Inventors to show what's on their minds
A club's competition is full of examples of what happens when a light bulb comes on and an idea takes shape.
By JANE MADDEN WELCH, Times Correspondent
Published September 14, 2007
LARGO - They toil for months, tinkering with their creations and dreaming about striking it rich.
On Saturday, these budding Edisons will display their innovations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at an inventors fair at the Largo Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road.
And they're eager to know what you think.
"Feedback from the public is extremely valuable to us as inventors," said Wayne Rasanen, president of the Tampa Bay Inventors Council.
The Largo Recreation Department teamed with the Tampa Bay Inventors Council to promote the fair, four months in the planning.
"This is a first-time event," said Lance Riddile, assistant supervisor for Largo recreation. "The goal is to provide an opportunity for local inventors to show what they've developed."
Entries will be judged on originality, creativity, usability and clarity by a panel of inventors and entrepreneurs. Ribbons will be awarded for first, second and third place.
Riddile said the inventors council was a natural partner for the city-sponsored event.
The club meets twice a month at the Highland Recreation Complex and has guest speakers talk about things like product development, marketing tools and patent procurement. Its motto is "Inventors Helping Inventors."
"That's the heart of what we do," Rasanen said.
The council has been around for 25 years. Membership fluctuates between about 50 and 150, said Rasanen, 46, of New Port Richey.
A self-described tinkerer, the club president replaced his first car engine at 17. When he's not inventing, Rasanen makes a living in television broadcasting as an editor and director.
Rasanen will demonstrate his own invention at the fair, a compact 10-key mobile keyboard. He spent a decade developing it and received a patent in 2003.
"For an invention to sell, is has be practical," Rasanen said. "If you have the greatest mouse trap in the world but it costs $1,000, it's not practical."
James Turner, 43, thinks he has a practical invention to exhibit at the fair. His brainchild, the KoolPitcher, is a 60-ounce refreezable plastic pitcher designed to keep beverages cold for several hours.
"It will work with lemonade, iced tea, any beverage, but the primary market is for beer," said Turner, a St. Petersburg resident. He has sold more than 500 KoolPitchers, mostly to restaurants.
Turner thought of his idea 20 years ago, "but I didn't have any money to do anything with it back then."
For the past two decades, Turner has owned and operated Commercial Pool Services of Florida. While continuing that business, he decided three years ago to get his pitcher idea into production.
"Coming up with the idea is the easiest part of an invention," Turner said. "Marketing is thehardest part."
Turner estimates he has spent $35,000 to $40,000 developing the KoolPitcher.
"You have to realize you're not going to see any revenue for two or three years or longer," he said.
His wife, Lara, helps with his pool business and the KoolPitcher project. She learned about the fair from a Largo recreation brochure and encouraged her husband to sign up.
"Creating a product involves a lot more than you think," she said.
In their effort to get the KoolPitcher up and running, the Turners met some unscrupulous people billing themselves as invention consultants.
"You could go in there with a square wheel and they'd say, 'It's a great idea,' " Lara Turner said. "All they want is your money."
She likes the notion of local inventors helping each other and sharing what they've learned. They are looking forward to Saturday's fair.
"I can't wait," Lara Turner said. "It should be fun."
If you go
When:9 a.m. to 1 p.m.Saturday
Where: Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road, Largo
Information: Call Largo's recreation department at (727) 518-3016.