It just takes one really great idea to make someone a millionaire, or so the conventional wisdom goes.
Alexis “Lexi” Glenn, now 9, came up with hers last summer while playing with water balloons at her grandmother's house in York.
“I got tired of using the hose and faucet,” Glenn said.
The water pressure coming out of the hose and large opening caused most of the balloons to pop before she could remove and tie them.
“So I went into my grandma's garage and found a sprayer bottle and washed it out and started filling the balloons with it,” she continued. “I went inside and showed everyone, and they all said, ‘you need to get that into stores.'”
“At first I was like, ‘Wait don't use that I put fertilizer in that spray bottle,'” Lexi's grandmother Donna Ramere said. “But then when I saw how well it worked I said that's a great idea.”
Over the next year Ramere helped her granddaughter set up a company to make and sell the Pumponator Balloon Pumping Station. She found a manufacturer in China that was willing to make the bottles in a 1.5 liter size with the Flo Master pump mechanism from the original fertilizer bottle in various translucent colors. She and Glenn trademarked the name. They contracted Sign Works and Graphics in Rock Hill to make the labels. They set up a Web site with an online shopping cart.
Glenn and Ramere, who are partners in the business, since Lexi is too young to get the required business licenses on her own, plan to launch the Pumponator at Summerfest. They will set up a booth on N. Roosevelt Street across from Town Hall on property Ramere owns. The pair will have the first 150 pumping stations available for $19.95. The Pumponator includes 250 biodegradable 2-inch balloons and an equal number of strings to tie off the balloons once they are full of water.
“I told her she needed to figure out an easy way to tie off the balloons because the idea is to have a product the kids can use by themselves without the parents having to stand there and tie all the balloons,” Ramere said. “So I gave her some string and she just kind of figured it out.”
The trick is to fold the string in half so the two ends are on one side and a loop on the other. Wrap the string around the mouth of the balloon while it is still around the pump nozzle and feed the ends through the loop. Slowly slid the mouth of the balloon off the nozzle while pulling the string tight. Once the balloon is free of the pump the string keeps it closed until it bursts against something or someone.
That first shipment of 150 was sent by air freight, the rest of Glenn's first order is in a shipping container currently enroute on a container ship from China. Online orders through the Web site, www.pumponator.com, will begin shipping to customers in September.
Initially the Pumponator will come in translucent red, green or blue, but Glenn and Ramere plan to expand the colors eventually.
“We've applied for collegiate licensing,” Ramere said. “We want to do them in college team colors and try to sell them through campus book stores.”
Though summer is nearly over this year, many retailers buy stock six months or more ahead of time. So when Glenn and Ramere hit trade shows later this fall, the buyers will be looking to stock shelves for the following spring and summer, a perfect time to carry water toys, Ramere said.
To see the Pumponator in action, click here.