The late Randy Cooper, after whom this foundation is named, was a true inventor. His approach, passion and his enthusiasm is shared in a written interview, kindly provided by his wife Marlene. It seems fitting that Randy’s notes should be the first in our Inventor Series. Randy’s answers not only inspire, upcoming inventors, but also his willingness to help others – shines through in his responses. Randy uses his invention the NoodleHead Sprinkler, to illustrate some of the real-world issues faced by inventors. (For a more complete biography of Randy Cooper, please visit the ‘About Us’ section).
1) When did you start your home-based business?
Back in the summer of ’94 I put together 3 different focus groups (of approx. 8 to 14 people…friends, family and acquaintances) plus an informal mailing to a couple dozen other close friends who couldn’t make it to the above “focus” meetings. The primary purpose was to distill my 150 or so inventions and ideas and focus onto the cream of the crop, the “top 20”. From those I then chose the best 7 to develop. I then took those 7 Patent Pending inventions to the Invention Convention to pass them under the noses of the10,000 people in attendance.
The feed-back was extremely gratifying and overwhelming. One of my inventions, the “Phone Cap” was awarded “Best Invention”. However, it was the Noodlehead that prompted ABC’s Day One to do a 15-minute segment on Randy Cooper, the inventor. They featured all 7 of my inventions during the segment, but it was their excitement level of the Noodlehead that confirmed what we already suspected.
Go with your strengths. Go with the Noodlehead.
Copyright © Noodlehead Sprinkler.
At that time of the Invention Convention, I really didn’t envision it as a home-based business. I had thrown most of my energies into trying to license my inventions to large corporations. In theory this sounded like a good way to go. License one invention to a company and move on to invention number 2, and so forth.
Then I got an introduction to the real world. In reality, these following set-backs cost me 3 years. I licensed the Noodlehead to one company who just sat on it for two years and did nothing. I then licensed it to another company who knew how to market it but had no idea how to manufacture it. After wasting all that time with false promises and many frustrations I took a giant step backward and said to myself, “If you want something done right, I guess you gotta do it yourself.”
That inexperienced path too, was fraught with life lessons. The biggest lesson I learned was…well let me illustrate it with a parable. “A man with money and a man with experience walk into a room. The man with the money walks out with experience, the man with experience walks out with the money.”
2) What are the pros and cons of working from home?
1) I love not having to drive to and from work everyday. Especially not having to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic
2) Even though I put in an average of 10-14 hours a day, every day of the week, I now have the luxury of putting those hours in any time I want. For instance, in the evening, after everyone’s gone to bed, I can sit at the computer and get a ton of work done. I can work ‘til Midnight or 1:00 AM. How? Because if I want to, I can take a nap in the middle of the day to re-generate my energies. Try getting away with that in your cubicle!
1) As much as I enjoy hearing the order phone ring, I really don’t like waking up to it ringing at 5:00 AM in the morning when customers on the east coast get into work at 8:00 AM their time.
2) Another drawback is that my extra storage area is so full of Noodlehead inventory that I have little room to park or work on my hot rods.
3) How do you promote your home-based business?
Our website: www.noodleheadsprinkler.com
Our Noodlehead booth at dozens of Home & Garden Shows and County Fairs. This not only puts our product out in front of the public, but also gives us the exhilarating one-on-one opportunity that allows us to adjust to the best ways to market the product via consumer feedback. (By the way, we won the Grand Prize for the “Most Outstanding Exhibit Booth” [which I designed] and were awarded “Most Friendly Vendors” for which I am eternally grateful to my wife, Marlene and brother-in-law, Kevin Dumas who helped me man the booth throughout the Los Angeles County Fair.
We first started promoting the Noodlehead with print ads [which I designed] in all the major Gardening magazines (expensive). I also scripted, story-boarded and (executive) produced and directed two Direct-Response TV short-form infomercials (prohibitively expensive). All of the above plus thousands of individual mailings coupled with Press Releases and free editorials and product reviews (not to mention being awarded “Best New Product of the Year”) led to sales from high end Catalogs, (Improvements, Solutions, Gardener’s Supply, etc.) which eventually led to more TV exposure (Home Shopping Network) which finally lead to retail sales.
4) What are some of your business’ most impressive stats (number of clients, gross sales, etc.)?
The most impressive thing that has occurred is the overwhelming positive customer response. I receive letters, e-mails and people coming up to me at shows simply bubbling over with loving praise for my humble little sprinkler. The enthusiasm and excitement in their response makes even our most impressive sales stats pale by comparison.
However, although we started out with many financial set-backs and at one time max-ed out all our credit cards, I can now say that my home-base business is a success. Our sales have more than doubled each year for the last three years. I anticipate that next year we could sell 100,000 Noodleheads and the following year double that amount when we finally are accepted into the mass merchandiser retailers.
On a more personal note, I was really gratified one day when I answered the order phone, and it was Robin Leach who wanted to order 4 Noodleheads. It took me quite a while to get over the fact that I was actually talking to Robin Leach who was calling me from his estate in Antigua! And it was doubly rewarding when his assistant called again two months later to order 6 more Noodleheads on Robin’s behalf. He even sent his personal testimonial.
5) What are your future plans?
I plan to develop other inventions. One thing I have learned is that Senior Buyers may like a product but they really want a product line. With that in mind, my next invention, which is Patent Pending, is a Transverse Axis Oscillator sprinkler. The great marketing advantage of this new product is that it will give the user twice the watering coverage of the other 7 or 8 oscillators already on the market.
Also, I might add, as a serendipitous by-product of submerging myself into this endeavor, I have met and talked with over 600 Inventors who have shared their ideas with me and who have picked my brain for advice. Who knows? Someday I may end up partnering with one of these inventors to launch a fantastic new product.
6) What advice would you give to other fledgling inventors who want to work from home?
Make a business plan, but first and foremost figure out if your product or service is truly marketable and profitable. Then, figure out, to the best of your ability, how much it will cost for development, for prototypes, for tooling, for advertising and promotion. Then figure out how much you can honestly sell it for. Don’t let pride enter into any of your equations. And lastly, beware of all the sharks swimming around out there.