Jennifer Lawrence recently played Joy Mangano in the movie ‘Joy.” You may know some of Joy’s inventions like the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers. Her story is inspiring because she was a divorced mother raising three children while working a variety of jobs when she came up with the idea for a better mop, simply to make her own life easier. Now she has a estimated net worth of $50 Million.
Is inventing your thing?
Obviously, not everyone is going to make millions off their inventions. Most don’t. But if you have an idea for a product – or want to brainstorm one, why not try? Especially if you are driven by a passion for inventing, the way Joy is.
Susan Casey is the author of Women Invent!: Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World and Kids Inventing!: A Handbook for Young Inventors. Here are some of the inventors – everyday people – who have inspired her.
- In 1872, Jane Wells gained a patent for a product that mothers have appreciated ever since: the baby jumper. Once a baby was old enough to sit up, a mother could put her baby in the jumper where it could swing about or bounce on its own. (I’m guessing Jane Wells was a mom!)
- When he was just 9 years old, Chris Haas put handprints on a basketball so that other kids would know where to put their hands in order to shoot a basket. He and his dad, Michael, a coach, sold the idea of Hands-On Basketball to Sportime, a company that has been selling the colorful basketball for almost 20 years. While Chris and his product may not be a household name, the profits from his invention have paid for college for Chris and his brother and sister.
- Bette Nesmith Graham made a mistake on a freelance art project and painted right over it. That’s how she got the idea for the product we now know as Liquid Paper. She made the quick drying paint in her kitchen and wanted to keep it a secret. She needed something to cover the mistakes she made as an executive secretary with the new, responsive electric typewriters. When her co-workers saw what she was up to, they wanted to buy some of her paint. Soon she was selling it to local stationery stores as well. In 1979, Bette sold her company to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million.
- When he was 17 years old, Ryan Patterson invented the American Sign Language Translator after seeing that some deaf teenagers had trouble placing their orders at Burger King. He wired a golf glove with ten sensors, a small circuit board containing a micro-controllers, an analog-to-digital converter, and a radio-frequency transmitter. When he put the glove on and signed, the sensors read the signs and wirelessly transmitted and translated the letters to a display module – a screen that he could hold in his other hand. Time magazine listed the American Sign Language Translator as one of the “Coolest Inventions of 2002.” He won many awards for it, including a $100,000 college scholarship.
Maybe inventing’s not your thing – but your kids think it’s cool.
“Kids are natural inventors! They don’t automatically think of the problems in creating an invention like many adults do. They usually embrace their ideas. And they think of solutions to the problems they have in their lives such as how to dry off the dog without getting soaked. Or how to feed the cat when everyone’s away from the house,”says Susan Casey. “If you want to invent and have fun with your kids, use the Invention Activities available on my website. The activity sheets are for all ages. You can learn about inventing alongside your kids and might come up with some great ideas for inventions.”
So how do you even think of an invention? How do you patent it? Or trademark it? You can read all about it in Susan’s book, Kids Inventing!: A Handbook for Young Inventors. It’s written for kids, but is also a primer on the invention process for any age. Susan’s website will lead you through the invention process.