NEWS & ACCOLADES
Newest SDTBC client launching solar energy device
Peppermint Energy co-founder, Brian Gramm, displays a prototype of the 42.
Sioux Falls, SD – While working on a solar energy project in Ohio, Sioux Falls entrepreneur Brian Gramm concluded that the scale of the utility product was too big.
Gramm is acting on his bigger‐isn’t‐always‐better concept as the CEO of Peppermint Energy, the newest tenant in the South Dakota Technology Business Center in Sioux Falls.
Peppermint is developing a portable, solar energy source. The initial product, which is designed for individual use, will look like a large, laptop computer. It is expected to measure two feet by three feet and weigh about 20 pounds. It is projected to sell at retail for roughly $800.
Gramm sees big potential for the relatively small device. It could improve lives around the world, especially for people who live, work or play beyond a dependable power grid, he says. Imagine, for example, the potential for humanitarian uses in under‐developed countries. The product would also have recreational uses for activities such as camping or tailgating.
Two solar panels absorb power from the sun and the brains of the unit store and distribute the power as needed.
Peppermint’s initial product is being designed to power a small refrigerator 24 hours a day. Just open the device, point the panels toward the sun, and plug in an appliance.
“From a business standpoint, we think we have a fantastic upside,” Gramm says.
The name of the company plays off the tagline: “Fresh, Clean Energy.” The fledging business became a SDTBC client in May. Peppermint currently is trying to raise up to $2.6 million to begin production.
The initial product is being called the 42, a name partially inspired by “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” In the fictional book and related productions, a supercomputer amusingly and mysteriously determines that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life and the universe.
Gramm says the portable products closest to the 42 currently on the market are solar energy kits with multiple parts and less power potential.
He intends to locally outsource as much production work as possible and begin beta production next month.
In addition to Gramm, who previously founded and sold a compliance and management consulting business, Peppermint has two part‐time employees: Tom Brzica, the director of operations, and Darin Devoux, the director of engineering. Chris Maxwell, who most recently worked for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, will join Peppermint August 20 as a cofounder and the chief operating officer.
“For me, it’s going to be exciting to work for Brian again. We’ve had great fun and success in the past,”
Maxwell and Gramm were partners in Milo Belle, a Sioux Falls‐based, regional consulting firm that was sold two years ago.
Gramm says Peppermint moved into the SDTBC because the pace of company growth is difficult to predict. The expertise within the Center is also an attraction. Valuable information can be passed along just from incidental conversations in hallways, Gramm says.
The SDTBC, which opened in 2004, serves more than 20 business clients, who receive development help, technology services, and flexible space and lease terms. Fifteen businesses have graduated from the center and moved on, according to Rich Naser, executive director.
Supporting companies such as Peppermint fits into the center’s mission to help entrepreneurs launch, grow and create jobs in the Sioux Falls area.
Naser says the SDTBC is excited to have Peppermint as a client. The center has housed energy companies before, but Peppermint is the first to specialize in solar power.
“It’s a significant step forward in what’s out there today in solar products,” Naser says. “You can see the need for it and we’re excited to play a role in helping Brian build his company.”
To learn more about the 42 and Peppermint Energy, visit www.peppermintenergy.com. For more information on the South Dakota Technology Business Center, contact Rich Naser at (605) 275‐8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.