Will five pieces of plastic and a metal spring revolutionize Comporium Communications?
But the journey from idea to product might influence future Comporium decisions.
The plastic pieces and spring are all the elements of the dDrinkclip, produced by Drink Clip LLC of Rock Hill and made by PART (Plastics Advanced Research Technology Inc.) of Clover.
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The clip creates an instant cup holder. There is also a companion belt clip to hold drinks. The clip sells for $9.95 and the belt clip for $4.95 online.
The drink clip and the belt clip were invented by John Barnes Jr., senior vice president for marketing and business solutions at Comporium.
On Tuesday, Barnes shared a twofold journey with members of the Entrepreneur Network at York Tech. He helped entrepreneurs learn what it takes to go from a concept to production.
He also shared how this experience might benefit Comporium in the future.
Both journeys start with a "what if," Barnes said.
The "what if" for the drink clip started at the beach during a family outing. Some chairs had cup holders. The chair Barnes was using did not have a cup holder. He pushed his drink into the sand.
What if there were something that could be clipped to a chair to hold a drink? Barnes wondered.
An idea was born. Unlike most ideas, Barnes followed through on it. He consulted with people at York Tech and developed a three-dimensional drawing of his drink clip. He filed for a U.S. patent, claiming the spring used to clip the cup holder was "novel" enough to grant him a patent.
"The line that says 'inventor,' you get a kick out of that," Barnes said.
In designing the drink clip, he realized the section that holds the cup also could be used as a separate device, clipping to a person's belt. The belt clip was born.
He then sought someone to make the drink clip.
PART examined his patent and refined it for production. Two pieces of plastic were eliminated. The design was slightly tweaked to meet the demands of injection molding equipment. The plastic pieces were stress tested.
Barnes had to decide what quality of plastic to use and how many to make. One spring was expensive. Thousands of springs cost more, but the per-unit cost dropped from dollars to cents.
He wanted to call the product the Drinkclip but was told that was too common to trademark. He settled on dDrinkclip.
The process - from beach to market - took about three years. He is now selling the product online at drinkclip.com and looking at other marketing opportunities.
Personally, the process allowed Barnes to check off an item on his "bucket list" as he obtained three patents.
It also gave him valuable insight into the product development and patent processes that Comporium likely will use as it positions itself for the future.
The "what if" for Comporium is what its future services will be.
The company's current primary services - cable television, telephone, Internet, wireless and home security - are rapidly maturing, Barnes said.
Future services will rely on convergence, he said, making sure consumers have information they want "when the change occurs." Access to real-time, useful data across multiple communication devices will be key.
Barnes advised the prospective entrepreneurs at Tuesday's meeting, "You can't change the universe, but you can change the world."
When it comes to taking the "what if" from great idea to product, he said, be prepared for setbacks. Above all, it takes "persistence, persistence, persistence."