Inspiration hit Sari Crevin of Bellevue when she bent over, once too often, to pick up and clean the plastic cup her 1-year-old had knocked...
Inspiration hit Sari Crevin of Bellevue when she bent over, once too often, to pick up and clean the plastic cup her 1-year-old had knocked to the floor.
It came to Oakley Carlson of Ballard when he needed an easy way to carry everything he takes on a walk with his dog. And to Susan Solan of Aberdeen when her baby daughter chipped a tooth on the bathtub faucet.
Mention the word “inventor” and many people envision a white-smocked scientist toiling in a sophisticated laboratory.
But Crevin is a professional recruiter, Carlson is a construction worker and Solan is a pro-tem municipal court judge. They’re examples of the inventors next door, people willing to risk time, money and a great deal of effort as they try to turn today’s bright idea into tomorrow’s gotta-have product. More than 3,200 patents were issued to Washington residents last year, a figure topped by just seven other states. Here’s a look at a few inventors next door, and their recent creations. It’s too soon to know if most of these inventions will succeed, but some, such as the Moonjar, have already taken off.
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Sari Crevin, 33, Bellevue
Invention: the SippiGrip
At first, Jake Crevin knocked his plastic tumbler off the high chair accidentally, but eventually it became a game: See how many times Mommy will pick it up. On outings, he’d toss it out of his stroller, and it would get dirty, or simply lost.
First, Sari Crevin sewed a fabric strap to keep the cup from landing on the floor or the sidewalk, but it slipped off the cup too easily until she added a rubber lining. Later, she added Velcro strips to fasten the ends.
Through online sites, including mominventors.com, she got basic information on how to market a product, found a patent attorney and gained access to a discussion group of other amateur inventors. She now has the straps made overseas through a New Jersey company.
Back in the kitchen, the SippiGrip had the unexpected benefit of teaching Jake a problem-solving skill. “At 18 months, he might still push [the cup] off, but if he wanted a drink, it was dangling there. And he learned how to retrieve it by pulling up the strap.”
Price: $6.99. Info: www.sippigrip.com
Oakley Carlson, 34, Seattle
When his blue heeler, Waylon, wants to go for a walk at Golden Gardens, Carlson doesn’t want to spend time and trouble assembling the dishes, toys and other necessities.
“I couldn’t find an all-in-one bag, so I decided to create it,” said Carlson. He sketched out a blueprint, which he took to a seamstress for a prototype, then connected with a Seattle-area manufacturer for a finished product made of heavy-duty, machine-washable canvas.
Snap off one end and it’s a food bowl. Snap off the other end and it’s a water dish. Along the middle is a square dispenser for plastic “waste” bags and a mesh pocket for cellphone or keys. Shock cords at each end can hold a toy or a towel, and there’s room for more stuff inside.
Price: $60. Info: www.dingolope.com
Susan Solan, 42, Aberdeen
Invention: The Baby Bath Gate
Ouch. Even though Solan was with her baby girl at bath time, she wasn’t able to prevent little Brooke from bounding toward the metal faucet, and she felt terrible when the 1-year-old hit it face-first.
“I thought why can’t I just stop her from getting to the faucet?” Solan recalls. After a trip to the hardware store for some plastic pipes, she fashioned a simple barrier to put in the tub, and conducted what marketing people would call a focus group: “I brought some mommy friends over, and everyone said it was a great idea.”
After several prototypes, she connected with an industrial engineer who helped perfect the adjustable, locking ends that hold the rods and mesh screen in place. The gate is now marketed in the U.S., Canada and 14 European countries. Solan’s most recent coup: getting it listed on target.com.
Price: $24.95. Info: www.thebabybathgate.com
Angela Horiuchi-Yvkoff, 30, Newcastle
Karen Vardeny, Salt Lake City
Invention: Tummy Talk
If you’re an avid scrapbooker like Horiuchi-Yvkoff, and you hear that a friend is pregnant, it’s only natural to think a pregnancy scrapbook would make a great gift. “But you kind of had to buy three things: an album, a diary and a memorabilia box,” Horiuchi-Yvkoff said.
Her observation was shared by Vardeny, her partner in an event-planning business, so the two set about designing and producing a 105-page book with pages and pockets to accommodate an expectant mother’s thoughts, photos, correspondence and other keepsakes.
They gave it a faux-suede cover available in four different colors, placed ads on Google and marketed it every way they could think of. “We get rejected every day, but for every five rejections we may get one yes, and that one yes could be a big break,” Horiuchi-Yvkoff said.
