Royal OakDecember 12, 2012
Resident hopes invention can find investors to begin production
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — Overflowing bowls of hot food and finger-burning surfaces on freshly cooked TV dinners have plagued microwave users for decades, but a solution is in sight.
Resident Todd Bauswell, 45, has dabbled in inventions for the past five years, but his most recent may also be the most practical. The microwave-safe Cool Grip prototype is a doughnut-shaped bowl with handles, elevating bowls and plates on a central plateau to allow their contents to spill into the moat-like bowl instead of all over the microwave.
“I think anybody who’s ever used a microwave has burnt their fingers or spilt it,” Bauswell said. “It’s one of those things like, ‘Why isn’t it out there?’”
Bauswell got the idea three years ago while feeding his nieces. After continually dealing with SpaghettiOs and spilled soup, Bauswell spent six months testing out designs. A construction worker by day, his past two inventions were tools used for installing drywall.
“The key thing is to solve a mass problem; is it affordable and does it demonstrate well?” Bauswell said. “It’s just a matter of getting it into retailers. Less than 5 percent of new inventions make it to market, and less than 2 percent of those are successful.”
The Cool Grip finished in the top three of 350 inventors at a TeleBrands Inventors Day Competition in Charlotte, N.C., but none of the three finalists were selected for mass production. The other two products were a product to keep pants zippers up and an icing injector for cupcakes. He compared the experience to the “Shark Tank” television show.
Since then, Bauswell has visited a dozen factories, and even three overseas.
“I’ve had two different companies say they’re not investing in any new products until the economy turns around,” Bauswell said. “We’re looking for investors, because we want to try and have things ready to go to the factory in January.”
Without financial backing from any major corporations, Bauswell is using Indiegogo.com to try and raise $80,000 to put his product on the market. Donors will each receive a Cool Grip for every $10 they donate, plus $6 in shipping.
“I’ve never donated to one where I’ve got something,” said Bauswell, who has donated to other local projects, such as small films on websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. “Almost $30,000 of that goal is shipping to people.”
Only a small portion of the way to the $80,000 goal at www.indiegogo.com/CoolGrip, Bauswell has until 11:59 p.m. Jan. 14 to collect the full amount or receive nothing. For that reason, he currently is seeking private investors to get things started with a combined $50,000 investment, since the $30,000 in shipping would be out of the picture.
Additionally, he’s been able to keep his initial production costs down by working with All Star Plastics in Stevensville, Mich. Due to high costs at other manufacturers, he nearly agreed to work with a factory in China. He found All Star Plastics when he passed by their facility on I-94 and saw a sign.
“Now I’m really happy, because I have a Michigan company to produce it and didn’t have to go with China,” Bauswell said. “They’ve worked with me every step of the way.”
Bob Yack, sales and project manager at All Star Plastics, said Bauswell is the first inventor the company, which deals with international giants like Whirlpool, has taken on.
“This is something fairly new for us,” Yack said. “Todd basically has everything designed. The next step will be if he gets the funding. If the prototypes work out, we could make a mold and fit it to one of our machines.”
With 18 different machines available, Yack said it would take six weeks to make a molding that would then be able to create about 2,500 injection-molded Cool Grips per day using just one machine.
“It was really interesting. It was a good idea. It was a pretty good idea and everyone here is pretty excited about it,” Yack said. “I’m glad it’s being made in the U.S. instead of China. (It saves) a lot of hassle. We’re three hours away from him. If he gets a bunch of rejects from China, what can he do with them?”
Yack said his facility has the ability to regrind and recycle any less-than-desirable products.