Sparked: Five Ideas Brought to Life by Entrepreneurs
BikeWrappers make bikes more visible at night.
We’ve all had an idea for an invention that we’re sure will make us rich. Few, however, actually see that idea through to completion. We get discouraged or distracted. For those who do stick with it, there are hurdles to jump and rejections to endure.
In the end, however, it’s not impossible for your great idea to go global. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with a few inventors who turned their ideas into new businesses.
Reflecting on success: Brent Thomas loves mountain biking, road biking, and commuting to work on his bike. His enthusiasm inspired him to invent a product that would make biking safer.
In June Thomas started BikeWrappers LLC, a company that sells sets of reflective wraps for the main tubes of bicycles, making them more visible to motorists at night. The wrappers are removable and reversible (with a decorative pattern on the other side for daytime viewing). The San Francisco-based company sells BikeWrappers for $45 per set.
Thomas, who has worked as a business-development specialist for an Internet advertising company, designed the prototypes with his own sewing machine, found a manufacturer and is now selling them mainly online. He has also started selling a line of reflective dog products called DogWrappers, meant to make dogs more visible at night.
Though the company is not quite profitable yet, Thomas says he hopes to be running it as his full-time job soon.
Riding the wave of success: Colin Pyle had a degree in Spanish and a job at his father’s construction company, but he always wanted to start his own business. He had no idea how, though.
“I didn't have any design experience and I didn't have any business experience,” he said.
Pyle decided not to let that stop him. He started his San Francisco company, Golden Hour, to sell a product he had invented called the Wrist Shot, a camera that straps onto your wrist and can be used for any activity in which you need to have free hands while taking a photo. For instance, while riding a surfboard.
“If you have ever tried to take a camera surfing, you know that it is very difficult. You need to have complete use of your hands and arms at all times, you don't have any pockets, and you are likely to lose it during a wipeout,” Pyle said.
Pyle was inspired. He took apart his surfboard leash and mocked up the concept with construction paper and tape.
“Then I went to my friend who is a fashion designer; we used her industrial sewing machine to make the first prototype,” Pyle said. “It was pretty clunky looking, but it allowed me to test the concept, and it worked beautifully. From there we made a few rounds of revisions streamlining and adjusting the dimensions.”
With a $20,000 investment, Pyle’s company was born. He ushered the idea through every stage of the process, and even traveled to China to find a manufacturer.
Pyle, who's 31, expects Golden Hour to be his full-time job by 2011.
Mother of invention: As a mother of four, Karen Racer knows a thing or two about morning sickness.
After learning that an oft-recommended cure is the smell of lemons, she designed a product to help women with morning sickness even when there was no citrus in sight.
Her invention, called Morning Sickness Soothers, is a disposable nose clip that comes in one of four scents: lemon, orange, peppermint and spearmint. They sell for $14.95 for a box of 12. Her invention recently was patented .
So far, Racer says, she has invested between $50,000 and $75,000 in the business, which is based in Teaneck, N.J.
“The most difficult part of bringing this product to market has been educating the public,” said Racer. “I’ve become my own PR, marketing my product using social media forums such as LinkedIn, Helpareporter.com, Facebook and Twitter.”
Bright future: Micaela Birmingham used just $5,000 to start her business, City Mum, which sells a sunshade she invented for baby strollers.
“After other parents started to ask where they could get a stylish shade like mine, I took the pattern originally made in my kitchen out of a dishcloth, perfected it and produced it,” Birmingham said.
Birmingham had to get creative when it came to finding a manufacturer. She needed a small, flexible factory that would accept small orders at first, and she was able to find it in New York’s Garment District.
Her company is now profitable, she says, and the CityShade sells all over the world.
Cool idea: Jamie Burke worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where her responsibilities included working to address the epidemic of adolescent obesity. She has since transferred her skills to the world of small business by developing garments called Cool Shapes. They're pairs of contoured shorts that contain chilled gel packs. The cold packs press on fatty areas.
She and her sister, Lark MacPhail, have invested $65,000 in the business, which is called FreezeAwayFat.
“It uses the science of cooling brown fat to shrink white fat cells and get rid of stubborn problem areas,” said Burke.
The sisters relied on their own skills and reached out to family and friends for help getting the business off the ground.
“We have been very fortunate to have the network of friends and family who are within the legal, business, science and social media community,” Burke said.
The most challenging part of the process was finding a domestic fabric source and garment manufacturer.
“Everywhere we went we were counseled to go offshore. However, we were committed to having the garment made in the U.S.A.,” her sister said. “This caused almost a four-month stall while we searched for a full service-operation (pattern making, grading, sewing) to work with us.”