Recent additions to the line include pregnancy announcements and thank-you cards, and now Horiuchi-Yvkoff is actually putting one of the books to use: She’s expecting her first child in November.
Price: $74.99. Info: www.tummy-talk.com
Chris Ryan, 46, Spokane
Eric Ryan, 44, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Invention: Pawparazzi Pets
Why should Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have all the fun? Now a kid can have a pet as fashion accessory without bothering a real, live animal.
Brothers Chris and Eric Ryan started Noodle Head Inc. in 2003 with products including kits for people to design their own flip-flops and Chinese kites.
Expanding into fake pets and accessories stemmed partly from Chris Ryan observing that his own two daughters “were infatuated with anything small, cute and furry … and they particularly enjoy the whole glitz, glam, dress-up aspect of play.”
A major score was getting the pets in Nordstrom last year. Coming this month, several new models and a luxury hotel for them to cavort in.
Price: $32 for a “Celebrity Style Set” that includes pet, purse, blanket and charm bracelet. Info: www.pawparazzipets.com
Kathy Pickus, 48, Mukilteo
Terri Goodwin, 42, West Seattle
Invention: The Dot Girl’s First Period Kit
When Kathy Pickus had her first period at 12, she thought she was dying. Only after a day of worry did she find the courage to tell her mother, who assured her it was a normal, natural process.
“I vowed if I ever had a daughter, she would be prepared,” said Pickus, now a consultant for a payroll-outsourcing company. As that date approached nearly three decades later, she put together a small bag of supplies for her daughter, suggesting she keep it in her gym bag.
The experience sparked an idea for Pickus and her sister, Terri Goodwin, a full-time mom. They developed a kit that includes a 12-page booklet of answers to common questions, a small heating pad to ease cramps, feminine-protection pads, hand wipes and a calendar to track the menstrual cycle, tucking it all into a round zippered case.
Price: $18. Info: www.dotgirlproducts.com
Grigore Axinte, 66, Bellevue
Kent Baker, 57, Kirkland
Invention: Dolce Vita Duo Temp dog bed
A comfy bed that heats or cools your pooch is just the latest innovation from a company started in 2000 by Axinte, who emigrated from Romania in 1991. His earlier products included two soldering tools and a cordless glue gun.
This low-voltage pet bed pumps warm or cool air not onto the animal, but through channels inside the bed’s foam cushion.
Baker, who came aboard last year as the CEO of the company, now called ColdHeat, said the cooling system not only prevents pets from overheating in the summer, but eases the pain and stiffness of bone, joint and muscle problems, conditions experienced by one in five adult dogs.
At 29 inches across, the bed accommodates pets up to 40 pounds, and a larger size is due out in a few months — just in time for Christmas?
Price: $249.99. Info: www.dolcevitapets.com
Eulalie Scandiuzzi, 50, Seattle
Invention: Moonjar Moneybox
What’s the best thing to do with money: Spend it, save it or give it away?
The ideal answer, says Eulalie Scandiuzzi, is to recognize the importance of all three. That’s why she created colorful children’s banks with three compartments: spend, save and share.
Too many families, she said, either don’t talk about money at all or discuss it as an obstacle, the reason they can’t do certain things.
“I wanted something that brought the conversation to the dinner table in a fun way, so money would became a ‘yes’ conversation rather than a ‘no’ conversation,” said Scandiuzzi, executive director of a family foundation and a past director of Coyote Central, which offers life-skill experiences to middle-school students.
Since the bank’s debut in 2002, more than 1 million Moonjars have been sold — credit unions, banks and charities give them away — and the product line continues to expand into books and games to spark family conversation.
Price: In metal and plastic for $24.95 or paper for $6.95. Info: www.moonjar.com
Juleen Murray Shaw, 52, Gig Harbor
Invention: Nursery Tap Hip to Toe
The birth of her daughter 10 years ago rekindled Juleen Murray Shaw’s interest in nursery rhymes, and she was struck by similarities between the rhythm of those verses and the cadence of various forms of dance.
“I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to use dance as a background for nursery rhymes?” said Shaw, an actress, writer, producer and director.
The two DVDs she and her creative team produced at a Gig Harbor studio have an unusual style of presentation: the colorfully costumed performers, dancing to nursery rhymes, are seen only from the waist down.
“I wanted the focus to stay on the language and the movement of the legs,” Shaw said. Without seeing the performer’s facial expressions, she said, it’s easier for the children to imagine themselves in the scene.
Price: $19.95 for one, $34.95 for both volumes. Info: www.nurserytap.com
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org