Welcome, everybody on this wonderful Friday afternoon to another edition of Ask The patent professor, where we feature amazing creative inventors that have actually changed the world with their idea. Sometimes they're complex ideas. Sometimes there's simple problems that the inventors face themselves. So in a moment, I'm going to tell you about our guests today and Nancy to dashi. But first, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. But I'm not going to tell you, I'm going to rap about myself. How's that? So here goes.
When a new idea pops in your brain, called the patent professor, that's my name. Patent Office says your ideas that new, best just red tape for me to cut through. I'm a Law School professor in engineering, too. I think math is fun. And patents are cool. So there you have it. That's about Nancy. Now our guest, today is Nancy today, she she's the inventor of the snap it screw, the easiest and quickest eyeglass repair kit out there. You simply drop the screw in the hinge, screw it down and the snap, and then you snap the end off. Nancy didn't set out to create an eyeglass repair kit like most inventors necessity is the mother of invention. So she was trying to solve a problem she had for herself and found the existing solutions. They were long, they were difficult, it was cumbersome. It took 25 Frustrating minutes to replace the screw. And that triggered the idea for her product. The snap it screw is sold at Walmart, Office Depot, Ace Hardware, Pep Boys of all places, we'll get into that and all kinds of online retailers. I will let you take it from here.
Okay, so snap it was invented because well, actually, I should probably should give you a little of my background because it is not any background in screws or engineering or anything like that. I actually have a degree in biochemistry, but I, I was originally a mortgage originator. And I lived in upstate New York. And I did that for a couple of years and was asked by a bank in New York City to open up an office branch for them up in the county that I lived in outside of Albany, New York. And I took on the challenge and I after the first year I had originated from my office over $300 million worth of loans, and they're like, Oh my God, who you know, so they have the open a couple more. And a couple years later, the market took the downturn, and they came to my office and let me go because they couldn't afford to pay me anymore. And at that point in time, I thought that my life was over. It was like I was making real good money, I had a good live it. And then you know, I had all these people I had hired and you know, so I was crushed. But the crush the crush man of that moment made me think that I built this empire for somebody else. And I will never do that again. So that was the day that I became an entrepreneur was the day that that happened to me because I had put all my hardware work into it and never ever saw it coming. Because two weeks before it happened, I had gotten an outstanding performance review. So you never think when you're doing that well at a job that something could happen that all of a sudden, you're not going to have a job. Well, it happened. And so I thought and thought and thought about what to do with my life at that time. So when you're a mortgage banker, you have to do get title insurance, every time you write a mortgage. So I had been using the same title company for many years. And all those loans I was writing every year this guy was getting all the business from me while he was getting ready to retire. And I went to him and I said, Hey, you want to sell me your business? And he laughed at me and he said, How can I sell you my business? You don't know anything about title insurance. And I said you're right, but I can learn. So I ended up going to work for him for free. He trained me in every aspect of titles of plotting to whatever I know how to read title plot title. I wrote title insurance for over 20 years, the lawyers from the underwriting companies would happily down there and train me. So that was when my career really took off as an entrepreneur. So I had that title company for 20 years and ended up going I'm in it to my employees because that when when I had the title insurance is when this idea came the snap it screw into my head. So I was actually doing snap it on the side and running my title insurance business full time. So that's how the evolution of my business came.
So you're not new to going into a completely brand new industry that you know nothing about learning it and then excelling at it like that. As you said, you were not in the eyeglass repair industry or had any background in that at all. You're just an inventor. Before you're an inventor, you're just a consumer who had noticed a problem with trying to repair eyeglasses and you address it.
I never go ahead. Okay,
I do have the video now. So let me give it a another shot. And we will sew
over ever happened. Your glasses come apart. You tried to repair them, but those tiny screws drive you crazy. They're easy to lose hard to pick up and so short they're almost impossible to thread will kiss that frustration too by introducing the revolutionary new snap at eyeglass repair kit. Snap it's one of a kind screws have unique feeder length, it makes repairs fast and easy. Simply line up the frame, pushing the feeder tab tighten the screw then snap off the tap. So simple you want them today. Using genius snap at screws recently took first place in the national Invention Contest and have been praised by opticians and retailers around the world as revolutionary. Until today, snap and screws have only been available to members of the optical industry. But through this special offer, you will now have the same incredible snappad screws the professionals use. Let's face it, traditional repair kits are frustrating and can waste your time. But with snap it's that and in screws, you'll have your glasses fixed in no time so you can get back to doing the things you love. Each kit comes with a screwdriver and five different size easy to use screws that will fix most glasses stripped from trying to fix your glasses with the other guys screws. No problem. SnapIt screws are made of durable stainless steel, which allows you to fix even stripped or cross threaded hinges. Spring Loaded hinges are also a snap to fix. Just use the theater Tab to move the spring back into place. Drop in the screw tighten, then snap it you're done. Order online today.
