In this inventor interview Mia Hunter explains how she came up with the idea for the FunSpunge www.thefunspunge.com because her young son would scream when she tried to wash his hair because he didn’t like the water and soap dripping in his face. When she couldn’t find anything in the shops to solve the problem she decided to create something herself.
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background and if The FunSpunge is your first invention (or what was your first invention)?
Mia: Originally, I worked in the not-for-profit industry. I have two children, a 3 and a 5 year old.
Tara: Please could you explain what gave you the idea for the FunSpunge?
Mia: Countless evenings I would have to hear my son scream to the top of his lungs whenever I tried to wash his hair. He hates when water dribbles in his face. My daughter (the 5-year old) didn’t like it either but she didn’t put up too much of a fuss.
I figured that if I went to one of the big retailers I would find a product that would solve this problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t. One evening a light bulb went off in my head that I could create something that would keep him occupied while I washed his hair. Of course they could bring their random toys in the tub but I thought of something different.
Mia: I went to my brother who was a recent MBA graduate of Wharton with my idea. He immediately saw the opportunity, decided we should start a company and funded the project through applying for a business line of credit. I can’t reveal the details about that product because we will be adding it to our product line. What I will say is that I went so far with this project that we paid over $2500 to have a company do a provision patent application on the product to ultimately try and get a licensing deal. After doing some additional research I realized that although this “new idea” was great, it didn’t solve the problem of water dribbling in his face so I put that project on the back burner. A friend suggested that I put something around his head that stopped the water from going down in his face. So I thought of an absorbent headband. After about a year of researching the raw materials and trial and error, I came up with the FunSpunge. The FunSpunge is a super absorbent headband that parents can put around the childs hairline to stop water and soap from dripping in their face.
Tara: Did you create drawings or prototypes for the FunSpunge and how did you do this?
I did create a prototype for the FunSpunge out of different raw materials until I found the right components that worked together. I actually started using my prototypes especially for my son. I had to send some prototypes around to shop out a fulfillment house that could actually make a saleable product. After more trial and error we found a manufacturer that could make units the way we wanted. We ordered our first run in June of 2011. Our process started April 2010 and today we have our product in 4 boutiques so far. It has been a long journey, but it is a great product that solves a big problem in most homes.
Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea straight away or did you develop it first? How did you go about getting protection for your idea?
Mia: The first project was a learning experience because I realized that applying for a provisional patent was a lot easier than most attorneys made it sound. I actually took the time to file a provisional patent for the FunSpunge myself and saved about $3000. I also applied to trademark the FunSpunge on my own as well. I was issued a provisional patent for 12 months. This gave me time to tweek what I needed to tweek before we came to market. Literally, at the end of 12 months we had a tangible product. Filing a utility patent is a lot more in depth so we did opt for an attorney to file for us.
Tara: Did you look into licensing the FunSpunge or was your intention to always manufacture and sell it yourself?
Mia: Once we have built a success story with selling our product in baby boutiques, we plan to approach the major retailers to have them pick it up. We are open to licensing our product but it needs to be a very good deal for us in order to do that. I would say that we have had some success manufacturing it on our own through personal financing. I still work full-time as well as my partner.
Tara: How are you promoting the FunSpunge and what ways have you found the most successful?
Mia: We have developed a website for the product (www.thefunspunge.com) we are currently marketing through SEO. It took us a little over a year to come to market. We are organically promoting our product through word of mouth, we post our progress on facebook, twitter @funspunge and we have a video that we have posted on Youtube. We are looking for many other ways to promote our product. We also have sent samples to different bloggers and magazine publications.
Being that we have funded this project ourselves we are over extended financially and have to do things ourselves as opposed to outsourcing, but in the end it will be well worth it.
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing the Fun Sponge that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Mia: I am so proud of the progress that I have made with this product. I can’t believe that it is actually sitting on a boutique shelf as we speak. There was one or two companies that really helped to streamline this process, Catalpha Advertising who did our logo and artwork Karen Kerski really stepped outside of the traditional boundaries of pay per hour and really gave me knowledge about the manufacturing business. The amount of information she gave me was priceless. Learning about the patent process, and how easy it is to do it yourself was also priceless. I was so intimidated by the process and listened to money hungry attorneys tell us that we definitely needed an attorney. I found that at certain stages, you should save your money, do it yourself and use that money for other parts of the process.
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?
Mia: The advice I would give an aspiring inventor is to NEVER give up on your idea. See it through until the very end. NEVER give up on your dreams. As cliche as it sounds it is so true. You never let anybody dictate how your product will do. You never know. I think the Pet Rock was the most insane invention of all time and the inventor laughed all the way to the bank. For those that are a bit younger than I… the pet rock is literally a rock that you would find in the park, that has a painted face… and the SNUGGLIE, I thought that was a little crazy… but that product has made multi-millions of dollars.
Again, never give up on a product that you feel will work. Keep pushing, do research. There are plenty of books out there that will help you along the way. Try to save money where you can and use it for advertising campaings and in other areas. Don’t be quick to throw money away in the very beginning because in the end is where you will need it most.
Tara: Where can people find out more about you and the Fun Spunge?
Mia: We have a long way to go but you can check out our website at www.thefunspunge.com
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