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Kenmare invention in Walmart contest

Duane Ingerson of Kenmare hardly sends text messages or uses Facebook, but he’s counting on friends, relatives and business associates around the country to do both those things and vote for the pan lid-holding device he entered in Walmart’s “Get On the Shelf” contest.

3/14/12 (Wed)

Live demonstration . . . Duane Ingerson submitted a YouTube video for the
"Get On the Shelf" competition that featured this demonstration of how his
lid-holding device works with any size or shape of pan on the stove.  People can
watch the video at the contest website, then vote for Ingerson's invention.

By Caroline Downs

Editor’s note: The online link to Ingerson’s “Get On the Shelf” contest entry is embedded below in this story, or vote HERE.

Duane Ingerson of Kenmare hardly sends text messages or uses Facebook, but he’s counting on friends, relatives and business associates around the country to do both those things and vote for the pan lid-holding device he entered in Walmart’s “Get On the Shelf” contest.

“This was an obsession,” he said. “I worked on it for two weeks, and we’ve been using it for two years. This is a nice opportunity to do something with it.”

The stainless steel holder is a simple concept, hooking onto the side of pot, kettle or pan being heated on a stove, to deal with the constant problem of where to set a steaming lid when checking or stirring the pan’s contents. The device has pairs of tangs set at an angle to hold the lid without condensation dripping on the counter or scalding the cook. Ingerson even made sure to situate the tangs to accommodate various sizes of lids.

“I do think this is a common problem,” he said. “[My wife] Diane uses ours all the time.”

The device can be attached anywhere around the pan, for left- or right-handed cooks, and the tangs will hold metal and glass covers for all pots and baking dishes, including slow-cookers.

While Ingerson’s family uses the item every time they prepare a meal, Ingerson said he hadn’t yet determined the best way to market the device. Then one morning earlier this winter, he caught a 20-second segment about the “Get On the Shelf” contest during a business news television show he watches.

“This contest was a no-brainer,” he said. “They were taking entries until February 22nd. I figured I’d better do something with it.”

The contest features thousands of YouTube video entries for products not currently for sale by Walmart, with people voting for their favorites from March 7th until April 3rd. The 10 entries that receive the highest number of votes will advance to a second round of voting from April 11th to the 24th.

Individuals can send one vote for a product each day, either by visiting the website at www.getontheshelf.com or the link specifically for Ingerson’s product, listed below. The entry that receives the highest number of votes will be considered as a product for sale on Walmart.com and in Walmart stores, and will receive assistance in marketing and production.

The two entries receiving the next highest vote totals will be awarded first prizes that also include merchandising support and the opportunity for the product to be sold by Walmart.

Manufacturing, fabricating
and inventing
Ingerson had a brush with Walmart several years ago, when he was operating the Creative Industries shop in Kenmare and manufacturing the Truck Trunks sold by several dealers across the United States. “They liked the truck toolboxes,” he said, adding that he discussed sales with representatives from the corporation. “But we couldn’t get to their price-point.”

Ingerson’s business on the south side of Kenmare along U.S. Highway 52 is now known as Dakota Signscapes, specializing in custom signs and similar jobs rather than truck toolbox and accessory manufacturing. “We’re fabricating metal all day, every day up there,” he said, “but this is more creative metal artwork.”

Ironically, his interest in the sign business developed after making the sign for his own Creative Industries shop. “We priced the sign,” he said. “When I saw that, I said, ‘Okay, we can make our own holes and letters.’”

He admitted to a long fascination with inventing products. “There’s something about the nature of being in manufacturing,” he said. “When I look at a situation, like the dripping lid, my mind immediately goes to how I can solve that problem, and I do that with everything. I’ve got a whole bunch of these inventions that I’ve dreamed up.”

He referred to his lid-holding device. “Many of my inventions are finished and refined like that,” he said, although few people outside of his family may have seen the items.

The lid-holding device has no memorable name yet, like the Truck Trunks. “I didn’t have time to do the trademark research before we sent in the entry,” said Ingerson, adding that he didn’t want to take a chance on infringing on a name or logo already in use.

However, Ingerson believes this item could be a great fit for Walmart or a similar company because of its simplicity and usefulness. “We’ll see what kind of interest people have in this,” he said. “There will be a huge awareness from the contest.”

He even joked about marketers for celebrity chefs seeing the product, and he laughed as he talked about powder-coating the device orange to match TV chef Rachel Ray’s cookware line. “This is a great way to get a whole bunch of feedback,” he added.

The contest comes with some risks, given that a YouTube video demonstration of each invention is required for entry. Walmart restricted the entries to U.S. individuals, teams or companies, but the videos can be accessed anywhere in the world, including by potential competitors.

Ingerson shrugged off the negative element, saying copying was always an issue in the world of manufacturing. He designed the lid-holding device on his own CAD software. “Then it’s plasma-cut or laser-cut,” he said, holding one of the still-flat sheets of metal with the appropriate shapes and holes already completed. “Then we use computer-controlled press brake bending to fold it.”

Ingerson explained that painting the stainless steel is not necessary, although the item can be powder-coated in any color desired. A closed cell rubber sponge, used to cushion the pan lid, is fit into the center of the device and can be easily removed to wash or wring out if it collects water or food particles.

He believes production could be accomplished in small run quantities. “This is something that could be produced in North Dakota,” he said, “although it might be difficult with the labor pool right now. Manufacturing is so different today with computer-aided design. I could email the blueprint for this device to any manufacturer anywhere.”

Vote and share the links
The lid-holding device is not available for sale at this time. Ingerson said he has been considering various marketing avenues and even infomercials for the product and other devices he has invented. “We’ve looked at telemarketing,” he said, “but this is the first thing we’ve actually tried with putting it out there for people to see.”

He concentrated on creating a simple video to highlight the device, running just over a minute and narrated by his son Mitchell. Voting for the contest started last Wednesday.

“Now, we’re busy trying to find ways to get votes,” Ingerson said. “We’ve let out-of-state relatives and business connections know what we’re doing. There’s the old Truck Trunk dealer network and friends and family.”

He marveled at the response to social network marketing, something he has not done in his manufacturing career until now. “Everything I’ve always done has been brick and mortar,” he said. “I’m not a Facebook guy.”

However, he is sharing the link, which is http://www.getontheshelf.com:80/product/3424/Lid-Holding-Device, by email. That page features the video directly, as well as links to vote through Facebook or by texting 3424 to 383838.

The “Get On the Shelf” contest results are scheduled to be announced in early May 2012.

Voters can also share Ingerson’s link through Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and email, which is exactly what he is hoping people will do.

“We’ll swing at this big pitch,” he said, “and see what happens.”