Hey there! Inventor Chick here! Nice to meet you! I hope you enjoy my Blog where I will be sharing my story, my mistakes, my successes and along the way helping Inventors & Entrepreneurs just like you jump start your own ideas.
My name is Darla and I’m originally from Mishawaka, Indiana, but I’ve been living in Tampa Bay Florida for the past 30 years. I got tired of the cold weather up North so I migrated down to sunny Florida in 1987 and never looked back!
I’ve pretty much been an Entrepreneur all of my life. I tried working for companies here and there but nothing intrigued or excited me much so in my late 20’s, after I moved South, I decided to start my own business.
My very first business was a water consulting company and I had no idea how hard starting a business was going to be! When I first moved to Florida I was super intrigued why so many people drank bottled water; I grew up on well water and never drank a bottle of water in my life!
I started researching the bottled water phenomenon but Google didn’t exist so it wasn’t easy but I did learn that tap water wasn’t always safe so people resorted to drinking bottled water. Who knew! So after a ton of research and trying to figure out what I could do to initiate bottled water I had the fantastic idea to put water bottles in Coke machines but I was laughed at when I tried to sell the idea to Coca-Cola. Although…… a few years later…. guess what was selling in Coke machines, you got it…… bottled water! I’m sure I lost millions on that idea but I knew going up against Coke was a losing battle.
So a few weeks later I was sitting in the waiting room and I noticed there were a bunch of 5 gallon water bottles on the floor with a water machine next to it that dispensed cold water. I asked the receptionist how much they spent on bottled water each month and she said about $300…..I about fell over!
The very next day I started researching companies that were buying bottled water and found out they were spending anywhere from $50 to $1000 a month on 5 gallon bottles of water for their employees to drink. Wow! I was shocked but then a BIG idea popped into my head! What if I could tap into a water line and add a water filter to the cooler that dispensed cold water and save these companies a ton of money buying those 5 gallon bottles….and the rest is history!
It took a bit of doing but after about 6 months I had it all put together and off I went selling companies on my innovative idea! I did pretty well in the 5 years I was in business but the large water companies didn’t appreciate me taking their customers away so they copied my idea and started doing it themselves. I didn’t have any patent protection since I really didn’t invent anything and as time went by they made it difficult to compete so I decided to close my doors and cut my losses.
The next business I ventured into was catering. I know it sounds crazy from water machines to cooking but I wanted to do something that I truly loved! I always wanted to have my own cafe so I thought catering might be a good way for me to start!
One day I was driving to an appointment and I saw a girl standing on the side of the road with a food cart selling hot dogs. Then a few months later I saw a hot dog cart outside a bar and I was so intrigued that I stood there and counted how many people bought hot dogs in a 30 minute span and I was shocked! I started adding up the sales in my head and said to my friend, wow, I think this idea is a winner!
So, I ended up buying 8 hot dog carts, refurbishing them to a classier style and sold gourmet sandwiches I made from scratch at multiple locations. I even served food at a night club after the Super Bowl in Tampa and made over $7000 in one night! Crazy!
That business was really hard because I was working all day preparing food and all night selling it! But then something happened! One day I was using the microwave and noticed how much food splattered inside. Even when I put paper towels over the food it just stuck to the towels. What a mess!
But then I remembered as a kid my Mom would use waxed paper in the roll to cover the food so I decided to experiment. And that’s how I came up with my first invention MicroWax. A microwavable waxed paper that steams/cooks your food in the microwave without all the splatters.
Believe it or not, I ended up getting 2 patents on MicroWax even though waxed paper was already selling. I discovered there is wet wax and dry waxed paper. When water is impregnated into wet waxed paper and the heat from the microwave added moisture to the food it didn’t dry out and actually retained more vitamins and nutrients for healthier eating. Who knew this concept could be patented?! But not only did I get a utility patent, I got a design patent since I pre-cut the sheets in squares instead of putting them on a roll.
It all sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? I still believe it was but I did so many things backwards. I spent money when I should have done more research and I didn’t do my due diligence. I had this idea back in the 1990’s so the internet barely existed with little to no search engines to help with the research, I didn’t have a mentor and there were no inventors groups to bounce ideas off of for that emotional support.
I had no idea what to do or how to do it! I spent thousands of dollars on an idea that was over-priced for retail because waxed paper was manufactured in rolls not pre-cut sheets. By the time I got to this part of the business I had already spent thousands on patents, logo/branding and package design only to find out it couldn’t be manufactured cost effectively.
I did end up getting MicroWax on QVC but my family and friends had to help hand-count every sheet and package it ourselves! What a nightmare! So I had to make some tough decisions and if I continued on, how could I sell this product in retail if the price was too high? No matter how good a product is if it’s not priced right it will never sell. I even spent a ton of money on an infomercial that sold zippo! MicroWax TV Commercial
Even though MicroWax sold out every single show on QVC, I still couldn’t get it into retail because manufacturing was too expensive. But then something happened! I was traveling back from a QVC show and while I was standing at the luggage carousel I noticed someone picked up my black bag. They must have thought it was theirs! And then that darn light bulb went off in my head yet again! My first thought was OH NO…. not another idea! But then reality hit and I knew I needed to put MicroWax to bed and move onto something else…… and it was very hard to do….but thank goodness I did!
And that’s when my life completely changed! The good thing about inventing MicroWax was that I learned what NOT to do and off I went on yet another exciting adventure with my now successful product called Luggage Spotter!
But it was far from easy! It took me 5 years to get Luggage Spotters manufactured overseas, patented, and my entire business set-up before I ever made a penny. It was a long, hard road to get there, but Luggage Spotter was the one idea that stuck and actually made me a successful Inventor and Entrepreneur today!
My failures and successes are a big reason why I wanted to start this blog. I shared my past experiences with you because I want you to see that I’ve been there done that! I wasn’t afraid to start and idea and then put it to bed if it wasn’t working for me. I think that is a big fear of many Inventors and why so many go broke continuing with something that was never meant to be.
I hope you will join this journey as you learn, grow, and prosper with your creative ideas and innovations. So let’s get started and read this article with some helpful tips.
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