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Inventing an Inventor: Small Business Entrepreneur

The Beginning…

Inventing a product to sell, starting a business and putting it all together is comparable to being locked in one of those trendy escape rooms … you know all the pieces fit, but you struggle for the clues to unlock the door in the beginning.

My beginning started when I met my old high school boyfriend, the inventor, for a drink to catch up. I thought it was a good excuse to get out and watch a football game. Unbeknownst to me, and quite a few touchdown shots later, I stumbled into the life of an inventor, and I was on my way to living the entrepreneurial life.

The First Business Invention

When I first met Erik post high school, he was working on starting his first business from his creation the Whirly Board. (It is a balance board that helps board sport enthusiast with rotational tricks. One of the only boards that spins 360˚ around, so anyone looking to get a fit core can use it too.) He was getting ready to navigate the open roads and heading towards the mountains of the west. The plan was knocking on board shop doors to kickstart his business or tell any snowboarder who would listen. He wanted to revolutionize how people train to shred, inevitably, preventing injuries on the water, snow, or land.

The Whirly West Tour was a great learning experience. Maybe not the most lucrative campaign at the time, but it’s something we are going to revisit as soon as we can get the cost down. The company has slowly begun to take off as we implement different online marketing strategies that have replaced the door-to-door salesman approach.

Prototype of the first whirly board made of a skateboard deck, a sawed in half bowling ball and pool balls
Erik created the first Whirly Board prototype in his garage with a bowling ball, pool balls, and a skateboard deck. It now hangs proudly on our workshop wall.

Multiple Products Multiple Stages

Currently we have three different inventions that are all in different stages. The Whirly board is a product that we are currently producing and selling as its own business. We are constantly trying to find new marketing and manufacturing solutions to promote and make it cost-effective to sell.

The updated Whirly Board that we now sell on our website and many other e-commerce platforms.

We also are just starting Paddle Fishing Systems, a new business and line of inventions related to paddle watercraft and fishing, where we are applying for patents and trying to avoid the fees with lawyers while struggling with the USPTO, figuring out the design of the product and who can manufacture it, sketching and re-sketching different designs as new problems arise or better solutions are discovered, and trying to bring this product to life- all without going broke.

The first prototype of the SUP/Kayak fishing hands free landing net. It was made of from old 2 x4s and scrap vinyl from around the garage.

The last idea is still simply that, it is an idea. We are trying to make a cooking companion that everybody is going to want. Trying to figure out how to simply make the prototype is a challenge at the moment. This product will be different as we are exploring the idea of licensing it to a major company.

Decisions That Will Make Your Head Spin

When inventing a product there are a lot of decisions to make. Some are as easy as picking the next restaurant for your upcoming business meeting, while other decisions will more directly affect your invention’s path:

  • Should you license your product or go it alone?
  • Make it local or outsource over seas?
  • Should you partner with friends, family, or anyone who has a load of cash lying around?
  • Will you sell on e-commerce sites that take a percentage?
  • How much money are you willing to invest in marketing to get a return?
  • Are you going to learn to write a patent and deal with the USPTO?
  • Can you make your own prototype or will you have someone else make it for you?

There are bumps in the road that you will need to overcome. Hard choices are going to present themselves. The constant need for more money to make your ideas a reality is a stress that never ceases. All of these situations are going to present themselves and you are going to have to know your options.

Hopefully Helpful Inventing Advice

This blog is here to hopefully help those of you who are in one of these three stages of inventing and I’ll try to give you regular updates on the ideas that we are implementing within our businesses. Let you know what seems to be working for us, and what is definitely not working at all.

I try and read constantly and educate myself every day about the business world. We both have biochemistry majors that we are putting to good use. We don’t have any experience in marketing or advertising besides what we have tried and learned from. I’ll include helpful articles that I find and write book reviews when I finish them.

Most importantly, we are planning a Kickstarter campaign with Paddle fishing systems and Whirly Board. I can keep you updated on how we are managing everything up until the launch date. Determining how effective it turns out to be and our valuable learning mistakes. Erik will update you with any of his thoughts or feelings on what it takes to create something. (That is if I can get him to sit at a computer long enough!)

It’s been just over two years now since we have been together. I can now tell that all his ideas come from inspiration in his every day life. Erik loves shredding and Fishing, both loves have created really amazing products as a result. It is invigorating to see where this journey is going. Scary but exciting all at the same time. We’ve left the life of the 9-5’ers to attempt the unknown entrepreneurial world together.


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