by Richelle Kimble
Snow season in Michigan brings a new playground for all ages. Snowball fights, skiing, boarding and packing Frosty men in the front yard never cease to remain pertinent to winter’s necessities. Not much can deter the active individual from the outdoors; perhaps the wind-chill is a little harsh, or the snow isn’t fit for packing. However, Karen and Ryan Smoots of Portage, Michigan we’re frustrated by another problem with winter activities.
“My son would come home from school, take his hands out of his gloves and say, ‘Mom, smell my hands! They stink,’” Karen said.
The quest to cure foul, wet gloves began in the winter of 2013. The family tried obvious “solutions,” but realized that hours in the dryer and register drying wicked only the outside of the gloves and left the inside swampy. Karen Smoots had reached her breaking point that winter, and sent Ryan Smoots on a mission. “I told Ryan, ‘Please leave and don’t come back unless you have a solution to fix the kids’ gloves,’” she said. His solution was far more inventive than she was expecting.
Ryan Smoots came home with a few main tools: a saw, an eight-foot pipe, tubes, and a drill. After getting past the humor of the situation, the couple decided it was a done deal. They were going to build a solution. With a vision in mind, Karen and Ryan sought to utilize the already “free” heat register. Without further ado, the original prototype was invented. The outdoor accessory dryer sat on top of the register: the large pipe was the base and the tubes stuck out the sides as branches to support the gloves and hats.
“The concept worked. It captured the heat and channeled it up into the glove,” Karen Smoots said. “I was the happiest mom ever, and my kids were happy, too!”
Despite costing 250 dollars, the DIY house project served the Smoots family well for nearly two years until they decided to share their solution. Having extensive business experience, Karen Smoots honored her family and friends’ wishes to create more in the spring of 2014.
“We researched companies in May, and in September, they started making our mold,” Karen Smoots said. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, though; neither of them knew anything about molds. She joked that they didn’t even know the difference between steel and aluminum. “We researched it and took our time. We learned every step of the process,” she said.
The Green Glove Dryer appeared on shelves in over 40 stores in three states just before Thanksgiving 2014. In addition, the dryer appears in several online retailers, including Amazon. The invention is patent-pending, copyrighted, and awaiting next season for more excitement. Karen Smoots is satisfied with the first winter season thus far, over 1,300 units have been sold. “As soon as we got snow, the computers started dinging!” she said.
Although there was significant financial investment, the months of research to ensure there was a market for the product keeps Karen and Ryan Smoots positive about the future. For them, patience and advice were the most important aspects of propelling forward. “I knew we had a good idea, and we were going to figure it out,” Karen Smoots said. “I didn’t know how long it was going to take us, and I didn’t know how many hurdles we’d encounter, but I was determined.”
Her advice for women like her with unique ideas is to go for it. Nothing can be too innovative! “With determination, persistence and asking questions, anything is possible,” she said. “But remember, the business doesn’t fall in your lap. You have to find it.”
Ideas are omnipresent, but those who are passionate enough to take the plunge often secure the benefits. This project started with a mom who desperately sought a solution to dry her kids’ gloves. “Never did we think this would be a business,” said Smoots. “It’s awesome.”
For more information, visit www.thegreenglovedryer.com or e-mail Karen and Ryan Smoots at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When she’s not editing for WLM and spending time with her fellow staff members, Richelle enjoys exploring, traveling, writing, reading, cooking, learning and playing.