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Clearwater inventor's eyeglass repair kit wins third place in Walmart contest

A Philadelphia company selling premium-priced bottled water to raise money for clean drinking water in impoverished countries has won Walmart's Get on the Shelf contest.

Third place went to SnapIt Screw, an eyeglass repair kit created by Clearwater inventor Nancy Tedeschi. The PlateTopper, an airtight storage cover to keep a plate of food fresh for $19.77 a pair, was second.

More than 1 million votes were cast online in the American Idol-style contest to narrow 4,300 entered homegrown gadgets, widgets and marketing brainstorms to three that will be sold on walmart.com and possibly Walmart's 3,800 stores in the United States. Walmart did not reveal the vote tally, but four of the 10 finalists hail from Florida, three from the Tampa Bay area.

While the results are not likely to be repeated on new product reality shows like Shark Tank, Walmart said it merely followed what voters decreed.

"The voting was crowdsourced, and it was the public decision to give water the top slot," spokeswoman Hilary Murphy said.

Tedeschi declared herself "really happy because it's a big deal for our product.

"Now we're in Walmart, so a product-approval process that would have taken six months took only a week."

She has sold 5 million of her SnapIt eyeglass repair kits elsewhere. Walmart priced the kit, designed to make a frustrating and fumbling job simpler, at $4.88. That includes a tiny screwdriver and five screws. Each screw is equipped with a half-inch snap-off extension so it can be easily hand-twisted before being tightened and the end broken off.

The contest winner is HumanKind Water, a Pennsylvania spring water that sells at $12 for a case of 12 bottles. That compares with $3.48 for a 24-bottle case of Walmart's Great Value water.

It's the creation of T.J. Foltz, a 45-year-old world-traveling minister who was inspired to find a solution to children dying of unhealthy drinking water in poverty stricken parts of the world.

"All the net profits" are donated to digging wells, supplying rainwater catchments and providing filtration systems in Haiti, Africa and Asia.

The company, which could not be reached, offers nothing more precise on its website. It says it can provide clean water to one person for life for a $10 donation. Foltz estimated in a TV interview that getting in 2,000 Walmart stores translates to about $1 million in donations.

"We worked on this for a year, and every morning I would wake up blown away that nobody else thought of it," he said, noting it will take time to ramp up enough production to begin selling at Walmart.

The other Tampa Bay finalists were the Sola-Bag Forever refrigerator cooler from Gene Lasker of Tampa, and Soleeze Spring Loaded insole inserts from Catherine Julian of New Port Richey.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8252.

Clearwater inventor's eyeglass repair kit wins third place in Walmart contest 05/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:32am]
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