Amazing. So tell us that. Well, gosh, there's so much I want to ask you. But start let's start with a story behind this video and the story behind the product itself.
So my mom broke her glasses. And she was about 80 at the time. And she had asked me to fix her glasses. And you know, I said Sure I'll fix them. Well, little bit. I know an hour later, I was sitting there trying to fix her glasses. And I'm like, that just drove me crazy. I was you know, I was raised that there was always a way to do something. You know, even if somebody said no, my mom is very, very handy. You know, she was the one that actually did the construction work in our house and all of that. So your watch your mother, my mother was before her time. But she always would say that. If you said no, I don't know how she said figure it out, you know? So when after she gave me these glasses, and I'm like, oh my god, this is crazy. And it just started. I just started thinking about it. And I came up with the idea. And I at the time I didn't know if it was going to work or not. But I said well, what's the first thing so google, google google? What do you do when you have an idea? Right? So the first thing I needed to do is get it on paper and get it protected. And so I actually Googled my way through the process on how to do it. And believe me, I wouldn't recommend that to anyone anymore. I mean, I stumbled a lot.
Yeah, and I one of the it's funny. It's almost like if someone crosses the street and says that I didn't look both ways, but I made it across. So looking both ways is not a big deal. And the people that know better are saying, hey, wait a minute, you're just extremely lucky. So I advise clients, inventors, to be very careful when you use Google because you might type in terms that give the idea away. Right? So you know, luckily that didn't happen for you because you not only got a patent, you have patents throughout the world.
I do I have patents everywhere and Japan, China, all through your IBP do. I have Austria, in Australia? Canada, Mexico, the United I have five in the United States on this little screw India, Philippines, you know, just any place that was industrialized. Would I do that again? No. I've learned a lot there.
But how did you know the fact that you have five patents on one product is something that as patent attorneys, we're constantly advising inventors, that to get a portfolio, that's what really gets you more bulletproof protection, because one patent is great, but to really create value for a possible sale of your business and for investors, if you can create what sometimes is called a patent web, so that it really makes it harder for others to get around. So that's,
that's, that's very smart advice, because my first patent turned out to be the worst one of all of them. You know, as far as the claims were, you know, they were they were not as specific as they weren't. And so we did divisionals in CIPS, you know, so yeah, as you, as you get more into the project, you see more of it, then you have to expand, you know, your patent portfolio just to cover all the bases is,
right. And that was that was smart on your part, because you do have to in order to expand your patent. And you probably know this from your divisionals, which is a type of continuation application, and CIP, which is a continuation in part application, we'll go into these terms later. For our viewers, every Friday, we have asked the patent professor, and sometimes we have q&a. So I will be continuing going over continuation applications. But the trick is, you have to file for more protection, before the first one becomes issued. So in order to get that earliest filing date, so I'm glad you're able to do that. And then you just continued, it's like passing the torch from one patent to the next as you keep getting broader protection, correct? Yeah, well,
I had I had somebody that was very good at advising me. So I was lucky that and I had a patent Patent Agent, who was a guy who worked for GE for 30 years as a Patent Agent over there. And he was local in my neighborhood. And so it was nice that, you know, he educated me on I mean, I know that language. Now, I know, language, it's not, you know, it's like, it's like learning a different language, patent law or patent, just patents in general. It's like, they're very confusing. And I mean, I still to this day, with all my patents can tell you that I don't know, maybe 10% of the knowledge that there is to know about patents. They're just
Well, I mean, you had me when you said CIP, because that's a term that usually patent attorneys use. So it's short continuation, in part, but when we use the terms every day, you know, it's a mouthful continuation in part, so we just abbreviated, it's unusual to have have inventors use that term, because they don't have everyday but I guess with five patents just in the United States and patents all over the world, essentially. I mean, gosh, I heard India I heard Japan and you know, so that really helps. And that was Do you have investors that kind of looked at that or have you basically self your the self funded the idea? Yep.
