BY ANDREA SIEDSMA
Like many inventors, Terri Pickering thought she could make a better product than what was already on the market, so she invented one. The result was EarSnaps, earrings that have a back that is screwed to a front snap adapter that allows different front designs to be snapped on.
“I didn’t like the earrings that are on the market today,” said Pickering, 45, a San Diego resident who has been involved in the jewelry business as an independent designer and manufacturer for about 20 years. “The wires are scratchy or fall off. I wanted to create something different for the earring business. With the EarSnaps design, being able to snap on the front or back, it opens up new design possibilities.
“Everyone wears multiple pieces of jewelry from earrings to rings,” she added. “There’s always room for a new innovation in the jewelry market. I was looking for the Post-it Notes in jewelry. I wanted something that everyone had at least one pair of.”
Although Pickering had a novel idea, she didn’t quite know how to manufacture and market her product. That’s when she turned to the San Diego Inventors Forum, a networking organization created to connect like-minded inventors to each other and to resources such as lawyers, manufacturers, marketing specialists and investors.
“Prototyping, manufacturing and licensing were all new territories for me,” said Pickering, who came up with EarSnaps in the summer of 2002. “The Inventors Forum has been a great platform to springboard me into the design process for a logo and CAD (computer-aided design) drawings and marketing, which are areas I have no knowledge in. The forum president (Edward Balian) has been instrumental in my marketing ideas and business plan.”
Balian leads monthly meetings for inventors such as Pickering to exchange ideas and resources. Those who attend the meetings are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement so the inventors feel safe and secure that their ideas or products won’t be discussed outside the group.
“When you see entrepreneurship and invention in action, it’s a powerful thing,” Balian said.
Through forum resources, Pickering was able to design a logo and publish a color brochure about EarSnaps that she can give to prospective customers, investors, manufacturers and partners. With the tag line “Earrings Redefined,” the brochure markets EarSnaps as a new and innovative way to wear earrings.
Pickering, who already has one patent, is seeking licensing agreements for Ear & #173;Snaps as well as possible jewelry partners and manufacturing facilities.
“The Inventors Forum gets you amped up for the next step and puts you in contact with people who can help you move to the next level,” said Pickering, whose close friend gave her a $5,000 check to help jump-start EarSnaps and get her design off the ground. Pickering says she has invested about $15,000 of her own money.
Through the Inventors Forum, Pickering also found out about TechShop, an open-access public workshop for people who like to work with their hands using metals, plastics, wood and electronics, but do not have access to a shop or equipment. Pickering says she has three more patents lined up due to TechShop.
Pickering is also using EarSnaps for philanthropy. She recently designed and patented a piece for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, with proceeds going to cancer research.
She believes that EarSnaps will make a big splash in the commercial market, adding that she hopes to get her product to market in the summer of 2009.
“If you look at your kitchen sponge scrubber, it’s a patented idea from somebody,” she said. “If someone can invent and sell something like that, we should be able to come up with products with some of the innovative ideas from the forum. I hope we all make it to the market.
“It’s amazing there isn’t more interest (in independent inventions) from private investors,” she added. “There is some really cool stuff out there.”
Andrea Siedsma is an Encinitas-based freelance writer.