Ethan Erwin with his patented short-bow.
So 10 years, one $11,000 Arkansas Governor’s Cup business plan award and several strategic decisions later — including a face-to-face meeting with country music icon Charlie Daniels — the short-bow is slowly infiltrating the highly traditional world of fiddle and violin. Artists specializing in other instruments have even begun to test the waters.
After winning the collegiate business competition his senior year at the University of Central Arkansas, Erwin realized he had a choice to make.
“At that point, I thought, ‘I could take the money and put it in the bank, and I’m sure I would be able to use that in dental school, or I could do something crazy here, and I could start a business.’ So that’s what I did.”
He invested the bulk of his winnings in two 3-D printers, spending much of his entire senior year of college learning how to write the CAD — computer-aided design — files to get the short-bow designs perfect. His sister, who handles marketing and sales, now creates the bows and manages the orders when she’s not on tour.
The short-bow isn’t the only thing produced from the printers. He’s also sold more than 100 customized wooden duck calls through his other venture, Southbound Down, dedicated to waterfowl sports. On more than one occasion, just for fun, Erwin has created drink koozies with the printer, even fabricated a ping-pong paddle to use in the student lounge when sparring against classmates.
He’s already thinking ahead to private practice.
“I think I paid it forward when I learned how to write CAD files and understand the types of 3-D printers. It’s very realistic that one day I will be able to make my own surgical guides for implants,” he says. “Being able to make those in house would lower the cost for the patient.”
This salesman has no buyer’s remorse about his decision to set his sights on Texas A&M College of Dentistry.
“It’s been just as thorough, just as solid of a program as I had expected, even exceeding my expectations in a lot of ways,” Erwin says. “I enjoy the thoroughness of it. It’s a great school. End of the story.”
This story by Jennifer Fuentes originally appeared in Dentistry Insider.