Patent-pending Covermade launches this springBusiness Profiles — By Melanie McIntyre on March 19, 2012 at 8:00 am
Like lots of people, Natalie Monaco found herself in a rush to get out the door for work. Making her bed each morning was especially annoying −and time-consuming− but leaving it unmade bugged her, too. In 2008, she began searching for a way to make the chore easier.
She was disappointed to discover that of all the household gadgets on the market, not one of them helped tackle bed-making. So she started experimenting with a solution she devised.
It called for fastening a wide elastic strap to the underside of her comforter, which would then be placed beneath her mattress (and on top of the box spring), so the comforter and sheets beneath it stayed in place. However, fabric stores carried straps that were just two to three inches wide. Undeterred, she turned to elastic bandages, but found they eventually lost their stretch.
She moved her search online, but soon learned that six-inch wide elastic was only available for industrial users and had to be purchased in bulk. Eventually she found a seller on Ebay who let her buy elastic by the yard. She used it and −voila!− problem solved.
“I pinned it onto the comforter and adjusted where and how I pinned it almost every day after sleeping with it,” Monaco says. “I knew it was working and it was time to find a way to make a professionally sewn prototype.”
She approached companies that do prototyping for major brands, but their work was too pricey. Luckily, she was able to find a local seamstress −Cindy Moore of Zip Alterations in Dublin− to make samples for $50 each. She called the finished product Covermade.
To learn more about Monaco’s journey to bring Covermade to market, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: After making the Covermade prototype, what did you do?
Natalie Monaco: Once I had my prototypes from Cindy, I knew I needed a team− as in a manufacturer and place to market the product. It was like being a quarterback and really excited to “throw the ball,” but you look up and realize you have no team! So the next thing I did was try to pitch my idea to manufacturers and get one on my side.
I knew it was going to take a large name manufacturer in the States to be on board with me because most bedding products are made overseas in Asia and it was not feasible for me to go to China myself− or speak the language. Once I was officially patent-pending, my patent attorney gave me the green light to “unveil the curtain” to big companies. Most large companies will not sign confidentiality agreements. Prior to that, everyone who knew about the idea had to sign a [confidential disclosure agreement].
I was disappointed at first because there are only a handful of domestic bedding manufacturers left in the States, but I made that small list my focus. I drew out the logo on paper and had a graphic designer create it. I made a power point explaining the product and how it works, and used photos from the 2010 Inpex Invention Show. I started calling and emailing any manufacturers that looked like they could make my product.
Eventually I caught the attention of the National Sales Manager at DOWNLITE, my partner now. He was hesitant at first, but said he was intrigued by the idea. I pestered him until he agreed to meet me in person. I drove down to Mason, Ohio to DOWNLITE’S headquarters. A year-and-a-half later, they are manufacturing my invention!
[M]: What resources −websites, books, organizations, etc.− were helpful to you when you were developing Covermade?
NM: I visited the Whetstone Library in Columbus and took out every book they had about inventing and marketing a new product. The best one, the one that became my “Bible,” was From Patent to Profit by Bob Dematteis.
I also started researching −obsessively!− the story behind any invention I saw on the market, such as Spanx, Snuggie, Slanket, Topsy Turvy, Strap Perfect, etc. I studied their founders and the story behind each product.
[M]: Did you turn to anyone for advice or input?
NM: Laura Hamrick is a Westerville mom of three who invented a kids product called Ontray. I saw her on the Columbus 5 o’clock news a few years ago and was very inspired by her. Her product is now sold all over the world. I got on her website and emailed her, introduced myself, and asked her to meet with me. We met at Starbucks and discussed her journey. I am so grateful that she gave me that time because she could have totally ignored me. Her story continues to inspire me!
My patent attorney at Porter Wright in Columbus was such an invaluable resource. She was willing to guide me through the process of writing a patent so I could write it myself. I spent a lot of time studying patents, and then wrote the patent and drew the patent drawings myself, which saved about $5,000. My patent attorney then “polished” up the patent application and she wrote the claims, which is the most important part. Had she nickel and dimed me for every single hour and not helped me along, I am not sure I could’ve afforded it.
[M]: When will Covermade be available for purchase?
NM: Covermade will be launching this spring. The shells of the comforters are being manufactured right now, and at the end of March they will be ready to be stuffed and packaged for sale. They will be available by May/June. Initially we will sell them from the Covermade website and on DOWNLITE’S site, www.ShopDOWNLITE.com.
[M]: What were you doing professionally before launching Covermade and has that work experience impacted the way you do business?
NM: Yes. My degree is in marketing and my professional background is in sales. I sold advertising for the Columbus Dispatch for a year after college and then I was in medical device sales, selling Bayer diabetes meters for three years. For Bayer, I had to walk into about 10 to 12 accounts every day, uninvited, and say, “OK, here I am and here is what I sell. Talk to me!”
I believe doing those sales calls made me completely unphased by people who brushed me off or told me no. I learned to believe in myself and what I was selling. Mentally, I learned to keep selling and pushing past the “nos” until I got the “yes.”
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
NM: Inventing can be very fun. However, it is a roller coaster of extreme highs and lows! You have to realize that there are no guarantees, and you have to be OK with the fact that the future is unknown. All you can do is follow your gut. If you have an idea and you are passionate about it, go for it! If you never put yourself out there and try, how will you ever know what could have been?
To learn more about Covermade, visit CovermadeComforter.com.