August 30, 2012
Two years ago, shortly after my 62nd birthday, my wife posed a question to me about what I would regret not having experienced were I at the end of my life. I carefully considered this question and realized that for the three decades I had been the owner of a home theater design and installation business, I’d always wanted to take the time to work on some of the inventions I had conceived of, but never had the time because I was always engaged in keeping the business going and making a living.
So I made a decision that I was going to go in a totally new direction: shut down my business, refer my clients, and reinvent myself as the inventor that I’d always thought I was.
The first project, something that I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be successful creating, was a device to address a problem that had driven me crazy in my home theater business. People always had to put their TV above the fireplace, which makes sense from a design standpoint in that it’s the focal point of the room, and that’s the way the furniture is facing. But the idea of having to watch television looking up at a thirty-degree angle just made me crazy. I would even try to talk my clients out of placing the TV above the fireplace because I knew how uncomfortable they would be watching a show or movie in that position. Play video games….forget about it!
I had no experience being an inventor. But I really enjoyed problem solving around engineering issues, especially if it involved motorization. I had extensive experience designing, engineering, and fabricating but I had never designed anything that could be patented and manufactured in quantities.
So I got to work. In my shop, where I had done the custom fabrication for my business, I made a quick sketch. I went to a large metal supplier to purchase metal to build a prototype. The next day, I went to a very good independent hardware store and purchased hardware to assemble everything. Later that afternoon, I started to fabricate the prototype.
I put an order in to purchase a motor, but I had run into an unforeseen problem; the mount would stall after just a few of inches of downward travel. The radial arms were locking-up. The solution took a lot of trial and error because I couldn’t find the appropriate hardware in the retail stores.
Along the way, I purchased a high-end 58” Plasma TV to use as a “real world” model to hang on my mount. Horror of horrors; while I was lifting the TV onto my TV mount, the cart I was using to support the TV rolled-out form under, the TV slipped back, and the screen shattered. I didn’t even have the chance to plug it in, and now, it was lost! I was in shock. I use that broken Plasma TV to this day….I can’t bring myself to replace it.
I eventually produced a working prototype to do exactly do what I had imagined it could do. The battle was just beginning, however.
I engaged a patent agent and thought that I would sell or license the device to a major mount manufacturer. Basically, the response I got was “not interested – people are not asking for such a thing” or “come back when you’re selling 500 of them a month”. But I continued to believe in this. You’re supposed to work on what you know, and I knew that this was a problem for which there had been no solution. I decided that I was going to manufacture it myself. Not knowing anything about manufacturing, I figured, I’ll figure it out.
The blog that you are reading is the story of how I have taken this step by step, made lots of mistakes, learned from them, recovered and am still engaged in this roller coaster ride of bring a new product to market. I began using the Internet and social media, vehicles with which I’d had little experience except for email or to visit web sites. Suddenly I had to have a website of my own design. And now, what do I do with it, how do I get the word out.
This is my story; this is how I did it, this is how I’m doing it, and this is how I plan to do it in the future.
Some funny things have happened along the way and some challenges I still wrestle with. In this blog, I’m going to share my challenges, my successes, frustrations, triumphs, and get the word out that this mount exists and every family room in America should have one.