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Loopy road to the Loopa Bowl
[November 12, 2007]

Loopy road to the Loopa Bowl

(Daily News, The (Jacksonville, NC) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Nov. 12--Four years ago when Aidan Shepard was 2-years-old he was spilling his snacks everywhere, from the living room floor to the seats in the minivan. His parents were tired of cleaning up the mess.

Aidan's mother Melinda, a graduate of Jacksonville High School, had an idea that might solve their problem: a spill-resistant bowl that would keep Aidan's dry snacks off the floor. She presented the idea to her husband Brad, a graduate of Southwest High School who happens to be an engineer.

"She identified the need, and I designed the bowl," Brad said.

After hearing that Cape Fear Community College had purchased a rapid prototype machine Brad brought his design to them.

"You send your (computer assisted drafted) file in and it prints out a plastic prototype. It was a great opportunity," Brad Shepard said.

The Shepards shelved the large, green prototype for almost two years before stumbling upon an online notice for auditions for Everyday Edisons, a show on PBS that was looking for would-be inventors.

"It was a functional bowl, but it was ugly. It served the purpose," Brad Shepard said.

After debating about whether or not they wanted to audition, the Shepards decided to travel to the open auditions being held in Columbia, S.C., ugly bowl in tow.

In September of 2005 the Shepards presented their prototype to a panel of product designers and marketers who were receptive to the idea. As a result, they went on to the second round of auditions.

Round two took place in a public television studio.

"There were lights and a stage set up. They had a panel and we presented. They gave us the thumbs up, but we didn't know if we had made it yet," Brad Shepard said.

A few months later the Shepards received a call telling them they had been selected for season one of Everyday Edisons, and the process of transforming their ugly green prototype into something marketable began.

"(Everyday Edisons) have been great to work with. They have the inventors best interest in mind. It's been a lot of fun," Brad Shepard said.

The Shepard's bowl went through many stages of development before the finished product was designed and marketed. One of the changes made to the bowl during the development process was the addition of a ring around the bowl that serves as a handle.

Prior to adding the handle, the children testing the product were able to grab the bowl in such a way as to spill the contents. The final product consists of two bowls that rotate on two axes; when tipped, one bowl gyrates and covers the other, preventing the contents from spilling.

"There was a lot of mommy and baby feedback," Melinda Shepard said.

Once the final product was approved, the bowl went on to marketing where the Loopa gyro bowl was born.

"Loopa is fun to say and easy to remember. (Everyday Edisons) are marketing and branding experts," she said.

All of the effort put into the creation of the Loopa bowl has paid off. More than 250 Bed Bath & Beyond stores nationwide are selling the bowl for $7.99, and the Shepards will receive an annual royalty check.

"It's a fantastic deal. (Everyday Edisons) invested over $400,000 in the manufacturing, marketing and branding of the bowl," Brad Shepard said.

The bowls have already sold out once in both the Wilmington and Jacksonville stores.

"I'm afraid maybe our parents bought them all," he said.

After going through the inventing process, the Shepards have some advice for future inventors.

"Fully develop the product prior to patenting it; there's no big hurry to get a patent. Do your homework. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. Be able to articulate the benefits of the product and know the selling points," Brad Shepard said.

Both Melinda and Brad were grateful for the education and experience that came from being a part of Everyday Edisons.

"For me, the best part was the education. To watch this happen through our children's eyes. To see Aidan understand that we went from an idea to a real working product. It has inspired him," Melinda Shepard said.

The Shepards don't plan to make the Loopa bowl their only invention.

"We have a lot of other ideas and we hope this is just the first," Brad Shepard said. "I'd like to use the momentum from this to develop other product ideas."

For more information on the Loopa gyro bowl visit Season one of Everyday Edisons can be seen at noon Sundays, on UNCTV channel 4.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
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