never borrowed a dime on any of my businesses I've always in in, I've been blessed in the sense that it just so happens that like with my screw, there's two avenues to profitability. One is the optical industry. And the other one is the retail market. So that opticians who fix our glasses every day, I mean, I won an optical award in the from the optical Association of the United States, because my screw was the biggest evolution and as an a screw in over 50 years. So they used to do exactly what I was doing with my mom's glasses and taking those little screws, but they would take pliers or whatever, to hold the screws to get them into the glasses. None of them ever thought of doing developing the screw, they all thought about the tools to hold the screw. Right. So they needed somebody from the outside to come in, to look at it in a whole different way that they were all looking at it. So the the you know the the that portion of the the revenue I started with was I went to distributor who distributed to the opticians like the accessories like nose pads and cleaning solutions and stuff. I went to them and sat down and met with one and I was there the first day and I didn't even know what I was going to ask for. You know, I just knew that I was frustrated. And it was so hard to get it on the market. But I knew that this company was pretty big. And I'm like okay, I'm gonna tell him I want 100 grand. And I want to I want I want they can have the exclusivity and then I want to be The manufacturer, so I'm still going to make money buying the screws. So I'm having the manufactured and they so I mark them up to them, and then they sell them. And I sat down and said that they said, okay they're gone. What? Okay, so that's so what ended up happening was, they actually were the exclusive distributor only in the United States for my screw, okay. And they distributed it and ordered all the screws for me and I had my screws manufactured over in China. So I was just really the middleman, what would happen was, they would place a Pio with me, I would place a Pio with China, and China would send the goods directly to them. So all I did was POS and invoices, and I didn't have to touch any of it. And after two years, of them being my exclusive distributor, they ended up actually, they got bought out by SLR, which is the largest lens company in the world, out of France. And then I licensed my US rights to them after my distribution agreement expired, and I got over seven figures upfront, and I get a pretty healthy, I get a pretty healthy royalty now.
So like I'm saying you're using so many legal terms that I'm just going to pause real quick. And just for our viewers like, Okay, you're so experienced at this the terms like licensing royalties, like what is all this stuff, so an exclusive rights. So real quickly, and I'm going to, like, you know, the patent rights, you can think of it as almost a pie, and you have different slices. And that's what Nancy is talking about. So when she has a US patent, that is one slice of writes that she has, so she was able to license, which means give permission to accompany, specifically to sell in the United States. But then she also has, as you heard before, patents all over the world. And she can separately earn royalties. And royalties are basically a payment. So generally, they're a percentage of sales. And she can get that from, you know, say France, if she has one and she has a patent in Japan, she could. And these can all be separate companies. Now you can even have licenses in the United States, multiple licenses. You could license optometrists, for example, like professionals, and one company would have the exclusive rights to sell to the industry. And then you could have others that have a license for directly to consumer.
That's exactly what I did. Oh, okay. Yep. And that's when I, when I licensed my product, I licensed only the optical rights to them, and I retain the retail rights. So. So they actually go into all the optometrist and all those places, but I get to go into the Walmarts and the giant eagles and all of that. So I kept I retained my rights to the, the the retail portion of my patents
and then deliver a great decision for you. Because now you can go, you know, when it sells at Walmart, the industry doesn't get any royalties from that they don't make anything off of that, because those are REITs. You retained? Correct. But by the same token, you know, but they have you can't sell to optometrists directly, because you
know, but I actually have a really strong relationship with the people who licensed it from me. And if I could get into one where they're not in I just call them and we work it out. So it's, it's, I have a very healthy relationship with them.
