Featured Success Stories of Companies Certified by NWBOC
Meet Sam Montross of Cadence Keen Innovations, Inc. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Sam Montross possesses the unusual talent combination of being an inventor with a marketing head on her shoulders. She created and patented multiple products, and successfully took two of them to the national marketplace. Necessity being the mother of invention is not just a cliché; the idea for many new products comes from filling a need that the inventor personally experiences.
As is typical of most rental properties, she placed twin beds in one of the bedrooms to accommodate more families. Sometimes her guests needed the twins for kids, sometimes they needed an additional king. Hauling beds in and out was not practical, and simply pushing the twin beds together created a middle area that is uncomfortable and unsafe. Ms. Montross' reaction to this experience was to invent the Twin Doubler (later called Create a King®). Combining sheepskin with a belting system, in seconds one could have a comfortable, safe king bed. She approached Bed Bath and Beyond initially, but was told no one was asking for that type of product. So she tried a different approach: instead of retail sales, she targeted the hotel industry as a business-to-business supplier.
Ignoring opinions and hotel data that indicated a very limited market, she entered her product in the prestigious Choice Awards hosted by Hotels Magazine in 1996. While she did not win, the magazine editor talked about her product from the podium as one of the most innovative products he had seen at the show. After that, her booth was swamped.
What she ultimately discovered was that the older hotels in big cities had smaller stairwells or elevators which would not accommodate a king mattress, so the hotels were using two twins instead - but were calling it a king. Bingo, there was her first market niche. "After that I did get a retail catalog, HSN Improvements who also listed it in Sky Mall. Word got out in a broader way, but the downside was that as sales increased HSN Improvements knocked off my product in 1998,". Montross relates, "I've learned a whole lot about patents and protection since then."
Ms. Montross says that one of the most important things to know is that insurance exists to protect your patents. "It's expensive, but now I use IPISC to ensure all my patents and trademarks. Not only does having the insurance put would-be patent infringers on notice we can afford to fight back, it also provides some confidence for big retailers to take your product as a test market," she says.
Another lesson from the school of hard knocks is to put your registered trademark and patent number on everything as soon as you get them. "I made the mistake of leaving Patent Pending on my printed materials because I wanted to save money, waiting until I ran out before reprinting with the patent number," she says. "I've learned that using Patent Pending is a signal to large companies that a real patent probably does not exist, thus opening inventors up to infringers."
Cadence Keen Innovations has subsequently created the Bed Made EZ mattress lifter, again targeting the hospitality industry. Clients include cruise ships, hotel chains of all sizes, and many internet and catalog companies. But it all started with an idea. "I think many of us have creative minds in one sense or another, but what happens is that people don't do anything about it. It's not an easy road to act on your ideas," Ms. Montross feels.
Many of their client companies like Disney have diversity supplier programs that help target women-owned companies, and this was the impetus for the company to seek WBE certification with NWBOC. "I also wanted a way to meet other women owners, to share our experiences, be friends, and learn from one another. I heard about The Zone [NWBOC's online database of other WBE companies], so I plan to use that too," she says. NWBOC welcomes this inventor-turned-entrepreneur!
Company website: www.cadencekeen.com
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