking of a new business venture when he experienced an epiphany after riding his e-bike to work on a Seattle film set during the first summer of COVID.

Indeed, had his vintage VW camper van not broken down, Knoll would have departed the northwest city after a week-long visit and returned to his home in Los Angeles. In fact, he wouldn’t even have been in Washington state were it not for the fact that film work was drying up in L.A. due to the 2020 coronavirus outbreak.

But without a working vehicle, Knoll was essentially stuck in Seattle. He managed to snag a gig, but was forced to commute to the set on an e-bike he had borrowed from a friend.

One day on set, the first assistant cameraman had some difficulty pushing a heavy camera cart up a long, inclined driveway. Knoll then wondered if the technology used to power his electric bicycle could be used to make moving equipment around the set easier.

“There’s got to be a better way,” he thought at the time.

With the seeds of an idea planted, Knoll and fellow film worker Jeremy Mackie, a cinematographer, creative producer and director of photography, soon began to tinker with the development of a simple motorized assist kit that would make moving movie set carts with less difficulty and more efficiency.

Start-up Challenges

Before long, Knoll and Mackie would establish Make Your Cart Go. But they didn’t quit their day jobs.

Knoll recalls that it didn’t take long for the pair to realize that the journey from vision to a fully-developed and manufactured product was fraught with obstacles and challenges.

“We’ve had plenty of setbacks,” admits Knoll. “We’re not product developers so there are plenty of issues that arise. For example, finding the right suppliers that are willing to work at our volume was very challenging.”

Protocase, Inc. would eventually fit the bill, but were unknown to the California-based film industry workers.

Obsessed with the idea of applying motion-assist technology to film set carts, Knoll and Mackie soon came up with a prototype.

“We ordered parts I thought would be right but they were completely wrong,” recalls Knoll. “But we used those parts anyway. We put the prototype together in a day. We slapped it on a cart and it worked! It was really ugly, but it worked.”

More Power, Less Push

Their hard work began to pay off in early 2022 when Make Your Cart Go started delivering its product to a customer base that consisted mostly of film industry camera departments. Knoll says digital imaging technicians and lighting folks are also showing interest.

“I am not at liberty to name specific shows or movies, but our products do find themselves on many Hollywood productions,” he says.

“We’re still a new start-up, but so far everyone who tries our kits loves them. Carts can get heavy, days on the set are long and the locations are tough, so our kits allow the crew to focus on their tasks and not worry about moving from set to set. Once you use our product, you will never want to go back to pushing a cart ever again.”

Make Your Cart Go’s flagship product is its Location Dual Kit that features two 10” motorized wheels in a custom steel fork. It is powered by a 52-volt battery and moved with the press of a lever on a machined aluminum throttle. All connectors are IP68 rated. And, according to Knoll, the kits are capable of moving carts weighing up to 1,200 lbs.

“Our kits are designed to adapt easily to all major film carts,” he says. “They also work with any push cart that takes a 10” caster. When we developed the kits, we wanted them to be able to adapt to the carts our customers already own.”

Working with Protocase

Almost everything, including every solder on every control box, is done at Make Your Cart Go’s Los Angeles facility. Even the forks were designed in-house by Knoll’s father, a CNC machinist.

But they can’t do everything and sometimes have to rely on outside help. When it came to the ever-important control box, Knoll found the solution he needed with Protocase.

“Finding the right enclosure was tough, so finding Protocase has been a game changer for us,” he says. “Protocase has been a great resource in helping us make our control boxes what they are today.”

Make Your Cart Go product control boxes are housed in modified Hammond enclosures. Those modifications, including the installation of self-clinching fasteners and mounting hardware, are performed by Protocase.

“This a major part of the product - the control box is like its brain,” explains Knoll. “The enclosure holds the PCB boards and connects all the components together. They are modified with PEM-brand mounting hardware so our customers can fasten them to their carts.”

California Livin’

When Knoll and Mackie aren’t working on Make Your Cart Go products or spending time on film sets, they enjoy taking advantage of California’s many outdoor activities such as surfing and camping. Knoll is a cyclist and loves taking his old VW van on explorative forays in Baja California, while Mackie relaxes with live music, movies and motorcycle riding.

As for the future, the partners are already planning an exit strategy from their so-called “side hustle” as they both have plenty of ideas, interests and new projects they would like to develop.

“We both still have our full-time jobs - Make Your Cart Go seems to be turning into a full-time endeavor,” says Knoll, adding that tentative plans call for selling the business in about five years.

He says he’s a forward-moving kind of guy who’s always looking ahead to the next project or adventure.