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May 15, 2019
By Lauren Franken, for SiouxFalls.Business
When Almir Krdzalic was 6 years old, his family immigrated from Bosnia to Sioux Falls in search of greater opportunities for education and advancement — which is why Krdzalic’s graduation from University of Minnesota-Crookston in 2013 was such a momentous day.
But there was one thing the Sioux Falls man found more of an annoyance on graduation day: The tassel on his graduation cap, which prompted the idea for a tassel-securing mechanism that slides onto the side of the cap.
“There’s a lot of great pictures I have from graduation with my family, but in most of them, my tassel is behind my hat and not on the side, and people kept having to fix it,” Krdzalic said. “There are some really good ones I have of my dad — and well he passed away a couple years ago — but it makes me sad because that was probably the proudest I’d ever seen my dad of me.”
Turning the tassel is a symbolic tradition that signifies the official transition from student to graduate of a university, but Krdzalic said the tassel itself often can become an object of irritation.
During his own graduation ceremony, he thought: “This is a simple thing. Let me fix this.”
Six years later, his product, TassLoc, is sitting on the heads of its first graduating students.
Krdzalic pitched the idea to his now business partner Joshua Pruett, who was still in college at Augustana University at the time. After Pruett watched fellow students in his graduating class fiddle with their graduations caps and tassels throughout the ceremony, he confirmed what Krdzalic already knew: There was a need for a product like TassLoc.
Since then, the two have patented and developed their product, working odd hours to ensure they still have time for their families and day jobs.
“We try to meet together when we can, like 5 in the morning before either of us have to go to work so we don’t take away time from our family,” Krdzalic said.
When he’s not working on developing TassLoc, Krdzalic is a physician assistant at Sioux Falls Veterans Affairs Mental Health. He said his experience with people in Sioux Falls is what motivates him to develop his idea and try to give back.
“Sioux Falls is a good community, and I hope it supports us, and if there are people out there who are interested and want to know more or invest, they can sure reach out,” he said. “We really want to make this thing successful and to be two guys in Sioux Falls that made this thing go national.”
The team hopes that by next graduation season they can mass-produce their product. For now, they are looking to bring TassLoc to ceremonies one college at a time. They started with Krdzalic’s alma mater.
Almost 100 graduate students at UMN Crookston received free TassLoc clips before the ceremony, and Krdzalic and Pruett recently received positive feedback.
Some of the best photos from the day were of the students who were using the product because their tassel was where it was supposed to be, said Elizabeth Tollefson, the university’s interim director of communications, public relations and marketing.
“It was windy the day of commencement, and so we had a lot of tassels in the face. And the students who had the TassLoc on their hat — while, yes, they still blew — didn’t go across their face, and a lot of photographs were saved because they were wearing them,” she said.
Tollefson also said when she looked back through the photos the first time she didn’t realize how many students were actually wearing the product because of how discreet it is.
TassLoc eventually wants to sell the product on a larger scale, and to do so it must team up with bigger companies within the graduation industry. Krdzalic and Pruett are negotiating with a couple, they said.
“They love the concept, and they love the idea, and they want to see proof of concept,” Krdzalic said. “They want to see that we can make profits.”
Regardless of whether TassLoc is adopted by another company, Krdzalic and Pruett plan to continue refining their idea and sell it online at their website, tassloc.com.
“It’s not perfect yet. We’d like to maybe make it a little smaller, and we’d like to put school logos on top of it too,” Krdzalic said. “So, right now, we’re just kind of giving them out for free for students to utilize and get more feedback.”
Though TassLoc is just starting its endeavor, Krdzalic and Pruett have big dreams for their product.
“We’d honestly love to see this at every high school, every middle school, every college graduation, but the end goal is just — if this works out financially — to give back to the community and help kids graduate and watch them wear our product,” Krdzalic said. “I’m an immigrant myself, and Sioux Falls has helped me a lot, and so I think there’s a lot of immigrants and a lot of kids in need that I’d like to give back to.”
Tassel troubles at graduation could be a thing of the past if this Sioux Falls company’s invention takes off.