August's spark of genius article
Inspired to Protect
Persistence and passion are great traits for an inventor, but usually it takes something more. Sometimes you need inspiration. When that inspiration comes from a desire to keep your children safe and secure, it can be powerful indeed.
What started as a way for inventor Kristi Gorinas--a mother of four daughters at the time (she’s since added a fifth) from Lawrenceville, Georgia--to keep her baby safe, while she gardened or looked after her other young children, turned into a patented invention.
Kristi envisioned an outdoor baby jumper that could keep her child secure while also allowing her to stretch her legs or stand.
“Before I knew it, I had a removable tray for snacks and toys, a cup holder, and a sun shade,” she said.
Kristi describes herself as a “type-A” person with a strong drive to get things done. Without really knowing what to do next, she began researching product development online and enlisted the help of several experts, including a graphic artist and, eventually, a patent attorney.
Despite her strong enthusiasm, Kristi faced what seemed like an unending slew of challenges, and she struggled for years to commercialize her invention.
At the outset, she had little experience as either an inventor or an entrepreneur. She cold-called scores of manufacturers before piquing the interest of one in California. After four months of communication, however, the company pulled out of the deal.
Undeterred, Kristi pressed on. With the help of a friend she secured the services of a design engineer and factory in China. The assistance of the design engineer proved critical as his adjustments improved the chair’s safety.
“The first prototype was a cheap kid’s camp chair with only two big holes for the child’s legs during the standing stage,” explained Kristi. “It had safety issues, but it did provide inspiration for the finished leg pockets that connected to the safety bucket underneath.”
The new arrangement with the addition of outward angled legs, the most difficult component of the chair to design, ensured safe sitting “even for a rabid monkey,” according to Kristi.
At this point, two and a half years had elapsed since she first thought of the idea.
While pushing the chair through the manufacturing phase, Kristi simultaneously began working on another idea: a designer diaper bag with a built-in baby wipe system. After eight months of searching, she found a company in California that was willing to produce the handbags. Balancing the production of two different items proved to be a formidable challenge for both her mind and wallet.
Facing a mountain of debt and two unfinished products, Kristi decided to double down on her investments and continue with the development and manufacturing for both the chair and the handbag.
Sensing the potential in Kristi’s chair, a supporter was able to arrange a meeting for her with a company that sold similar outdoor products. The president of the company liked the idea and offered her a licensing contract, which allowed Kristi to secure U.S. Patent No. 8690236, as well as a corresponding Chinese patent. Later, when the agreement ended, Kristi retained the rights to her patent and the trademark.
Kristi is confident about the future of her products. She has since licensed the chair to another interested party, a “juvenile company whose main focus is on babies and not outdoor camping,” she explained. It seems that her chair has found its niche.
Kristi continues to innovate in the realm of safety, but has now shifted her focus toward adults. With her current project, dubbed Defendables, she hopes to help curb violence by putting power into the hands of the innocent. The wearable safety device, which is patent pending, is intended to defend users against assault or other physical danger.
According to Kristi, “Defendables is non-lethal and can give potential victims time to get away from imminent danger. It’s the most exciting product I have worked on.”
Kristi created Defendables with a global outlook. While she is well aware of the time and effort required to bring an invention to life, her determination for the well-being of others trumps adversity every time.
“My main goal with Defendables is safety. I would like to help further the efforts of organizations that advocate on behalf of those affected by sexual assault and domestic abuse so that we can help prevent violence against women and all of mankind.”