Donald Waters likes to say his latest invention hit him in the head – literally.
Waters, a contractor by trade, noticed a recurring theme when doing work inside homes: he’d constantly brush his head against the cord hanging from the attic stairway door.
Enter Handy Reach – a three-hooked household tool created by Waters to remedy the issue. The plastic product complete with handle allows users to pull down high cords and ropes.
“I’m in a different house every other week,” said the Beech Island resident. “Some of the houses I do go into always have this attic cord hanging down. I’m right at 6 feet tall, so it always hits me in the head. What would be a better way to take care of that problem?”
In an effort to expand his customer pool, Waters soon found the product also could be used to change the speed and direction of high ceiling fans.
Waters came up with the idea about three months ago and has already hired a patent attorney from Washington D.C., completed computer drawings and made a prototype. He’s spent about $1,500 so far on his invention.
Though Waters’ patent is currently pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, he said a thorough patent search done by his attorney revealed there weren’t similar products on the market. Waters has applied for a utility patent, which is granted to anyone inventing a new or useful process, machine or improvement, and protects Waters’ product for 20 years, according to the Patent and Trademark Office.
It’ll likely take a year or longer before the patent is approved, but Waters can still market it through a provisional patent.
Waters has hit the streets of nearby Aiken, looking for local retailers to carry the product in their stores. He’s seen promising leads with a small Aiken electrical store and big box home improvement and home goods stores, he said.
Waters also has his project on crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, and is asking for pledges, starting at $1. The highest pledge, of $20 or more, promises shipment of a Handy Reach by November. Waters hopes to raise at least $39,000 by July 21. He must receive donations for the entire $39,000 or the project won’t be funded through the site.
Waters estimates about $30,000 would cover the product’s injection mold and manufacturing of nearly 2,000 devices, all of which would be made domestically, he said. Each item will likely cost about $1.50 to make, but Waters said packaging, product liability insurance and the addition of employees would increase out-of-pocket expenses.
“I know $30,000 is not a ton of money, but it’s tough when you have babies in the house,” said Waters, who has two adult children and two children under the age of 3.
The product will be designed to withstand forces of at least 50 pounds and includes a Velcro strap for storage. Waters said he could see Handy Reach retailing for about $15.
Waters isn’t a stranger to innovative ideas.
In 1999, he patented Timbertite, a safety device for the trucking industry that secures planks of wood on 18-wheelers. Waters said he invested about $60,000 into that product, but it was more difficult to market. If Handy Reach takes off, Waters said he may give Timbertite another look.
As he tries to raise funds and waits for approval of his patent, Waters will vie for a spot on ABC’s reality competition show, Shark Tank. The program gives budding entrepreneurs and small business owners the chance to secure investment deals with self-made business tycoons.
“Without risks, there are no rewards,” Waters said. “I would always encourage people to invent.”