Okay, yeah, no, that's and that ends up being very helpful. Because are they the ones that helped introduce you to foreign markets? How did you get like for a lot of viewers here, they're like, Oh, my God, I you know, selling the United States is a hurdle like, how is she selling all over the world? Like, how are you gonna
love it? LinkedIn? I got, I met a guy over in London, and it through LinkedIn. We started chatting. And the next place I went was to Europe. I had now have an office in London. And I have a guy who runs my office in London. He's my partner. I gave him 50% of the business in and he did in London, and he handles all of Europe. But our offices it he's he lives in outside of London and our offices in a town called Essex. And so he works full time over there. Now we have a warehouse over there, and we shipped over that from there. And so I decided what I was going to try and do is duplicate exactly what I did in the US. So I would start with the US and then go to Europe and then go to Qingdao, China. That's a that's another conversation. We'll have the still hopefully today Ah, and so that's what that was my strategy on getting it to the world was 111 Avenue one area at a time. So I was able to not work as hard in the US because I had somebody else doing most of the work there. And then go, I went to Europe many times, but I don't have to go anymore. But I was there, like, at least once a month for a couple of years, you know, going to trade shows and all of that stuff and setting up the the office over there. So,
right. Well, so that's amazing. So it's Have you seen, what's it exciting to be when you go overseas? Have you seen your product on store shelves? And
oh, yeah. And I was on QVC over there. And yeah. And I've I've seen Europe. Yeah, I was on QVC in Europe. And I've been on HSN here in the United States. But yeah, it the first time I ever saw it on the shelf was at I think it was warm, while Walmart, Walmart was the first time I ever saw it on the shelf. And yeah, that was a, that was a pivotal moment because of the difficulty in in getting to where I was at that time. I mean, the frustration of just the whole process and learning it on my own without really I didn't have a mentor anyone I was just, you know winging it. And to say the least as you know, I guess I have a little bit of tenacity to try and figure it out. But yeah, the moment that I saw it on the shelf was very gratifying. I had my picture of it. And when my sister was with me, and she was taking a picture of me while I while I saw it
brings back memories made my book escaping the gray the first time I saw that a Barnes and Noble. It's, I know that feeling because it's like, hey, this thing started just like your idea. It started in my mind. And here it is, and, you know, Barnes and Noble stores like throughout the United States throughout the world. The same thing with yours like that. You're thinking, Gosh, I had a problem, myself repairing eyeglasses, and I came up with the solution. And I'm not even from the industry. I'm speaking from your behalf. You're not even in this industry. Did you face? Did you have any self doubt? And I think you say you have tenacity, but also it takes a lot of guts to say, to approach an industry and say, hey, you know what? I'm not from your industry. But I've got an idea that's going to change your industry that we did not think of, but I did. That's a that's
I actually was it was actually kind of I mean, I like I told you, I've won many awards, I was up for an award in Dubai, I won an award in Australia, I've won I won awards around the world to not only just my patents there, but for most for the most part, I was received very nicely. I mean, there are companies out there that wanted to rip me off, you know, but other than the greed that's involved in the the opticians were I mean, fascinated they. I mean, I remember when we launched at Vision Expo in New York City at the Javits Center, people were because the company that I went with had sent out marketing materials before the show, they were actually literally waiting in line to see it. And I was there watching it, it was kind of neat.
You know, it's fascinating because we have all kinds of inventors on on our show here. But a grasp in better that really started from nothing and is not in the industry and created something in fact, we didn't talk about this but your the video I showed at the beginning that's not a paid actress in the video, is it
now that's my mother. We hired her for the day. And she did so well. That was like one take I was lucky enough to have a friend who was in the produce commercials and he shot it from me for next to nothing. So who is pretty nice?
Yeah, well, and because she's a natural I even hear her at one point. And we'll talk about the name and how you came up with the name but at one point in the commercial your mom says snap as she's struggling with the old system
that was all ad lib to that was not planned. She did it right on her own.
Oh, wow. Well, what to tell me did was snap it screw the first name that you were considering or or did you consider others as well?
No, it was snap. It was the first thing. Yeah. Yeah, it was. Yes.
You know, I'm always you know, I do trademark law as well. So I'm always fascinated by the names of products. Sometimes you don't get the name right at the beginning. In a product undergoes some changes like you know, WD 40. For example. The story goes that they it's the 48 formula. It stands for water displacement formulize, this lubricant spray. And they started with water displacement Formula One, and then they improved it and then Formula Two and then Formula Three. And it wasn't until the 48 attempt that they got it
oh my god, I didn't know that that's a great story. That's where that
WD 40 comes from. But you hit it with the name, you hit it, and it's, it's just very memorable, I let you know, snap it screw. And as we saw in the video, that's exactly what happens, the screw is way longer than it needs to be for the for the glasses. So after you put it through the end, the additional part just literally snaps off just like the name.
Yep, to snap it.
Snap, it's through eyeglass repair kit. So I know you've probably made your share of mistakes along the way as well. It's very helpful for New Inventors to hear about the mistakes, as well as the successes. So tell us about something that you wish you would have done differently with with this product.
