Tara: Your name, invention name and website URL?
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?
Tobi: I did not start out with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur. A scientist by trade, I’m a prime example of the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I really loved my job as a geologist in the petroleum industry and the flexible work schedule that I had. My former bosses were always very accommodating when it came to taking care of my special needs daughter and for five years I was able to balance a successful career with meeting the needs of my daughter. Then a new manager, who did not believe in telecommuting, forced me to make a decision: care for my daughter at home or return to the office. It was a no-brainer: I chose my daughter. and found myself facing the financial burden of taking unpaid leave from my job.
My husband and I own and operate a 35-acre working farm called Crazy K Farm, which is located in Hempstead, Texas. Our farm is home to more than 100 chickens, 25 geese, 30 ducks, four sheep, 12 goats, four horses, two donkeys, three livestock guardian dogs, two barn cats, three indoor cats,three indoor dogs, four parrots and a red golden pheasant. Nearly all of our animals are rescues and I have spent the past several years creating products to improve the quality of their lives. When covering the farm bills while staying home to care for my daughter became almost impossible, food and medical needs for 200+ mouths inspired me to form a new division of Crazy K Farm — Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products, LLC — and market my unique inventions.
All of my patented and patent-pending products (Kitty Holster, Avian Haven hut, Hen Saver, Hen Holster and Birdy Bra) have gotten enthusiastic positive feedback from consumers who have purchased them. I have received numerous unsolicited letters and e-mails from people who love the quality and functionality of my products. I began selling direct to consumers through my websites and on EBAY and recently started advertising in consumer special-interest magazines (such as Bird Talk, Hobby Farms. Cat Fancy and Backyard Poultry) and marketing to pet stores through trade-show exhibition and Pet Industry publications (such as Pet Business).
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?
Tobi: I invent products to improve the quality of animals lives. My first invention, the Hen Saver, I created to protect hens from roosters, other hens (pecking order) and predators (from the sky.)
Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?
Tobi: Hiring a seamstress to sew my design, filing for a patent, and then selling it on EBay.
Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?
Tobi: Yes. Through LegalZoom at first (for the Hen Saver) and then I learned enough from that experience to write the provisional patents myself (saved me tens of thousands of dollars in the end) and then handing the provisional to a patent attorney to complete the process.
Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?
Tobi: I only recently considered licensing in order to reach a broader market. I have been approached many times and am considering one non-exclusive licensing term.
Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?
Tobi: Via the internet. I found only one manufacturer that was willing to make the prototypes for free in order to woo my business. They were much higher quality than the ones I had to pay for. I self funded my first run through credit cards and loans.
Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?
Tobi: Ads in niche magazines and free publicity through media coverage.
Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?
Tobi: Funding. I can’t believe how expensive it is.
Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?
Tobi: Months – well under one year.
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Tobi: Yes – hire a professional designer for website and packaging. This was a big lesson as I think my home-made designs turned retailers off. I more professional look would have paid off in spades.
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?
Tobi: Patent first, market second. Protect your idea!
Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention?
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