When Talia Afoa, a Leland resident, talks about what she does, she uses the term “product development”.
That’s because, she says, “If you say you’re an inventor, everyone thinks you’re crazy.”
Landmark footage of a mad scientist in a laboratory, emitting howls of maniacal laughter.
This stereotype does not apply to many product developers, including Afoa, who saw their first invention hit the market last August. It licensed its anti-leak, non-stick silicone baking mat to Grand Fusion Housewares, Inc., which specializes in products with innovative designs.
The mat, which sells for $ 20, can be laid flat to bake things like cookies. Or, snaps can be used to turn the mat into a waterproof tray for cooking foods like fish or vegetables. The mat is easily cleaned in the sink and is dishwasher safe.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘Wow that’s so obvious I wish I had thought about it,'” she said.
Using the mat also reduces the need for products like wax paper, sprays, and foil.
Afoa said she has pursued four other ideas in various stages of development, but the baking mat is the first to hit the market. According to her, it was a process that took six years from the initial idea – the one she had while cleaning a greasy baking pan – until her baking mat is ready to be sold.
She stuck with it, she said, because “it was a life goal. I just thought one of the coolest things you could do in life was make something up. do it.”
Connecting with the online product development community has helped her understand the process and prompted her to authorize the sale of her product instead of applying for a patent, a process that can be expensive and time consuming.
Grand Fusion helped her develop the baking mat, Afoa said, in a way that makes sense from both a financial and manufacturing perspective.
The success for her would be if the rug “becomes a mainstream product,” she said. “It replaces so much.”
The Afoa baking mat is just the latest invention from the Wilmington area. Here are seven other innovative products and inventions that have been developed or have links with Southeastern North Carolina.
Universal nut sheller, Jock Brandis
Brandis is well known in the Wilmington area as a longtime member of the local film community and as the founder of the non-profit The Fully Belly Project.
About ten years ago, however, Brandis gained international fame after inventing a universal walnut sheller. It was designed with the intention of being used by farmers in African countries, including Senegal and Niger, to enable them to get products like peanuts to market faster.
National Public Radio made a story about Brandis and his nut sheller in 2010.
The Monster, Zach Crain
Many, if not most, inventions solve some sort of problem. In the case of the Freaker, it seems the problem was how to keep your drink cold (or hot) and look cool at the same time.
Zach Crain’s Freakers – knitted, stretchy “koozies” that come in a plethora of patterns – have been part of the Wilmington landscape for a decade now. They’ve been sold everywhere from the Edge of Urge store (downtown and Raleigh) to Barnes & Noble and college bookstores nationwide.
It’s a cool product with a strong local connection. In 2013, Crain told StarNews, “I don’t think the Freaker would have moved anywhere else. “
The glider skirt, Amanda and Emmanuel Legbeti
When Emmanuel Legbeti, of Wilmington, lost a fingernail after having their finger pinched by a glider chair, he and his wife, Amanda, began to think about ways to prevent the same type of accident. does not happen to one of their children.
What they came up with was the slippery skirt, a product that not only prevents small (or big) fingers from getting caught in the sliding mechanisms of popular chairs, but also serves as a backdrop. Glider skirts come in all kinds of looks, styles, colors and designs.
MyPeriodPal, Airlie Wedemeyer
Wilmington entrepreneur Wedemeyer said she got her idea for the product while teaching in the Philippines. Suffering from menstrual cramps and leg pain but unable to take pain relievers because she was breastfeeding, a Korean colleague showed her how to apply pressure to her ankle for pain relief, a practice known as “reflexology.”
“I couldn’t spend the whole day bending over pressing my ankle,” Wedemeyer said on her website. “So I built a device to maintain the applied pressure and MyPeriodPal was born! “
The genius of the drink, Pete Vinal
Wilmington inventor Pete Vinyl said he came up with the idea for the Drink Genie, a drink stabilization device, after spilling too many drinks on the beach.
Basically, it’s a cup holder that you can stick in the ground or attach to a bicycle, chair, stroller, or other vehicle. It can even be used in the car.
Slide bike, Ed Mondello
Ed Mondello, a Wilmington resident, invented his Glide Bike in 2013 to help kids get comfortable and learn to ride a bike without using training wheels.
According to the “about” section of the product on GlideBikes.com, “the training wheels leave out a very important element when it comes to mastering the skills of riding a bike: balance … Glide bikes were created so that seated children can keep both feet on the ground at all times, ”giving children a greater sense of control.
Nuclear Fuel Pellets, Richard I. Larson and General Electric
Talk about going nuclear. In 1987, Richard I. Larson and three other staff at the General Electric plant at Castle Hayne Road obtained a patent to GE for fuel used in nuclear reactors.
According to the New York Times, which reported on the invention, “For fuel, uranium dioxide and other ceramic materials are bonded and molded into pellets.”
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or [email protected]