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Community Innovation Forged in Collaboration: DCCC program partners with small business venture

Michael and Ellen Johnson hold the outer shell of their device in their hands.

Michael and Ellen Johnson hold up the pieces of their CalledVision device created in collaboration with the Davidson County Community College computer-integrated machining program. DCCC’s Small Business Center connected the two areas to the benefit of students gaining real-world experience and the Johnson’s receiving a low-cost but quality outer shell for their prototype.

June 4, 2019 – It began with an idea. Or rather, it began with a solution to a concerning problem. In the spring of 2015, Michael and Ellen Johnson witnessed what many in our communities, states and nation saw: our families, friends and neighbors were not as prepared for dangerous encounters as we had hoped. Then came the idea, the solution. They called it CalledVision.

Flash forward almost five years, the Lexington couple’s idea now has a physical shape, form and a business plan to back it up.

“Our starting point was our desire to help people,” Michael Johnson said. “The CalledVision device works to document and record the moments when someone feels they are in a dangerous encounter. It utilizes GPS tracking, live audio recording, and an on-call center working simultaneously to get help for someone in a life-threatening situation.”

Since the business’s establishment in November 2015, the Johnsons have turned to the Small Business Center at Davidson County Community College and its director, Martha Larson, for guidance on developing their business plan.

“Any question we had with the business, Martha would connect us to the right people,” Ellen Johnson said. “She was always willing to reach out and eagerly returned our calls.”

For the past 35 years, the Small Business Center at DCCC has dedicated its mission to connecting small business owners with the resources to be as successful and sustainable as possible.

When it came to building a physical prototype, the Johnsons were in the process of seeking out 3-D printers to bring their 2-D designs up to the next dimension. Larson had just the connection, DCCC’s own computer-integrated machining program.

The connection was forged out of Launch Davidson County, an eight-week training program for small businesses in the early stages of development. The program was held in partnership with the Small Business Center and the chambers of commerce representing Lexington, Thomasville and Northern Davidson counties.

“I knew our students in the CNC program work in 3-D printing, so I did some inquiring,” Larson said. “I reached out to Kerry Smith, our advanced manufacturing instructor. After a few discussions between CalledVision and Kerry, the students actually carried out the design and creation of the outer shell of this prototype. This was a chance for students to get real-life experience in the small business environment, and for CalledVision to receive a prototype with great quality without the expense. That’s something I value.”

The prototype was created as an in-class project as part of the curriculum for the students. Though the program often gets requests from industry partners, small businesses is an area that instructors hope to tap into more in the future.

“This is a great experience,” Smith said. “Most students have not been employed in their career path yet, so having real world projects really helps their growth. We would really like to be a partner with all businesses in the community, large or small.”

After a few days of consultation and implementation, the Johnsons now have a tangible piece of their business. They are currently speaking with manufacturers to put into place the inner components and technology of the device.

It is their hope that these devices can be used on college campuses as well as personal use, with a call center in Davidson County to bring new jobs to the community. At the heart of it all, however, is the idea of saving lives.

“This experience has motivated us to go further than we had originally thought possible,” Michael Johnson said. “It has been such a positive relationship with the Small Business Center and the community college. We continue to learn to seize new opportunities and bring our idea to life.”

About Davidson County Community College

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is a fully accredited, multi-campus college where students of all ages and backgrounds pursue academic and career-focused education in order to build successful futures. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers more than 40 degree and professional certificate programs to students in Davidson and Davie counties, as well as affordable college-credit coursework to students who plan to transfer to 4-year universities. With a mission to serve the changing needs of students competing in a global environment, DCCC is committed to quality education, innovative and equitable learning experiences, training, and support across a wide range of 21st-century career fields. Visit Davidson County Community College at DavidsonCCC.edu.

Media Contact

Jonathan Williams
Communications Specialist
Davidson County Community College
Office: 336-224-4510