My History as an Inventor
I’ve always loved inventing things. The main reason is because I like solving problems. I think this is a valuable trait in any entrepreneur.
I remember as a kid in grade 7, I single-handedly built a wooden rollerblading ramp 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot high. What was the problem I was trying to solve? Well, apparently that I didn’t have enough bruises and broken bones. The ramp soon took care of that. ;P
Though I didn’t say all my inventions solved real-world problems, the ones I’m most passionate about do.
I’m an Engineer – I solve problems
Take this problem for example:
Vicki, among the other plethora of tasks she’s able to do including sewing her own clothes, hemming my pants, cooking authentic Chinese cuisine, singing like a rock star, sleeping like a baby, making a fart sound cute, actually enjoying baby food, and blinking like a red light, can cut hair. Who would’ve known!
When I found out, I felt like I won the lottery – well, maybe the $10 lottery. Who would’ve guessed that marriage would have so many benefits?!?
However, it soon turned into the MINUS $10 lottery when I found out that cleaning hair out of the washroom sink, wall, bathtub, toilet, behind-the-toilet and in the floor cracks wasn’t really that fun. This was a problem.
I got to thinking, and when I start thinking there’s no telling what might come out.There had to be some way, some solution that was already done, that could catch the hair before it hit the ground, but still allow the barber easy access to the head. I had some large pieces of paper and quickly sketched out a similar idea using the cone technique
1st Prototype – Cone shape
I quickly took some nearby poster paper and tested out my idea of a prototype – the contraption resembled that of a dog cone.
Nevertheless, let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have the actual picture to show you.
There were also major problems like:
- Difficulty removing and wearing the contraption
- Cutting the neck
- The barber could not access many spots of hair
For my second prototype, I really wanted to build something that fixed the problem of the barber having no space (3 above).
I realized that to let the barber get his hands in there, the contraption would have to be portable, and the shoulder-area would have to mold along the patient’s chests and shoulders to give the barber more room.
I quickly sketched some ideas on a nearby cardboard paper and began designing. I solved the problem by making the contraption run along the shoulder, then go deep enough so the Barber can reach from underneath.
I also knew that I would have to make this something easily taken on and off. I solved this by making it so that you can turn the “hat” sideways, and put your head through it. Then rotate it back to the normal position.
And finally, we solved the neck cutting issues simply by putting duck tape along the neck, and a garbage bag.
Here’s the final version in action:
What do you think? Would you use it?
Here’s a video of Mackenzie, Vicki’s little sister, taking it for a spin!
Moral to the Story
I think I learned some valuable lessons for my startup.
1) Just because you have a good idea or solution for a problem doesn’t make you a success.
Of course, I was really just doing it cause I had the time to spend with the material around me. But if this were a company, I should have first checked out the competition and seen there are some of these things out there:
I did buy the product shown above, and it works nothing as advertised. So I could try and enter this market, but this would lead to my second lesson:
2) If there’s not much competition in the market it is either a) the unlikely event that you’re the first one in or b) the likely event that others saw it was not profitable enough
How much margin can I really make from selling these? Who cuts their hair at home? Would they want a product like this? Would they want a solution that keep hairs cut from dropping to the ground? That’s where user research and market research would come into play.
Needless to say, I’m most likely not pursuing down the “haircut catcher” road so if anyone wants this idea, its all yours!