Ideas aplenty, but they don't all pay off - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Ideas aplenty, but they don't all pay off

TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A small piece of plastic strong enough to lift a truck. Bright orange muzzles to help your dog. These are among the inventions that come to life at Delaney Manufacturing.

"People come in with literally things on the back of a napkin and then we go take it from that to CAD drawings to prototyping," explained owner John Smelser.

He has a shelf full of inventions. Some will literally knock your socks off, as he demonstrates a tool that helps older people do just that, but others just don't reel in the big bucks, like a fishing hook tool that John thought would sell big.

Douglas Griner thought his "Ladder Caddy" was ingenious.

"You load your tools up and if you want to take it off all you do is just pull it back to you and it comes off that easy," he showed us.

So he took his life savings and bet it all on his bright idea.

"Making it and getting the mold was the easiest thing to do, but it's the marketing. And I have no knowledge of the marketing," he admitted.

Ten years later, "Ladder Caddy" still hasn't reached great heights. Dreams of making millions got flushed down the drain.

"Cost me a lot of things. A lot," he said with tears in his eyes.

So what does it take to get a product that sells?

"A novel invention that surprises people, that they've never seen on the market before," answered John.

One example is the Thor Guard lightning detection system.

"I did not believe that you could predict lightning," said Bob Dugan, who gave the instrument a shot during a golf tournament.

"Second round of the tournament, we had an 11-minute warning of a storm that was more than 50 miles away. Strike hit the golf course. It hit six kids."

Fortunately, the kids were okay, and Bob was so much of a believer that he's now the president of Thor Guard.

Thor Guard is the only lightning prediction product on the market, however they still had to make adjustments.

"If you were on the ocean, the sensor probably wasn't gonna last more than a year. We owed our customers more than that."

So they switched to a steel sensor, so the body can last 10 to 15 years. An added bonus to stay profitable and survive in a competitive inventors' market.

"It's been successful beyond anybody's wildest dreams," John said.

An important tip for inventors - Don't just search Google for your product to see if it already exists. Take the time to do a formal patent search before you get anywhere near building your prototype.

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