Sept. 13, 2012— -- If you're up late at night, you've undoubtedly seen an infomercial for the Gyro Bowl, the Emery Cat Scratcher or Eggies, just some of the thousands of ideas brought to Edison Nation.
Eggies are small plastic pods that can make hardboiled eggs without the shell. The idea came to inventor Betsy Kaufman, who loved deviled eggs but hated peeling off the shells to make them.
Eggies are precisely the kind of invention Edison Nation, a company that works with inventors and entrepreneurs to turn ideas into sellable, "as-seen-on-TV" products, is looking for -- an idea born out of a problem with a simple solution. After Kaufman had her eureka moment, she took it to Edison Nation, and now almost six million boxes have sold.
"Well, you know a lot of products solve just a basic need that the consumer has," said company CEO Louis Foreman, an inventor himself. "It may not seem like a big problem, but if there's a 9.95 solution, consumers are going to gravitate towards it."
Edison Nation is an empire of its own, with a TV show, "Everyday Edisons," on PBS, casting new inventors for its fifth season now. They also have a magazine, a highly-trafficked website and a workshop with teams of designers, engineers and marketers that take simple ideas into shelf-ready products.
And with tens of thousands of submissions, they are never short of the next generation of great ideas.
"Everyone thinks they've got a great idea, but how do you turn great idea into a great product, and really at the end of the day, it's about execution," Foreman said.
That's exactly what Charlie Lumsden wasn't sure how to do. Lumsden, a contractor from Maui, was a stand-up paddle boarding devotee, but he realized that while gyms are cluttered with treadmills, stair climbers and other exercise equipment, there was nothing on the market that mimicked working out on the water.
"I said, 'Man, this would be just great to bring home and let everybody benefit from it, people that don't live by a waterway, people that don't live by the ocean,' and I had no idea how to make that happen, I had no means to prototype it, I had no means to patent it," Lumsden said.
He went home, sketched a rough model for a stand-up paddle board machine and submitted it to Edison's website. Then he got the call -- not only was he selected to appear on "Everyday Edison's," the company would patent his idea and develop the machine.
Ten months later, he arrived at Edison Nation's offices in Charlotte, N.C., for the big reveal of what is now called the Hydro-Liptic. Edison Nation invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development on the product, taking Lumsden's simple sketch and turning it into a real workout machine.
Edison is now shopping the machine to exercise equipment manufacturers; the company says it will split the licensing profits with Lumsden, 50-50.
At Edison, no idea is too silly or too simple. Foreman said they learned that lesson the hard way. Take the Snuggie.
"Apparently there are a lot of people who need blankets with sleeves," he said with a chuckle. "That product has sold over $500 million. It's approaching a billion dollar business. And who would think that you actually need something like that, but sometimes products are bought because it brings joy or it puts a smile on your face."
Although the Snuggie didn't come out of Edison Nation, Foreman said an inventor came to them during the first season of "Everyday Edison" with a blanket with sleeves.
"We looked at it and we said it was silly, so that may have been one of our biggest regrets, is not really looking at the market research and not really testing the products before we made a decision," he said.
But the shelves at Edison Nation are stocked with many successes, all from people who just thought, "what if."
"You don't have to be a Ph.D., you don't have to be a scientist working in a lab, to be a great inventor," Foreman said. "You just have to be someone who identifies an opportunity and pursues it."