If persistence pays off, William Holden should soon be in inventor and entrepreneurial heaven.
By April, he plans to be selling 500 units of his paper towel and toilet paper dispensers, trademarked as PolarityGear by his company HoldenArt, that have been under development since 2009.
The design for Holden’s dispensers – that allow you to tear off sheets using only one hand – has changed from being centered around a gear-ratcheting mechanism the use of magnets to provide a slight resistance that allows for tears using only one hand.
“I had a good prototype a year ago, but I’m a perfectionist. I don’t want the product out before it works perfectly,” Holden said from his Durango home, where he creates components for his dispensers with a 3D printer.
Funding to manufacture 500 units of the devices came from a recent Kickstarter campaign that raised $4,927. The 500 units – tabletop and cabinet-hanging models for the paper towel holders and self-adhesive wall units for toilet paper dispensers – will be made under contract with a Chinese manufacturer.
The units will be available for Holden to sell at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, which he will attend from May 5-7, as he begins efforts to market his devices.
“Marketing is a challenge for me,” said Holden, who calls himself a creative problem-solver and has several patents, including one for a reversible spout for bottles to prevent a build up of liquid. He has a patent pending for the two magnetic discs he uses in his paper towel and toilet paper dispensers.
“I’m a product developer. I design to solve problems. Marketing is a different animal, and you have to spend money,” he said.
Past efforts at marketing the dispensers, which failed to catch on, have included a professionally produced video and a bare-bones video Holden produced on his own.
Currently, Holden is working on getting a robot to tear off sheets from his units at his display at the National Hardware Show.
“If I get the robot, maybe that will make a difference at the show and result in a few sales,” he said.
Holden’s initial dispensers used gearing mechanisms to create resistance to allow tears from rolls with only one hand. He licensed the idea to Lifetime Brands, the largest global provider of kitchenware products for the home, but Lifetime eventually decided not to make Holden’s design and opted for another gear-based dispenser.
Under the licensing agreement, Lifetime’s decision not to produce Holden’s design prevented him from selling his gear-based dispenser himself.
But Holden didn’t give up on his idea.
“When you look at something like this, it’s in every home, it’s in every office. I couldn’t not do this. That’s when I thought of doing (creating resistance) with magnets, and it turns out it works better with magnets,” he said.
Holden’s pending patent is for the design of two discs containing magnets that can be adjusted to create the right tension to tear a selected number of sheets of paper based on a roll’s ply and its tension using just one hand.
Holden’s brother, who suffers from paraplegia and can use only his thumb and index finger on one hand, is able to use the dispenser to tear sheets, and Holden has spoken to occupational therapists who see a market for the dispensers to aid their clients.
The market, even if limited only to serving those with disabilities, Holden said, would be enough to support his company, but he thinks the product has appeal to everyone.
“Everyone’s so used to holding the roll with the other hand, but once you get used to it, you won’t use anything else. It’s analogous to kitchen drawers that go back automatically. Once you use those kitchen drawers – they go back more gently, they sound right – you don’t want to go back to a normal drawer,” he said.