I found this inventor interview really interesting as Rick Hopper from www.ReadeREST.com found out that his invention idea had already been patented. However he did not let this stop him pursuing the idea. Read Rick’s story to find out more below.
Tara: What is your name, invention name and website URL?
Rick: Inventor Rick Hopper, Company: ReadeREST. (Pronounced Reader Rest) www.ReadeREST.com (We are also known as SpecSecure by ReadeREST. *SpecSecure was a more recognizable name in the international market)
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?
Rick: I grew up near Anaheim and now live in Fullerton, Calif. As a young boy, I loved tinkering around with things including tools or anything else I could get my hands on. My first invention, believe it or not, was a “wind sail” for my skate board. I used pvc pipe and a sheet to create a sail that could help me pick up speed or slow down while riding my skate board down hills. I’ve always considered myself pretty inventive. If there was a problem, I’d find a solution!
I worked at Home Depot for many years and as a carpenter on the side to support my family, but always had bigger dreams for myself. I started up a business from an idea I’d had about 12 years ago (Vinyl Trim for window companies) and was fortunate enough to sell the company and focus on my next project. The bigger picture; which was ReadeREST.
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?
Rick: The day I turned 40, I started needing reading glasses. When I wasn’t wearing them, I’d hang them in my shirt collar and they would always, without fail, fall on the ground and get scratched. Even worse, sometimes they’d fall in the toilet! I’d try wearing them on my head and they’d pull my hair out. I wasn’t about to wear a “granny chain” so I needed something to keep them within arm’s reach, but also safe. I began bending paper clips into different shapes and attaching them with magnets to my shirt. It made the perfect hanger for my glasses. Everywhere I went, people would ask “Hey, What is that??” and more importantly “Where can I get one??” It didn’t take long to see that there was a huge demand for this product. With some fine tuning of the shape and design, ReadeREST was born. Like my company before, it began in my garage! I started making them for all my friends and family and eventually started selling them.
Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?
Rick: (Somewhat discussed above) I bought better, stronger magnets, and designed a streamline shape that anyone could wear. If I got stuck, I just kept moving forward, gathering information from anyone I could. That’s the thing about being an entrepreneur, you might now know what the heck you’re doing, but you figure it out!
Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of your invention, how did you go about this?
Rick: The first prototype was literally made out of paper clips. It seems silly to think back on that from where we are now, but that’s how the basic idea came about. The idea was so simple. It was just solving a problem I had with trying to keep my glasses safe and turned into something so much bigger.
Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?
Rick: I immediately, after seeing people’s reaction to it, searched for a utility patent to protect this cool idea. To my surprise, it already existed! I found out it belonged to an older gentleman who had passed away. His wife lived in Northern Calif. So I took a road trip and purchased the patent from her.
Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?
Rick: I definitely wanted a Made In America product and if I could keep up with the demand, I wanted to manufacture it here, myself. We now have a warehouse in Brea, Calif. We make and assemble each one by hand and to tell you the truth, you can’t make them cheaper in China! We have a fluid system down that is efficient and employs hard working Americans, which is great. Our “blinged” version that is embedded with Swarovski crystals are all assembled by hand as well!
Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?
Rick: The money I made off the sale of my other business was all I needed. Like any successful venture, there are many players on the team. Surrounding yourself with the right people is key. I was able to find a local metal guy that created my stainless steel front clips and back plates. I experimented with all sizes and strengths of magnets, found the most powerful adhesive available, and got to work assembling them!
Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?
Rick: We really got our big break after I was selected to be featured on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. I frankly had never heard of the show, but everyone told me I needed to apply to be on it! So, I went to the ABC website and submitted my idea. A few weeks later, I was selected. The episode aired in February of 2011 and that is really what launched us in a big way. Making a deal with Lori Greiner was the best thing we could have done. Another great avenue that has helped us is attending trade shows, such as, Gift Expos and Vision Expo. You can make priceless contacts at these events.
Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?
Rick: If you have the right product, at the right time, at the right price, there is nothing difficult about it. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a LOT of work getting your product to retail, but with an invention that is a clear winner, people will see its potential and believe in it 100%.
Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?
Rick: 2 years of constant follow through and long days!
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Rick: I believe you learn new things all along the way. You’ll make mistakes and learn from them as in any part of life. I don’t think I’d do anything differently.
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?
Rick: Words I live by: Ideas are worth a penny, but the action and plans that carry your idea to reality are worth millions. It’s not enough to just have a cool idea. You have to be willing to put in the time and energy to make your idea a reality. There are so many resources at your finger tips these days, there is no excuse to sit around with a brilliant idea. Go after it with all your heart and soul!
Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention
Rick: We have a website www.ReadeREST.com where you can see all of the different ReadeRESTS. It began with the simple stainless steel option and has evolved into other colors and shapes now!
There have been a few articles written about Rick and ReadeREST too.