BY ELIZABETH CONNOLLY
Once upon a time Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Hicks and David Cook were average people dreaming of one day living the American dream and becoming a famous singer. Like these "American Idol" winners, many imaginative and ingenious people walked through the doors of TeleBrands' Inventors Day with high hopes of having their invention discovered and becoming the next millionaire. After all, TeleBrands' products- Windshield Wonder and Jupiter Jack started as simple ideas and are now mass-produced for consumers.
Last Friday, 35 people showed up at TeleBrands' headquarters in Fairfield, N.J. and were allotted just five minutes to present consumer product inventions to the ultimate judge, AJ Khubani. He is the CEO and founder of TeleBrands, a leader in the direct response television industry and the "As Seen on TV" category. Set up like "American Idol," Khubani and two other judges sit at a long table as inventors come in the room to pitch ideas. If Khubani and his team like the product idea, they will give a thumbs up. The hope is a partnership will be formed between TeleBrands and the inventor, which will include product testing and eventually infomercial and retail store sales.
"I find it remarkable that people are willing to travel all this way and we tell them in advance they only have five minutes," said Khubani.
More than 300 people submitted requests to TeleBrands to attend the Oct. 16 event, while 35 made the cut to present. At-home inventors traveled from all over including Thailand, Alberta, California, Ontario, Atlanta and Tennessee for the opportunity to have their invention considered by TeleBrands. Michael Dufresne and his wife traveled from Cottage Grove, Minn., and arrived in New Jersey at four in the morning the night before due to bad weather for the opportunity to attend Inventors Day.
Despite the bad weather last week, inventors crowded the TeleBrands lobby, lining up at 9:00 a.m. to wait their turn and present ideas to Khubani and his team. Product ideas ranged from an alarm for baby gates and doors, a contraption that seals a Ziploc bag air tight, an adjustable flashlight, hair product, a glass cleaner that has no acids and abrasives and can be used on glasses and jewelry, a cure for household odors and much more.
"TeleBrands is one of the few direct response television companies that provide such an amazing opportunity to un-established inventors, like myself, to present our concepts with the potential for success," said Dawn Stephens, who traveled from Gilbert, Ariz.
One particular invention that caught the attention of TeleBrands earlier in the day was Patrice Dionne's Roll ‘n Pour. Dionne came from Carolina Beach, N.C., to demonstrate how the Roll ‘n Pour makes it simple for people of all ages to pour liquids from gallon jugs, half-gallon jugs and two-liter bottles. Another interesting invention called No-PucksTM was presented by Fred Wallace from Louisville, Ohio and is a cure for those little pucker marks that come from clothes hanging on hangers.
"Our product is manufactured from recycled plastic and simply snaps onto wire or plastics hangers customers already use in their closets," explained Wallace.
Khubani and his team at TeleBrands seek products like the Roll ‘n Pour and No-PucksTM that can be used by all and sell from $9.99 to at most $19.99. Currently, TeleBrands only markets four to five products a year and some are selected from a pitch at Inventors Day. Other famous TeleBrands products include: PedEgg, EZ Combs, ShoesUnder and HeelTastic. The company's first big hit was designed in 1987 and called AmberVision sunglasses.
"AmberVision sunglasses taught us we had something in a marketing model where we could launch a product through direct response television and then take it to retail," said Khubani. "Back then it took us a total of five years to get complete retail penetration, we do that today in 60 days."
As Khubani finished his lunch last Friday and geared up for the afternoon full of invention pitches, he explained that in a nutshell TeleBrands is looking for an invention to be, "A simple solution to a common problem."