Founding Story

In his Stanford University Commencement Speech, How to Live Before You Die, Steve Jobs talks about how you can only connect the dots by looking backwards. It’s a similar thought process that led to the evolution and idea of The Innovation Garage®. The concept was co-developed with the help of three very trusted business advisors. Founder Jon Washington’s wife Kris & their three children.

Back in 2011 and 2012, during a seres of family dinners, the table discussions centered around making sure that whatever you do in life provides joy and helps others. At some point, during the course of those dinners, a question was asked of Jon by his kids. “How are you providing joy and helping others?” At the time, career in full swing as a large corporation executive,  Jon didn’t have a very good answer to the question.

As the family gatherings continued, it was at a dinner at a local restaurant, the family suggested starting a company might be the best way to do it. If the company was was built on Jon’s skills and interests, this might be the best way to help others. Given Jon’s startup background, that seemed like a logical next step.  Create a special adventure, truly walk the talk, and see what happens next.

So at that restaurant, when he asked his boys for a business name, they flipped over their menus. Each writing and capturing their ideas in crayon. Jon asked the boys to pick the best name they could think of. He then slid a business card from his wallet across the table. Jon’s 10-year-old son wrote Innovation Garage in crayon on the back of the card, and passed the card back to him.

Innovation Garage business card

At that moment, and with that name in hand, the dots suddenly connected. Connecting back to the Texaco service station that Jon’s dad owned on the West Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Jon spent a lot of time there when he was young. He watched a simple process, that continued to repeat itself each and every day. A relentless focus on helping customers with a problem. The process was simple.  As each car pulled in, the attendants worked to quickly understand the problem, experiment with a solution, fix it, make it better than it was, and help the customer keep moving to their next destination.

Over the years, it became commonplace to spend a significant amount of time in garages of many kinds. With family, friends, and with in the kids in the neighborhood. Always working on motorcycles and cars, making things, fixing things and making them better.

Not too soon after that family dinner and those dots now connected, and with that same spirit, the name was trademarked and the shop was opened.