Inventive venture: Couple has big plans for storage device
Phil Castle, The Business Times
In the beginning there were pots and pans, expensive ones stacked up inside a kitchen cabinet, but difficult to pull out one at a time without moving the whole pile or scratching the nonstick surfaces.
Jenny Hall believed there had to be a better way to store cookware without all the hassle, so she drew a crude sketch of an extendable rail with hooks from which pots and pans could hang inside a cabinet. One day her husband, Dave, surprised her by actually constructing and installing the device.
What quickly followed that genesis was the revelation for the Grand Junction couple they’d invented a unique product with potential for commercial production. They filed for patent protection, pulled together some financial backing, found a manufacturer and launched a business they called Glideware.
In February, the Halls received further confirmation they were on to something in winning one of the four top awards presented at an event billed as the largest kitchen and bath trade show in the nation. Glideware was the business equivalent of David in a competition against such corporate Goliaths as Dacor, Delta and Toto. But the tiny startup prevailed nonetheless in grabbing the Best of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show silver award in the kitchen category.
Glideware since has grabbed the attention of everyone from cable television producers and magazine editors to cabinet dealers and manufacturers. As sales increase, so do the efforts of the Halls to diversify and extend their distribution channels.
The execution of new product development admittedly has been more difficult than the invention itself, the Halls say, with long hours beyond full-time jobs for Jenny as a real estate agent and for Dave as construction manager. But the Halls believe everything has fallen into place for a reason. “We really feel like this is our calling,” Dave says.
Cliché but also true, necessity was the mother of the invention of Glideware, the Halls say.
Jenny says the couple grew tired of bending over and digging into a cabinet to retrieve pots and pans, especially since they were worried about scratching their expensive cookware. But she didn’t want hanging pots and pans cluttering the kitchen, either.
Jenny wondered if it would be possible to hang pots and pans inside the cabinet instead and drew a sketch of what she thought might work. One day when she returned home from an open house, she discovered Dave had built and installed her invention.
Dave used cabinet glides and wood to fashion an extendable rail with a gap in the center through which metal hooks could be suspended. “It was really just for us, to solve our own problem,” he says.
But judging by the reaction of a few friends who saw the device and immediately wanted one, the Halls quickly realized they’d created what could be a new product. “All of a sudden, the light went off,” Dave says.
They initially figured a similar product had to be available already. But after searching the Internet and then patent records, they found nothing.
The Halls hired an attorney to help them obtain a provisional patent on their design and began looking for a manufacturer to build their product. They found one in a company in Ohio that operates a large facility with computerized equipment and offers flexibility in the number of units it assembles.
Last summer, the Halls conducted a campaign on Kickstarter to raise money to cover the cost of the manufacturing setup for Glideware. Kickstarter offers an online venue in which people present their ideas and people who like the project offer them money. The Halls topped their $30,000 goal in a month.
The Halls say they also received encouragement early on from the National Kitchen & Bath Association, a trade association they joined. A representative of the association came to their home and talked to them about the potential of Glideware.
The Halls also talked with the general manager of Rev-A-Shelf, which makes a variety of accessories for cabinets, closets and pantries. And they talked with the president of Blum, which makes hinges, runners and other hardware for cabinets.
The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas offered an opportunity for the Halls to make still more connections.
They demonstrated Glideware and pitched the product to Internet bloggers and the hosts of shows on the HGTV and DIY networks. By scanning the badges of the people who visited their both, the Halls compiled a data base with contact information for more than 1,800 people.
Glideware recently was featured on the Facebook page of home improvement guru Bob Vila and soon will be featured in shows on the DIY network and possibly in This Old House Magazine.
Sales picked up dramatically after the show and already have topped the initial goal for all of 2014, the Halls say.
The push now is to expand distribution through a growing number of retail locations and distributors.
While the Halls continue to sell the Glideware system one at a time on their website and through Amazon.com, the product also is available in a growing number of retail outlets. Glideware is sold in Grand Junction at the Kitchen Center, Osburn Cabinets & Design, ProBuild and Triple R Cabinets.
The Halls also are signing up dealers and distributors. And they’re in discussions with cabinet manufacturers, one of which builds 12,000 cabinets a day and potentially could install thousands of Glideware units each year, Dave says. “That would be a game changer.”
Ultimately, the Halls hope to make Glideware the standard for cookware storage. “We think it could be that big,” Dave says.
In addition to cookware, though, Glideware is a versatile device that also can be used to store everything from brooms and mops to purses and hiking gear, the Halls say.
There’s a possibility a larger company eventually could purchase Glideware. “It would have to be the right situation,” Dave says.
But for now, the Halls continue to run their fast-growing company themselves, learning as they go. Dave says he’s drawn on his experience as a construction manager, particularly when it comes to budgeting and scheduling. “It’s just like managing a project. The skill set really helps.”
Jenny says what began as a better way to store pots and pans has evolved into something far more. “It’s all been a new adventure.”
For more information about Glideware, visit the website at www.glideware.com.