But you know, there's a gazillion things. I mean, I like to tell people that there is a gazillion things I would have done differently. And I would advise other people to do differently. But I wouldn't trade my experience for the world because of the knowledge that I got from it. But you know, I had put this, this is a true story. I was sitting at my desk, and my glasses broke. And I had put my kit away because I was so frustrated. I hadn't touched it for six months, it just sat in my closet. And because it was just the hardest thing to do, you know, I was doubting myself and just I just didn't know what to do anymore. So I was sitting at my desk one day, and my glasses broke. And I went, oh, so I went in my closet, I got the screws, and I fixed my glasses and 10 seconds later, I'm working again. And I'm thinking to myself, that was just, it's too good to sit in the closet. You know, I and I tried to tell people that, you know, the idea is the easy part. I mean, that's the simplest part of the whole venture is coming up with your idea. Well, you know, and people get so enamored by their ideas, they don't realize what's coming ahead of them. And that's what happened to me. I'm from the patent process to you know, getting in front of the right people to, you know, you know, you get in front of the right people, and then they say yes, and they don't ever get back to you. And it's just a bunch of different stories. I don't know if you know who Steven key is, but he's a he's a writer, I you know, he, I met him at the first trade show that I ever did. And that was in 2010. And we were in Minnesota, it was a small trade show. And he was the keynote speaker. And at the end, we all had our little booths set up with all the new inventions and stuff. And he came over to me and he saw it, he goes, Wow, that's a great idea how, who you're going to license it to. And I said, I'm not going to license it. I'm going to take it to the market myself. And he looked at me and he goes, You're crazy. That's what he said to me. You're crazy. Now, at that point in time, I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. You're crazy, right? But you know, now come full circle had I had it to do over again, I would have probably licensed it in the beginning. And now I'm in Steven keys books that he writes, he tells my story a lot because, you know, when somebody tells you you're crazy that that's their industry of what they do you I didn't think I was crazy. You know, I thought oh, this will be easy. I got a great product. Why can't I get it out
there? Oh, when you say tenacity, that's what inventors need to have, because they're gonna hear you're crazy. Or why if you're, if you're new if you're especially if you're from outside the industry. So we're, we're almost out of time. So I do want to have you talk really briefly, guys, we're we're extremely lucky to have Nancy here because she's one of these inventors that has just more ideas than time to pursue them. But she has launched a new completely new business and hopefully we'll have Nancy come back and talk about her success there. Give us a teaser, Nancy for for next time.
Okay, well I designed my own fashion clothes now my, their sports fashion and I've turned them into a pretty successful business in a very short amount of time. So it's bella bella sports.com And I'd love to come back and share with you how that all came about and where I'm at with it and how I manufacture it and what
I hear hear that as well because as you said the experience with snap it screw. You know, yes, you've made mistakes, but you've learned a lot. And I remember that there's a famous quote by John Ruskin that says in the end it doesn't matter much what you know, or what you believe or what you think the only thing that matters is what you do. And what I admire about your story is that despite hearing, you're crazy, and despite being from outside the industry, you kept pushing forward. And in pursuing your idea, granted, you put it aside for six months when the going got tough, but it didn't stay aside, I mean, the first time you broke the glasses, again, you realize that you were on to something. So one of
the things that I would like to end with is in one of the most important lessons that I learned as an inventor, a lot of times we try to hire people to come in and do a job that we should be doing ourselves, do not give up control of what you're doing and how you're doing it. Because a lot of times, I would give my, you know, sales jobs to somebody else, and they weren't as passionate about my product as I am. So the passion comes within yourself. And don't give away that control. Because you lose when to lose that control. Your passion gets gone with it, and you don't have the forefront and move forward. Yeah,
that's phenomenal advice. And one of the reasons why it might practice the part of the inventors that I love working with are the small startups and individual inventors because they still have that passion. Once, you know once Bill Gates becomes Microsoft, and is this huge corporate organization, I think some of that passion of the original inventor is gone. But I know, one quick announcement. And then I promise everyone zoomed out these days because of so many meetings. So I do promise that we end on time. But on October 28 to October 30. I'm hosting a free three day a virtual summit for inventors. So if you want to mark that date, and then finally next Friday, we'll be hearing from the inventor of Craig ear, Susan Hanson. And she will be joining she has an in ear noise protection device specifically for dogs. So we're gonna be speaking with her for now, Nancy, I can't be more of a pleasure to have you here. I promise we'll have you back. We want to hear more about your clothing line. Because you learned a lot of lessons from the snap it screw that you have used to launch your second business which is already wildly successful when you believe it's going to even surpass the snap. It's true in terms of potential.
I do. I do. I'm excited about it.
Thank you for joining us. Bye