NOTE: This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of the Wellness and Recreation Alumni magazine.
By: Nathan Williams, assistant director, outdoor adventures
Entrepreneurship may have started with a lemonade stand for an eight year-old Johnny Davis, but it wasn’t until he came to NC State that it became his passion. Once at NC State, Johnny started his first business, Flyte, providing drone photography services to the Raleigh community. He has taken advantage of his work majoring in industrial engineering and unique opportunities such as the entrepreneurship spring break trip to Silicon Valley to learn key business skills.
Once he started working for Wellness and Recreation, he connected with people and resources that would propel his latest venture, Acorn, producing a training tool for climbers known as a hangboard.
Using a design he created himself, Davis produces hangboards out of solid oak, fitting for a sustainable product made in Raleigh — the Oak City. He uses the NC State Entrepreneurship Garage to make the boards, but they wouldn’t be possible without his experiences with Wellness and Recreation and the climbing wall, where he works as a student staff member.
“Going into college, I wasn’t a big outdoorsy person. I liked the outdoors, I appreciated it, but I wasn’t into climbing at all,” he said. After he started working at the climbing wall, he found a community of fellow climbers, friends and co-workers. “It’s great because that’s my small community in college that everybody always talks about when you apply. ‘Oh, you’ve got to find that small group’ and that’s definitely my small group — outdoor adventures and the climbing wall.”
Davis used feedback from this group to make the prototypes for the hangboards to serve their needs as climbers. While the product is important to this entrepreneur, his motivation for business comes from a deeper place. “It’s cool to make money and, especially in this capitalist world, you’re encouraged to make as much money as possible,” he said. “When I was younger, I thought, ‘What can I do to make more money?’ and that drove me to sell products. But now, I focus more on, ‘How can I benefit a community?’”
Johnny not only helps the community by making quality products. He’s using his passions to inspire other students. “If I’m working and someone comes to see the climbing wall, they’re not just going to see the wall. They’re going to climb.” He also sets an example for managing stress as a busy college student. “When people are stressed, they’re not going to do good of work. If I do get stressed, I like getting ice cream,” he said, laughing. ”Going for a bike ride or hike or playing disc golf are also nice.”