Prolific innovator and Ole Miss Engineering Alumnus, entrepreneur Charles Chang returns to Mississippi for the first time in 40 Years with a vision for new technology leadership. Founder of New Jersey-based Topline Products Co., Inc. and CEO of TLC Products Co., Inc., Chang will return to the University of Mississippi campus as well for the first time in November. Chang now owns 30 global utility patents and sold his first, multinational company, Topline Products Co., with annual sales of $100 million.
Mr. Chang, who is providing $100,000 in support of a Graphene Composites Design Competition to put Mississippi on the global graphene map, will be recognized at the Graphene Innovation and Research Conference, Nov. 19-20 in Jackson. Chang is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Graphene Association, organizer of the event.
His latest business venture, TLC Products, has a specialized process for making graphene-polymer composites. Graphene is the thinnest, strongest material discovered and often is described as a wonder material that will positively impact every segment segment of commerce enriching existing products and creating products yet imagined.
Born in 1949 and raised in Taiwan, Chang came to America at age 22 to attend the University of Mississippi as an international student, where he received an M.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1974. It was this educational foundation that led him to Rutgers University to earn an M.S. in Packaging Science & Engineering, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Industrial Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and an Advanced Professional Certificate (APC) in Marketing from New York University.
While in Mississippi next month, Chang will spend time at the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus and hopes to visit with his Tupelo host family when he attended Ole Miss. “I have great memories of my days at Ole Miss,” Chang said. “I have a great relationship with the faculty, especially Dr. Frank Anderson, and that is where I caught football fever. I am very happy and proud of my experience at Ole Miss.”
Speaking on the transition in culture from Taiwan to Mississippi, Chang said, “That was a culture shock for sure! You have to picture this: I was a young man, never left Taiwan, I spoke choppy English, and I could barely make my way around. So that was quite an interesting adaptation.”
But how does a young man 8,000 miles away in Taiwan find his way to Ole Miss? According to Chang, “I had a friend from the same school in Taiwan who went to Ole Miss a year before I did… I scraped every penny myself and my parents had and went.”
Chang later began working as a door-to-door bookseller for Southwestern Advantage, formerly known as Southwestern Company. While the pay was nice, Chang was equally interested in the ways in which he could shape this opportunity into an educational experience, “I thought, ‘If I had to speak English all day long, every day, six days a week, then if I didn’t earn any money, at least I’d learn English!’” As Chang puts it, “It was hard, dumb, courageous – but probably the most effective way to learn a language.”
“I never thought I’d go into business myself, I just wanted to know more!” In hindsight, Chang realized that each of his accumulated majors gradually taught him about all aspects of business, from production to marketing.
After seven years working in the corporate world, Chang went on to establish Topline Products Co., Inc., a packaging company specializing in the packaging of various makeup and beauty care products. It was here that Chang developed numerous inventions. A self-described problem solver, Chang constantly brainstormed new ideas for packaging, filing multiple patents per year as his “hobby.”
After years of filing patents, Chang finally landed on his “homerun.” Chang developed a special means of packaging pressed powder makeup in a round container with a clear top, applicator in the middle, and mirror on the bottom.
“That was my homerun, my big break… the one patent that took Topline Products from minor league player to major league. We started competing with and beating out global companies because we were agile and creative and technically strong,” he said.
This lifetime of hard work has led to various awards and achievements, including being inducted the renowned Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2014 for exemplifying “outstanding qualities in both their personal and professional lives, while continuing to preserve the richness of their particular heritage,” along with also serving as an instrumental member of multiple committees and boards for Rutgers University.
After selling Topline Products Co., Inc. in 2016, Chang went back to Rutgers and ran into a professor who told him about his research in graphene composites. Chang’s interest was piqued. Chang sponsored his research in graphene-enhanced plastic matrix composite (G-PMC) technology and established TLC Products Co. to commercialize it. This process has unlocked the secret to a low-cost, high-quality and safe graphene. “Finally, one can build an industry based on graphene composites,” says Chang.
To support innovations in graphene, Chang is providing the $100,000 in support of a Graphene Composites Design Competition open to anyone with an idea on how to use graphene composites to make a new product or make an existing product better. Finalists will get to present their ideas in person at the Graphene Innovation and Research Conference, Nov. 19-20 in Jackson.
The noteworthy conference is being held in Mississippi, with key leaders, including Senator Roger Wicker, working to support the idea of Mississippi becoming an important national hotspot for graphene research and development to help the U.S. catch up with the rest of the world. Interested individuals can register for the Jackson conference at www.nationalgrapheneassociation.com.
The National Graphene Association is the main organization and body in the U.S. advocating and promoting the commercialization of graphene. NGA is focused on addressing critical issues such as policy and standards development that will result in effective integration of graphene and graphene-based materials globally. NGA brings together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists, and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies. Join NGA today!