For today’s post, learn about a product through a Maker's own words. Meet Gail Loos, the Ready for Market winner of The Grommet's 2014 Product Pitch Event, and her winning product hack. The Ecotonix Compost Shredder is a hand-operated food scrap shredder and recycling system.
It seemed so simple in concept. Find an idea that solves a big problem. Identify and quantify potential buyers. Hire someone to design, manufacture, and sell my innovative new product while I sit back and count a growing pile of money. Like many budding entrepreneurs, I dreamed of this straight path from idea to early retirement -- if I could only find the right problem-solving idea.
Seeds of Inspiration
I've been gardening my whole life and despite my growing success with vegetables and flowers, my compost efforts were less than stellar. After at least 10 seasons of serious attempts, I'd only managed to produce small dried-out conglomerates very clearly resembling their original materials (look! an apple core), or slimy, stinky puddles that caused my neighbors to politely inquire if there wasn't a better place to locate my science project. Finally, I found the magic formula for success: shredding food scraps and yard trimmings to the ideal size for the pile or tumbler.
Armed with this fact, I searched in vain for a product to grind kitchen scraps. The ideal product would sit tastefully on the counter and remind the kids to stop throwing out all that “valuable” material, such as watermelon rinds and banana peels. I soon realized that such a product simply didn’t exist. So I got to work trying to make one for myself, using a combination of recycled grinders, ice-chippers, and housings from old paper shredders.
Why this extreme focus on compost? All organic gardeners rely on compost. Folks who produce rainbows of tomatoes, beets, carrots, and zucchini capable of feeding entire neighborhoods focus on building and nurturing their soil. Quite simply, compost is an inexpensive, practical, and completely natural solution to most garden problems. But more importantly, according to the U.S. EPA, it's a critical step toward solving our current environmental crisis. Nearly 45% of our landfills are packed with compostable food scraps, yard waste, and easily biodegradable materials, such as paper and even dust bunnies. So, a tool that makes the job fast, clean, and easy would benefit thousands, if not millions of people, while solving our environmental crisis. Cha-ching. Million-dollar idea: a compost shredder!
Shift the Equation
Early in the invention process, the difficulty and expense of creating this new appliance quickly reshaped the million-dollar equation. That number would be the amount my family needed to invest to turn my big idea from computerized drawings into a finished product.
At some point, the idea of early retirement was supplanted by the greater vision of changing the earth and teaching our children to garden without chemicals and pesticides. And that's where the experts at The Grommet take center stage. As the "Ready for Market" winner of the 2014 Pitch Contest at Fenway Park, my team and I are working together to officially launch the Compost Shredder on Earth Day.
We've weathered the invention and manufacturing process and are now eager to tell our story to an audience of conscious shoppers who share an interest in purpose-driven hacks. As it turns out, when you aim to save the planet, you need to find the best partners on the planet.
To the right: On-stage with emcee Scott Kirsner at Product Pitch after pitching
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Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.