In this inventor interview Wayne Lifshitz talks about the process of bringing his invention The Piggy Back Rider child carrier to market and the different methods he and his brothers have used to promote and market it. You can find out more about The Piggy Back Rider at www.thepiggybackrider.com. This inventor interview was originally done as a podcast but there was a bad echo and sound problems, so have had the interview transcribed.
Tara: I wonder if you’d mind telling me a little bit about where you’re based, your background and how you first started inventing.
Wayne: I’m based in Washington DC at the moment. I’m actually from California, so I don’t call DC home. My background is work wise in International Development, I was in that for the last 15 years or so. A couple of years ago I switched over and started working in Management Consulting and I think I’ve been an inventor, a tinker, I don’t know, since I was a kid. My brother and I liked taking things apart, putting them back together and making things better.
Tara: So, do you mind explaining what the Piggyback Rider is and how you came up with the idea?
Wayne: It’s a child carrier for toddlers, the only thing like it on the market. There’s no carriers out there for older kids. It’s not that they don’t need them because they can’t walk, but we came up with the idea, my brother and I because we both have kids and it got to the point were the kids wanted to always be carried at some point when we were out. We didn’t have anything for them because we didn’t like… well I know me personally I didn’t like walking around with an empty stroller when they didn’t want to be in it or one of those big framed backpack carriers. So we went to our local Army/Navy surplus stores. We went there and picked up a bunch of supplies and made the first Piggyback Rider prototype.
Tara: So how does it works? Does the child actually stand up on your back?
Wayne: Yes. You wear it like a backpack and the kids stands on a bar just up your lower back. So this is different from any other apparatus for carrying kids because in all other ones the kid either sits or lies down.
Tara: So, is there a danger of falling off?
Wayne: No, the bar is textured for grip and they wear a safety harness that clips them on. There is also gravity and Darwinism that keeps them on.
Tara: So, what were first steps that you took after having the idea?
Wayne: The very first… The first few steps were we made probably half a dozen prototypes to get an idea of what we thought it would look like as far as the backpack component, what it needed, what the safety harness would look like, if it needed handles, all of that. We tried it for a few weeks with our kids to see if it was comfortable. We’d probably spent about two months researching at the patent’s office to make sure somebody else hadn’t already thought of this and just wasn’t actually making it. While we were doing that, I found an Industrial Designer to help us take the design from what had made and put it on paper so someone else could copy it basically, in a factory.
Tara: So, you mentioned that before that you were checking out prior patents. Did you actually go ahead and get your idea patented as well?
Wayne: Yes, pending.
Tara: So are were you originally looking to license in the Piggyback Rider or did you always intend making it?
Wayne: I didn’t look into licensing it initially because it’s such a new concept that I didn’t think anyone would license it. It’s not like its a new type of car seat. People already know what a car seat is. What we find, we’re educating people of what this thing is and how you use it and who it’s for. So, I didn’t immediately look into licensing it nor selling the idea. I wanted to build up some market credibility and build up the brand. Then if I go to sell it or license it, I will have a much better shot at it because I have created a market and I have created demand for it.
Tara: So, did you fund it yourself or did you seek help with investment?
Wayne: We funded it ourselves.
Tara: You and your brothers altogether?
Tara: So, from the original idea, how long did it take you to get it to market?
Wayne: Probably upwards of 18 months before we launched it.
Wayne: Well, we have a PR company that helps with that. We started out sending it out to a whole bunch of bloggers to do reviews just so we could get people using it, people testing it, getting the name out there. We don’t have a massive marketing budget to go and build a brand overnight. So, we put a lot of product on the streets. In addition, to going to trade shows, industry trade shows we also went to a lot of Family Shows where they’ll have a bunch of vendors and then the petting zoo and some carnival rides and for a couple of bucks, you can go for the whole day. So we did a lot of those where could sell directly to the public. At trade shows, we were selling to vendors, retailers, stores, that kind of thing and they were buying a couple here a couple there, where as at these other expos we were able sell it directly to the public. We’re fortunate enough to have gotten into the hands of some celebrities.
Tara: Can you say who?
Wayne: Tori Spelling, she’s probably our biggest fan. I don’t know if you know her.
Tara: Yes I do.
Wayne: She was actually just out this past weekend and there were about a dozen photos that the paparazzi got of her and her family this past weekend using it.
Tara: That’s great
Wayne: We got picked up by a TV show this weekend also, for cool ideas from parents. It’s doing really well as far as getting the word out there.
Tara: So, is there anything you’ve learned in the process that you would now do differently if you had to start again?
Wayne: I think we learned a lot as far as import, export, the legal components, the engineering component, how to make good package, how to make a sexy product that looks good on the shelf. What would I do differently? I’m not sure what I’d do differently. I feel like we took all the right steps, we didn’t go too fast. Now again, being self-financed, we did a lot of the work ourselves. Like I said, we researched the patent office before even asking a lawyer to get involved so that once we did get a lawyer involved we could just say, “Here’s what we’ve researched. Here’s what we’ve found, you guys dot the I’s and cross the T’s.”
Tara: So that cut your costs down a lot?
Wayne: Yes, it really kept our cost down. We designed the manual, we probably did 80% of everything ourselves and then had someone sign-off on it if you would, whether it was either one of our lawyers or our engineering team. They signed-off on it after we’d gone through it and found what we needed. Same with testing, compliance testing for here, for Europe, we went through and found what the regulations were and then cross-referenced it with the testing lab. I think a lot of them were surprised in working with us like that because many of them have clients that say, “Oh, here’s my product, what do I do?” and dump it on their lap.
Tara: So, did you just find out everything just looking through websites?
Wayne: Pretty much, Google is pretty powerful when it comes to finding what you need or finding something similar that you can compare it to. Again, I didn’t want to tell people their own jobs but I wanted to give them a head start so weren’t paying full rates.
Tara: So what advice would you give to an aspiring inventor with an idea?
Wayne: Well, we’ve met a lot because they all want to know how we did it and what the steps are. I would say, number one, don’t be discouraged. First of all, it takes a while, it totally depends on how much money you have, because if you’ve got a big wallet then you can take your idea and dump it on someone and they can do all the work for you, which may be fine, it may not be as much fun, but I would definitely say be patient. There are a lot of patents out there, so try to invent something that’s patentable. I think it’s pretty challenging given that one little piece of one thing could be infringing on someone else’s patent so I think you need to be flexible a little bit. Know that you may have a really good idea, but may have to change it a little bit to kind of skirt some of the other patents that are out there because I think if you can’t legitimately submit a patent application, it is just that much harder to sell it.
Tara: If people want to find out more about you and The Piggyback Rider, where’s the best place to find you?
Tara: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and share your story.
Are you an inventor with an interesting story to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com