Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
I thought some of you might enjoy this story about my invention marketing experience. If you'll note, in the third paragraph from bottom-page, I mention experiencing the onset of thyroid disease. Not knowing what was causing the illness, I simply had to drop the stressful inventing business because my symptoms were severe. Had I not experienced thyroid disease, I may have achieved ongoing success in the inventions field.
In the mid 1980s, myself and my brother-in-law, both of us living in North Central Texas at the time and both being fishermen, invented a device to prevent fishing rod combos from sinking if accidentally dropped into the water. We came up with this idea from our own experiences of dropping rod combos overboard, plus the experiences of other fishermen we knew whom did the same, including my father-in-law who had a rod flip out of his boat while trolling, after his fishing line snagged on some brush in the lake.
We were excited about the idea but first wanted to make sure it would actually work and would not be inconvenient or cumbersome if placed on a fishing rod combo. We decided that a poly foam piece would fit just above the rod handle of a fishing combo with plenty of room between it and the first eyelet on the rod. We began searching for cylinder-shaped material that could slip onto a rod and not be too large in diameter, as to interfere with the fishing line.
We ended up finding some pads that fit over the crossbars of bicycles and these worked quit well but these were either black or white and we wanted bright, highly visible colors for use as prototypes for showing and demonstrating the product and found such foam pieces that were perfect in size (strangely enough), in a toy called “Nerf Swords". These were bright yellow and orange and all that was needed, was for us to cut them to length, drill a hole down the center of them and to cut a slit-opening, to place them onto fishing rods. These looked very nice installed on fishing rods and so we made a demo VHS video of these in use and floating in the water.
We first contracted with an invention firm in 1985, whom we later discovered was not performing the duties they claim they were and we lost nearly $5,000.00 using their bogus contract services. I was living in my current state of Oklahoma at the time and I obtained a release from the invention company. I also asked for the approval of my brother-in-law, still living in Texas, for me to pursue the marketing of our invention on my own, which we decided to call the “Rod Floater". He gave me the okay to market it and so I decided to get some investors involved, who could help finance the product’s patenting and development. I was able to get three investors involved, including my own father, who agreed to invest operating capitol, into the project, that would get the product patented, set up for manufacturing locally, insured and packaged. In other words, these men agreed to invest the money needed to get the product ready for placing on the self in stores.
We formed a corporation of partners in this endeavor, that we entitled “Low-Mac, Inc." and with the funds invested, we first applied for a design patent, which was granted within two years. The current manufacturer, that now markets it, also has the product under their Registered Trademark.
I knew I was setting my goals high but decided my first attempt to get the product into an outlet, would be a presentation to Wal-Mart Stores. If you will remember, I mentioned a home video demo, my brother-in-law and myself made of the Rod Floaters, well we used this video in our presentation to Wal-Mart buyers and they approved us for selling the product, in a region of their stores! Not only did they contract us to sell the product to the approved stores, but most of the stores started out with an end-cap display of Rod Floaters and used our demo video, as a continuous play demo, in their sporting goods departments!
From that moment forward, we had more major outlets carry Rod Floaters, including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and Academy Stores, plus many other smaller chains, catalogs and independents. We also had several T.V. shows, some that were national, telemarketing the Rod Floaters. We also had Kerr-McGee Oil Company (Cato Division), to use the Rod Floater, as a promo-premium (give away item), inside all cases of “Mystik Outboard Motor Oil", in 1992, to help boost their sales. This was a very large order and very exciting times for us, seeing the Rod Floaters do so well on the market.
In 1996, we decided to turn the product over to another company for marketing it. The truth was, that my partners and I were doing this as a sideline and it became too much for us to handle! The major fishing tackle company, that we licensed the product to and the one who still markets it today, is Blakemore Corporation, in BransonMO. (now part of the TTI-Companies Group). They have been paying us a monthly royalty check on sales, ever since.
I attempted afterward, to get other products started up and licensed over to other companies and I did develop some other fishing products. One of these, was a lure/hook cover for lures attached to your fishing rod line that prevented hooks from snagging on things (including people), while transporting and storing them. I called this product “Tube-A-Lure" and did get a company to take it on under a license agreement however, the product was squeezed off the market, by a number of similar products that came out, made cheaper and having reputable names on them, by major tackle manufacturers.
I also invented some chumming pouches, that you fill with fish attractant/chum and cast them out with your fishing rod, into the area of water you would be fishing in, to attract fish into that area and then retrieve the chum pouch, once done fishing. I also had similar pouches for hanging from trees, in areas to attract deer. I made these pre-filled and pouches that were ready-to-fill, made from porous material that would leach these attractants out and attract deer and fish.
I successfully got these pouches into several districts of Wal-Mart stores and into some catalogs but I then became ill with the onset of Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and decided to sell out these products, to a company in Pana, IL., called “Pana Bait Company", who also publish the “Catfish Connection" catalog. This company, like Blakemore, is still marketing the pouches but being an outright sale to them and not a license agreement, they do not owe us a royalty on sales, as Blakemore is paying us.
In the year 2001, Inventor’s Digest did a feature article about my invention experiences that they published in their May/June issue that year.
If I were to express the most important things I’ve learned, in getting products marketed and licensed, I would say first of all, to other inventors; “Be persistent, even in the face of adversity and pursue your dreams with absolute determination!". I would also warn that there are dishonest people out there, ready to cheat you at every opportunity, so use some wisdom when dealing with that element of the world that is out there and do not make hasty decisions!