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Innovators in My Neighborhood

| On 08, Feb 2008

Praveen Gupta

Writing for realinnovation.com makes me look around for new ideas to write about. It occurred to me that my neighbor, who a few years ago showed me a charger for cell phone was also working on a spa system for last two years, made me an offer to take the Aerobic Spa bath. Reluctantly, I agreed. I thought let me see how he evolved from a less than a pound heavy charger to 400 pound aerobic spa equipment. I thought I might like to look at the work of an innovator. After I took the bath in his Aerobic Spa, I loved its benefits. Before I talk more about it, let me tell you the story of this innovator.


Jim McGinley, the innovator has worked for more than 20 years in electronics in manufacturing, marketing, and management. At some point Jim accepted the early retirement package, and started his venture along with his partner Don Rimdzius, who is an electrical engineer, and holds the MBA. Don has experienced in working with large projects. Jim and Don decided to create something new. So, they make a list of ideas or potential projects related to better power utilization. As use of cell phone has been growing exponentially, the market opportunity led to the development of a Travel Charger. Two years of labor led to the development of the Travel Charger. They built prototype, and demonstrated to several large potential customers, the big OEMs like Motorola. Working with large customers appears to be very attractive due to the size of its order, but difficulty of getting a lucrative contract can turn out to be very discouraging. Jim and Don just waited and waited for a large customer’s contract, and eventually put the Travel Charger on hold. This situation, however, did not dampen his innovation drive.


While at home, Jim knew his Mom had tried to develop an aerobic bath to address her health issues. It did not appear to be working well, so Jim and Don decided to work on developing the Aerobic Spa. They learned about various methods, and invested significant capital again and developed the Aerobic Spa. It has actually three parts, the Bath Chamber, the Controller, and the Filter.


After taking a bath successfully, I became curious about how these two guys who first were working on a $25 charger quickly switched $50,000 Aerobic Spa. Such a difference between two innovations, I wanted to know the secret. I understood that it took a lot of investment, a lot of sacrifice, and then a lot more effort in marketing and selling. The day I interviewed them, they heard from a large OEM to evaluate the Travel Charger, and also are about to get the first order for Aerobic Spa.


Like any innovator, the bigger challenge than creating new products is to market and sell. Jim and Don have been marketing their innovations through Internet, Sales Reps, Advertising, and the word of mouth. When I heard about aerobic spa, I tried it out, and I loved it. I have already introduced it to many of my friends. I know how it feels like to be an innovator who has to build his customer base one customer at a time. Estimating thousands of customers in the business plan never works.


If you know an innovator, or have experience in making innovations work, tell us.