Sunday, February 18, 2018
Business

Pasco man hopes crowdfunding will launch his tool for breaking the window of a sinking car

NEW PORT RICHEY — George Strickland and his brother were chatting on the phone one night, and they got to talking about the news.

A woman in Brandon had drowned after she accidentally drove into a lake back in February 2015, and Strickland wondered if her death could have been prevented.

Did she have a hammer to break open her window? Could she find it in the dark of night? In far less trying circumstances and in broad daylight, he thought, he'd struggled to find things in his glove box and console.

Someone ought to make a hammer that's easier to find, he thought aloud. Maybe it could hang from the rearview mirror, his brother suggested.

A year later, Strickland has designed one.

"If you're conscious, you know where your rearview mirror is, and you know you can snatch it and get it off there, even if you're upside down," Strickland, 65, said.

He drew up plans for a hammer shaped like a cross with metal tips on each end and a seat belt cutter at its base. Lots of people have crosses on their mirrors, after all, and he figures customers might pay a few dollars extra to add a charm — a metal disc bearing the image of a guardian angel or a favorite sports team, or a symbol for teachers or paramedics.

He worked with a friend to make prototypes with different designs and materials. He took them to a junkyard to smash car windows to make sure they worked. They did.

But Strickland, who works in marketing, isn't ready to take his invention, which he calls the LifeCross, to market. His prototypes were cut from sheets of PVC with metal tips and a blade inserted later, but when he tested the seat belt cutter, it snapped off. The material wasn't strong enough.

He figures if he could have them made in one piece — with molten plastic poured into a mold — it would be more robust. He has found someone who can make a mold for him, but he can't afford the $10,000 or so it'll cost.

So Strickland is turning to a relatively new method of raising money: crowdfunding. He hopes to raise enough to make a mold by starting a fundraising campaign on the website Indiegogo.

Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo were founded less than a decade ago to help people with ideas more easily find the money they need to bring them to fruition. They have spread wildly in the years since, raising more than $3 billion across hundreds of thousands of projects, the companies say.

But running a successful campaign can be harder than it seems. Depending on the site and the size of the project, it might require well-polished marketing materials, a sleek video and even an advertising effort, said Leigh Lepore, a Denver-based crowdfunding consultant.

Consider the most popular site, Kickstarter: Only 36 percent of all projects reach their funding goals, the company says. In 15 percent of the cases, they don't get a single pledge. (An Indiegogo spokesman declined to provide statistics on its users' success rate.)

Still, crowdfunding — born as a way to help musicians and artists fund their work — gives entrepreneurs a way of financing their products, Lepore said. It's often easier than finding traditional investors, and it's an immediate test of how strong the market is for their inventions.

"This is becoming a viable way to assess demand and raise some capital," Lepore said.

The key, Lepore said, is to be strategic in setting goals. Most campaigns, including Strickland's, only seek between $1,000 and $10,000, but raising bigger amounts usually requires a bigger effort and a more polished image.

Crowdfunding campaigns are something of a numbers game, too. Not everyone who sees a page will chip in, so to hit big goals, entrepreneurs might need to run an ad campaign or hire a public relations firm to drum up interest.

And some factors in crowdfunding success can't be avoided no matter what: The projects that do best, she said, offer products that are especially unusual and solve a problem lots of people have. That is, they need to be distinctive and useful enough for someone to give money months before they can expect anything in return.

A goal like Strickland's $10,000 target, though, ought to be fairly attainable, Lepore said — low enough that some help from family and friends could get him there.

Strickland hopes so.

Ingenuity is an occasional series about people with interesting or creative business ideas. Know of anyone who fits the bill and could be featured in a story? Drop business editor Chris Tisch a line at [email protected]

Comments
Trump administration recommends stiff penalties on steel, aluminum imports

Trump administration recommends stiff penalties on steel, aluminum imports

The Tampa arm of Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau S.A. was cautiously optimistic Friday after the Trump administration took a big step toward a policy Gerdau has been vocally advocating for — higher tariffs on imported steel. "We’re hopeful that President...
Published: 02/16/18
Facebook forges ahead with kids app despite expert criticism

Facebook forges ahead with kids app despite expert criticism

Associated PressNEW YORK — Facebook is forging ahead with its messaging app for kids, despite child experts who have pressed the company to shut it down and others who question Facebook’s financial support of some advisers who approved of the app. Me...
Published: 02/16/18
Inexpensive Tampa Bay homes gain the most value of any in U.S.

Inexpensive Tampa Bay homes gain the most value of any in U.S.

Owners of affordable homes in the Tampa Bay region are seeing the biggest gains in equity among the nation’s top 20 housing markets. A bay area home now worth $110,000 rose 20 percent in value over the past year while a house now worth $337,400 incr...
Published: 02/16/18
Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a love affair, big raises and family favoritism at the top

Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a love affair, big raises and family favoritism at the top

The anonymous letter described a possible love affair at the top of the local jobs center. President and CEO Edward Peachey was in a romantic relationship with top administrator Haley Loeun, it said.It described how Loeun was seen at a conference co...
Published: 02/16/18
Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill have become household names in casual dining. Now, their parent company, Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands is taking the "dining" part out in a concept that it’s bringing to Tampa Bay for the first time. A ne...
Published: 02/16/18
Which Tampa Bay ZIPs had the priciest, least expensive and most house sales in 2017?

Which Tampa Bay ZIPs had the priciest, least expensive and most house sales in 2017?

If you bought or sold a house in Tampa Bay last year, you were a player in one of Florida’s hottest real estate markets.Even though prices eased a bit from their torrid pace in 2016, the median cost of a single family home shot up 11 percent. That’s ...
Published: 02/16/18
Florida’s liquor license lottery can make you a ton of money. So why is it such a secret?

Florida’s liquor license lottery can make you a ton of money. So why is it such a secret?

Every year, millions of people play the Florida Lotto. Their chances of winning are about as great as those of being struck by a comet. Fewer than 12,000 enter a much lesser known lottery that also is run by the state. Yet the odds of winning are vas...
Published: 02/16/18
Travel insurance company brings tree houses, beer kegs and creativity to former church

Travel insurance company brings tree houses, beer kegs and creativity to former church

ST. PETERSBURG — Neither the Lutherans who first occupied the 4300 block of Central Avenue, nor the evangelical congregation that followed could ever have imagined tree houses sprouting in their church sanctuary.Yet that’s one of the plans of new own...
Published: 02/16/18
Prosecutors drop drug case against ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini

Prosecutors drop drug case against ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini

TAMPA — ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini won’t be prosecuted on a drug trafficking charge filed by Tampa police this week, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office announced Thursday. The county’s top prosecutor instead applauded police for helpi...
Published: 02/15/18
Tropicana Field may be named for a Pepsi product, but it will now only serve Coke

Tropicana Field may be named for a Pepsi product, but it will now only serve Coke

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium may be named for PepsiCo’s Tropicana orange juice, but that’s not stopping the baseball team from switching its pouring rights to Coke.The Rays said Wednesday the ballpark would begin serving Coca-Cola pro...
Published: 02/15/18