Bayside--They're a part of everything we do, from exercise machines to juice makers to programmable mattresses -- inventions that power our world or at least promise to make life a little better.
Millions of people buy them after watching late-night infomercials, and all those sales are lining the pockets of companies that spend big bucks to bring such ideas to market.
But product development companies and technology corporations with teams of engineers aren't the only ones cashing in.
Many individuals retain partial ownership of their ideas, and such inventors aren't just absent-minded professors toiling in their basements.
They're pet owners with no time to run to the vet for a nail trimming, frazzled parents tired of digging Cheerios out from between the seats of their minivan, bar owners who want their clothes to look good hours after they've been sitting in the dryer, even a television journalist who dreaded the thought of peeling dozens of hard-boiled eggs for Passover dinner.
Betsy Kaufman says a light bulb went off in her head shortly after reading an ad about a website seeking new inventions.
She is a self-proclaimed infomercial junkie, but she never imagined she'd come up with an idea that would eventually be featured on one.
She says one day the idea just "hit me: Wouldn't it be cool if there was a way to make hard-boiled eggs without the egg shell?"
Three years ago, Kaufman sent her "Egg Toss" brainchild to Edison Nation, a website that allows anyone to submit an idea for $25 if you agree to give up half the licensing revenues to the company.
"I wouldn't have done anything with it anyway. I trusted Edison Nation," recalls Kaufman during an interview with CBS 58 via satellite from Houston.
She sent in a description and a few drawings, and Edison Nation did the rest -- changing the name to Eggies, getting a patent, creating a prototype, designing the package, marketing the product, even producing an infomercial.
"That was surreal. That was one of the most exciting periods of my life," remembers Kaufman, one of a growing stable of ordinary people turning their simple suggestions into profitable products.
She says her excitement over seeing her invention come to life really boiled over when the money started rolling in.
"My first check was in the six figures, and that was awesome," describes Kaufman.
It's the kind of payday Patricia Herzog-Mesrobian is hoping for.
"You can think of an idea, and you can spend your whole life trying to get it to market," notes Herzog-Mesrobian, who lives in Bayside.
About 20 years ago, Herzog-Mesrobian came up with her idea to dress up a flower pot with fancy material.
She studied fabrics, learned to sew, and created a variety of stretchy covers to fit various pots.
Herzog-Mesrobian says she sold hundreds at craft fairs and home parties, where she helped other women personalize the covers with ribbons and dangles.
But all those sales didn't cover thousands of dollars in expenses.
The part-time inventor paid lawyers to patent her Pot Sox name and design, but she kept getting turned down by developers and celebrities she wanted to market her product.
Then she got a proposal she didn't expect.
"All of a sudden I started getting emails and calls from the man who invented the Book Sox, a stretchy cover for books," explains Herzog-Mesrobian.
She was hesitant at first, recalling how her father, an engineer, never profited from his inventions which were owned by his employer.
After two years, she reluctantly agreed to a licensing deal that took her high-end concept featuring leather, lace and velvet into a simpler, more economical design for the masses.
"I realize after all this that trying to do it myself was great, but licensing it was even better," notes Herzog-Mesrobian.
She says Pot Sox will debut at a Las Vegas trade show this month, followed by another introduction at a garden show in Boston in March, with hopes of selling Pot Sox in national chains like Walgreens that carry Book Sox.
If retailers like the concept, the low price may help generate a high volume of sales.
"Now what would be really great would be to see it be successful," enthuses Herzog-Mesrobian.
That's exactly what materialized for Will Howe and Ric Payne.
The best friends came up with a steaming dryer ball to take wrinkles out of clothes quickly and hit the fast track to success after beating out 2500 others to win a spot on "Everyday Edison," a PBS show scouting the country for the next big thing.
"I think everybody has great ideas in them," shared Matt Spangard, one of the founders of the "Everyday Edisons" television show and the Edison Nation website, who talked to CBS 58 via Skype from his North Carolina office.
The creators of the show choose 10 concepts per season, and even more through their Edison Nation website, to develop into real products.
Recent successful inventors range from a pet owner who created a scratching board that dulls a cat's claws to parents who designed a toddler bowl that spins to prevent spills.
But being an inventor isn't all it's cracked up to be when you start getting solicitations from companies offering to help, at a price.
Some inventors are writing checks instead of cashing them, hoping to reach customers by buying inventor kits or signing up for business plans, product development and legal protection.
"If you find supporters, that's outstanding. But be very cautious of those people who want you to pay them money," warns patent attorney Bob Irvine.
That's why Edison Nation and their corporate partners take care of all the expenses needed for product development.
If you want to look over the list of companies seeking new inventions, you have to set up a free account at Edison Nation by following this link: https://www.edisonnation.com/login.
You'll find a description of the following product searches valid as of the date of this article: The "As Seen On TV" team is searching for consumer product innovations that will meet the needs of Americans everywhere. Corelle is looking for versatile product innovations perfect for entertaining and serving. Worx® wants to see your handheld lawn care and power tool innovations. Chicago Cutlery is looking for knife and cutting innovations. ToyQuest is looking for new toys and games for boys and girls. Pyrex is searching for healthy cooking and storing innovations. Snapware is searching for kitchen products that meet the needs of the aging consumer. Bob Timberlake® wants to see your outdoor lifestyle innovations. Belk is looking for innovative men’s gift products.
If you have an idea you'd like to be considered, you simply pay $25 and submit it via the website. Edison Nation keeps your concept confidential.
But if your idea is launched and marketed and sold by the millions, it's likely to be scrutinized one day by reviewers.
And that's exactly what CBS 58 has done with some successful infomercial products. Check out our critique of Eggies, Emery Cat, Mister Steamy and more in part two of our special report, "Million Dollar Ideas."
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