Jennifer Solis Shipp is excited.
The inventor from Mission flew to New York on Wednesday for an all-expense-paid trip to film a segment for ABC’s “Good Morning America” (GMA). She was selected to make an appearance with Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop™, queen of infomercials and the inspiration for the movie “Joy” that hits theaters on Christmas day.
The call from GMA is just the latest in a long series of achievements that have propelled Jennifer and her co-inventor husband, Sam Shipp, along on their journey. They have worked long hours – for five years – to get their invention, The Knife Glider™, from concept to design to production and, finally, to market.
As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this case “fear” was the mother of the Shipps’ invention.
Jennifer explains, “I was cooking in the kitchen one day, and I nicked myself with a knife. I really have a fear of putting my finger on the blade to remove food.”
That’s when the light bulb came on for Jennifer. How many other people have experienced the same thing – cutting their hand while in the kitchen preparing a meal?
Unlike most people who think they have a good idea for an invention, but never do anything about it, the Shipps started working on the concept for The Knife Glider™.
Jennifer and Sam are very upbeat and happy about how far they’ve come – especially since The Knife Glider™ is finally in production and their new online store launched just over two weeks ago.
But the path has not been easy; they have had challenges and setbacks along the way as their product has moved from concept to manufacturing.
Now they are actually selling their product online at www.knifeglider.com – a professionally-built website, designed locally. Next step: marketing The Knife Glider™ and pulling in sales.
So, GMA is an unexpected coup for the couple. Especially since the call came out of the blue. GMA contacted them, and they’re not sure how that happened—but they’re grateful for the opportunity.
Pursuing their Knife Glider™ dream has been a journey and learning experience for Jennifer and Sam.
After coming up with the initial concept, it was propelled forward in 2010 when Sam learned about the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) Show in Las Vegas. The show is designed to match up direct response marketers – such as infomercials and “as-seen-on-TV” products – with sellers and inventors.
The show organizers reserve a limited number of booths for inventors to present their ideas. Sam learned about the show just two weeks before the event. He contacted them; they liked his concept and invited him to come to the show.
Sam went straight to work. He didn’t even have a prototype at the time – just an idea in his head.
Using a homemade rubber mold and Plexiglas™ material he purchased at Home Depot, he made their first prototype.
“It was very clunky,” said Sam. “It’s amazing how far we’ve come from that small beginning.”
“That show is what really got us moving,” Sam said. At the show, Sam and Jennifer were able to get feedback from the Inventors Corner, where aspiring inventors presented their ideas.
“The feedback was very positive,” Jennifer said. The panel at the show liked their idea.
“That’s how it all started,” Sam said. “If it weren’t for that show, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Clearly not one to pass up an opportunity, Sam and Jennifer have successfully competed and won competitions designed to foster and assist RGV entrepreneurs who show great promise.
The first award they won was Mission EDC’s Ruby Red Ventures. As a 2013 winner of this competition, the couple received $10,000, which they needed to fund their invention.
In 2014, the couple won a Ruby Red Ventures award again. This time the grant was for $15,000. The first grant was to fund development of the prototype, while the second grant was to help get the product from prototype to market, Sam explained.
In 2015, they were then awarded the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Innovation Grant competition, for another $10,000, to produce the molds to make the product. The molds alone can cost $40,000 – money the young married couple, with two young children, did not have.
Along with the grant money, the Shipps have put about $40,000 of their own money into The Knife Glider™ invention.
They continue to win awards, which are now extremely beneficial in giving their new product marketing exposure.
They recently won the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Good Pitch Competition, the 2015 Innovation Company of the Year award by the Small Business Association (SBA), and the SBA “Innovather” Regional Business Challenge. The Innovather challenge gives them the chance to compete in Washington D.C. in 2016 if they are selected to advance to the national competition.
Locally birthed and grown
One point that Sam and Jennifer are effusive about in bringing The Knife Glider™ to market is being locally conceptualized, designed, and manufactured. Everything from beginning to end has been with the support of different segments of the Valley community.
They’re proud it is made in the Rio Grande Valley.
Besides receiving the local grants, the Shipps also resourced help from the programs of South Texas College and their partnership with Priority Tool, who created the mold for manufacturing the product, and Emu Plastics, the manufacturer, located right across the street in the McAllen Trade Zone.
As they worked out design challenges, the Priority Tool folks could “walk across the street to the manufacturer, Emu Plastics, and they would talk on a daily basis,” Sam said. “That relationship is rare, where they are just back and forth everyday – and then bring in me, the actual inventor, where we could bounce stuff off each other in a single meeting, or call and we’re ten minutes away,” Sam added with excitement in his voice.
New York, Here I Come!
In a whirlwind week, Jennifer was notified on Monday, flew to New York on Wednesday to film the segment for GMA Thursday and came home late Thursday night.
They received an email from staff at Good Morning America last week asking for a 20-second video pitching The Knife Glider™ for possible exposure on national television.
On Monday, she got the call that she and one other inventor had been selected to come out and film the segment.
The GMA producer told Jennifer in an email, “Towards the end of the segment, we want to play a little game and give two budding entrepreneurs the chance to get a little feedback on their pitch and idea from the master herself!”
The TV segment is scheduled to be aired the morning of Monday, Dec. 28, but could always get bumped to a later date, the producer said.
“Who would have thought that a young woman from Mission would be an inventor?” Jennifer said. “Everybody says, ‘You’re from the Valley? You’re from Mission? You’re the inventor? Wow!’”
When asked about how she felt about going to New York to appear on Good Morning America, Jennifer said, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I just feel like this has built up to something big, and it’s finally happening. We’ve spent so much time on this, and it’s finally happening for us.”
Thursday Morning Update
As the Progress Times was preparing to go to press Thursday morning (yesterday), Sam reported that Jennifer had already filmed the segment with GMA. And – there is a big surprise at the end of the show. Tune in to the show on Dec. 28 to find out what happens.
To learn more about The Knife Glider™ from Brilliant Inventors, LLC, visit the company’s website at www.knifeglider.com. The product can also be found on Amazon, EBay and Facebook.