By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Steve Haley was doing the dishes one day back in 2011 when he had a simple idea. Why couldn’t he do household chores and get a workout at the same time?
So he went to the garage, rooted around for a couple of weights, and strapped them to his wrists. Maybe the movement of washing dishes would turn into cardio.
“But the weights kept falling off into the dishwater,” recalls his wife, Janice Haley. “He kept messing around with new ways to strap on the weights.”
Nothing worked. Over the next few months, Steve Haley turned the back porch into a laboratory. He experimented with weighted straps, using fabrics and every type of metal. The fabrics got ratty, and any other metal would rust. So he settled on stainless steel.
The couple had an invention. But what they didn’t have was a sure way to get it to market. They got help from Prototype House, a Fort Lauderdale company that works with inventors to bring ideas to market.
Matthew Bordy and Francisco Molina started the Prototype House in January 2014. They both have backgrounds in product design and wanted to create a place where mostly small-time inventors could do something potentially big. Often, Bordy says, these are people with a dream, an idea of a product that’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
“The inventors are often really emotional,” Bordy says. “They wear their hearts on their sleeve and get really excited seeing concepts.”
The Prototype House charges $5,000 to $20,000, with the promise of getting the product ready to be manufactured. Usually the inventors have a rough description or sketch, and Bordy says their job is to turn it into a practical, computer-designed blueprint. Then they create prototypes, often using 3D printers. It’s at this stage where things can often go wrong: If, say, the teeth on a screw top don’t line up, it can cost tens of thousands to make adjustments at the factory.
Getting the idea ready to be mass-produced doesn’t always mean success, Bordy warns. Sometimes, like a portable grill the Prototype House helped develop, the process discovers that it would cost too much per unit, making recouping costs difficult. Others get a green light, like the Gopher Case, a phone case with a built-in selfie stick.
For the products that make it, Bordy suggests the inventors head to China to negotiate a manufacturing contract. The next step – distribution and marketing – is where the Prototype House steps aside.
That’s where the Haleys are with their design, which they are now selling as Tone-y-Bands. It has little weights that can come in and out of modern-looking wristbands. It costs $50 a pair, can be purchased on Amazon, and are selling, Janice Haley says, far better than they expected.
Prototype House helped the process, Janice Haley says, improving the initial computer design and cutting development costs by 40 percent.
“It’s almost like you have your own development house right beside you,” she says. “It all got easier when they got involved.”
719 E Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 561-922-9931, prototypehouse.com.