Recently the inventor of Grease Hero drain guards, Shawn Santos, had the opportunity to talk with Pacific Business News about his invention and the challenges of being a first-time inventor. Below are excerpts from the interview (link to the full article on PBN).
The Initial Idea for the Grease Hero
The Grease Hero is a paper-based drainage cover made of recycled and eco-friendly materials. It works by being placed in the sink for cooking grease to be poured into and safely disposed of in the trash.
FOG, an acronym for fats, oils, and grease termed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are the leading cause of sewer overflow. In 2016, the EPA reported that grease from restaurants, homes, and industrial sources were the most common cause of reported blockages, at 47 percent.
As a rental property owner, Santos experienced these statistics firsthand so he looked for an effective way to prevent grease clogs in his tenants’ kitchens. He developed the Grease Hero when he found that most of the products in home-improvement stores and online were for recycling cooking grease, but that’s not helpful to most home cooks — they just needed an easy way to dispose of it, rather than store it.
The Development Process
We had several stages of printing for prototyping. I worked with a local product development company through the process. He had resources for using the [3D] printer, so after coming up with designs and going through the process, the finished product is very different than the original idea.
To get an idea of what the volume should be, I fried a pound of bacon, thinking that that’s the most common grease collecting item, and came out with four ounces of cooking oil. I decided that would be our goal, so we came up with a final design that holds a little bit more than that.
The Patent Process
For my first patent to get issued was well over 24 months, probably closer to 30 months. After that, there were deviations of the design. One of the challenges of an inventor is that you can’t come up with a single design, there needs to be variations, because someone can easily copy off of your original design work. And the patent office is very particular, you can’t be broad, you have to be very specific on a type of design.
Finding Local Distributors for the Grease Hero
City Mill, we called in and asked to speak to them. I’ve always been a customer, so I felt comfortable going in and speaking with them. Times Supermarkets was very similar. They’re very receptive to local businesses. I was able to have a friend make an introduction. They were open minded, and the idea of it being green and sustainable, they gave us a shot, and I’m very appreciative of that opportunity. For Amazon, we’re in the Marketplace. We’re listed there, but we still ship out of Hawaii.
The Challenges of Getting the Grease Hero to Market
Everything was challenging. Being a first-time inventor and bringing something to market meant everything was new. I didn’t really have a mentor or road map I could have followed. It was just following what I thought was right and getting advice from as many people as I could.
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