November 2006 - Invention Showcase

Innovation Takes Center Stage

By Patrick Cauley

Shirley Hayden shows off the family friendly Unique Seat.
Erick Washington displays his product the Triceptor.
Eddie Soloman accepts his award from Wendi Cooper for Nu-Credit Software.
Father and son, Dennis and Michael Moss, are out to save the world from bagel-related injuries.
Nancy Bailey, Lisa Novak and Cathi Climaco combine convenience and trendy with Free Me Bags.
Bruce McGivern demonstrates the Magic Twist.
Eliot Greeting showcases his product AbAce.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the trade show floor during ERA’s annual convention resides one of the association’s best-kept secrets-the Invention Showcase. As consumers engage themselves in the direct response industry they are constantly inundated with products, yet rarely is time taken to consider where all these innovative ideas came from-inventors.

Inventors cannot easily be categorized as was demonstrated at the Invention Showcase in September. This year’s event was supported in part by Platinum sponsor Advanced Interactive Sciences (AIS). The wide array of people from all different walks of life lined the isles of the showcase, each eager to demonstrate his or her product to potential buyers. One inventor, Jane McGivern, was given a bottle/jar opener as a gift a few years back. The opener offered no help in closing lids and would also sometimes puncture lids, preventing them from being resealed. She soon developed the Magic Twist that would open and close lids without puncturing them. Sadly, McGivern passed away before the event. However, her son, Bruce, proudly represented her product at the Invention Showcase.

Time efficiency and convenience were clear motivating factors for inventors. As the owner of a bar that didn’t close until 3 a.m., Chris Sarris would need every last minute of sleep he could get. And taking extra time to make his coffee in the morning was not on his agenda! “It became so aggravating and frustrating in the morning,” he says. Sarris invented the E-Z Filter for the convenience of having a filter dispenser near the coffee maker and the ease of it distributing one filter at a time.

Then there was a doctor from New York who was sick and tired of seeing bagel-related injuries (BRIs), so he developed the Brooklyn Bagel Slicer. “I invented it trying to reduce BRIs, as they are one of the most common emergency room injuries,” says Dr. Dennis Moss. He and his son developed the product, which has a guard covering the blade and also can cut bagels into threes, thus allowing someone to throw away extra carbs, or simply have a club bagel sandwich.

Each story proved that an inventor could come up with an invention at any place or time. Simply ask Cathi Climaco, who was having a great night on the town in Cleveland and decided she wanted to hit the dance floor, but of course, no one was there to watch her purse. She then came up with idea for Free Me Bags, which is a hands-free fashionable bag that attaches directly to a woman’s belt loop. “This way wearers have their hands free to shop, dance, eat or sightsee,” Climaco says.

The Invention Showcase has been wildly successful since its inception in 1999. While at the show, inventors have access to a wide variety of direct response professionals to whom they can pitch their product. “The Invention Showcase has been and will remain an integrity-based program for ERA in general and for the inventors,” says Wendi Cooper, chair of ERA’s 2006 Invention Showcase Task Force.

The participating inventors are chosen by a distinguished panel of ERA judges during America’s largest invention trade show, INPEX, in Pittsburgh each June. ERA offers educational sessions during the annual convention to help inventors learn how to pitch their products effectively and also to find out what their options are going forward from the showcase. “We wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without it (the showcase). We’re launching our product because of ERA,” Climaco says.

All of the products featured in the showcase have a patent or are patent pending. “A lot of time and effort goes into pre-qualifying the inventors and we see this as a member benefit, so one may call it selfish, but the Invention Showcase is for ERA members,” says Cooper. All these provisions protect the inventor and the membership in the long run.

As members enter the showcase, they are handed a ballot and are asked to place their completed ballot in the ballot box upon exiting the showcase. At the end of the convention, awards are given to different inventors for each of the respective direct response channels. This year, Eliot Greeting won Best Potential Long Form for his workout system AbAce. Shirley Hayden won Best Potential Print/Catalog for her family friendly Unique Seat. Eddie Soloman won Best Potential Radio for his computer software system Nu-Credit. Nancy Bailey, Lisa Novak and Cathi Climaco proved the importance of dancing when they took home the award for Best Potential Live Show for Free Me Bags. Best Potential Short Form and the Inventor of the Year award went to Dennis and Michael Moss for their product, the Brooklyn Bagel Slicer.

The awards can never take away from the passion and dedication shown from all the inventors. From portable cereal devices to keyless door entry technology, this showcase is one that will not soon be forgotten.

“It has been a long haul in creating a successful integrity-based program that offers education and opportunity. We continue to grow and we continue each year to bring more and more product that is at the heart of what we do. Without product we would not have an industry-so our goal is to honor not only the inventor and membership, but also our industry, building recognition through programs such as the Invention Showcase, where we truly show our goodwill and ability to change lives for the better,” says Cooper.

For more information about how you can become involved in next year’s Invention Showcase, please e-mail [email protected].

Patrick Cauley is ERA’s technology and communications specialist and assistant editor of Electronic Retailer.


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