For car manufacturers, wind is a pest. Designers make every effort to reduce the wind resistance that hits a traveling vehicle to improve its efficiency.
But if wind resistance is inevitable, why not try to harness its energy for something productive?
That’s the concept Paul Skelton and Bob Cutler considered with a new gadget they’re bringing to market.
The product is designed as an alternative to flags, often emblazoned with sports team logos, that fit onto car windows. SportFans take the shape of a windsock: A fan-like propeller generates its own electricity to power a light within the device to give the product visibility at night that an ordinary flag lacks.
“SportFans was just a concept that came out of nowhere,” Skelton said. “I had a concept when I started for a window-mounted windmill for your car that would be a USB charger.”
That idea morphed into SportFans, which so far has licenses with the University of Kansas and Kansas State University to display logos for the athletic teams. Online, the product sells for about $20.
Skelton, an inventor, connected in 2014 with Cutler, the founder of Creative Consumer Products in Overland Park. Creative Consumer is a brand agency known for developing children’s products for national restaurants.
With Skelton’s background in consumer products and Cutler’s expertise in the infrastructure of a business — vendor relationships, warehousing, supply chains and so on — the two formed Nemo Ventures. It’s a subsidiary of Creative Consumer Products, or C3 as it’s more commonly known these days.
As a 2-year old company, it has developed a track record. It licensed a product called LampChamp, a USB charging device that screws into a lamp’s light socket.
Skelton said he’s learning that developing a product is perhaps the easier part of working in the consumer products space. Getting it out to retail is harder.
The first challenge comes in educating a buying public on what you’re selling in order to support a retail presence. Second is getting retailers to buy into the idea when you’re a relatively new business.
“The other thing we learned is that big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target are tough to deal with when you’re a newbie in retail,” Skelton said. “If they give you a purchase order for 100,000 units, you’ve got to do it. If you have an issue because it’s the first time doing 100,000 units and you can’t fulfill, they charge you.”
So far, Nemo Ventures has developed an inventory of 6,000 SportFans. Skelton and Cutler are trying to bring the product to retail stores. They have an agreement to test SportFans at Party City locations in the area in February.