For our September Inventor Spotlight, we’re highlighting Thom Cicchelli (or as some of you know him, Thom C)! Thom has been an active Edison Nation member and Insider since 2008!
We wanted to get to know Thom a bit better to learn about his background and his EN experiences so far…
Where is your hometown?
Until age 10, I grew up in the “exotic” lower-middle class city of Blue Island, Illinois.
Where do you currently reside?
I currently live in the Beverly Hills/Morgan Park neighborhood on the City of Chicago’s far southwest side.
What is your professional background?
I have been a Senior Graphics/Packaging Designer for an international manufacturing business for 20+ years.
How did you initially hear about Edison Nation?
In 2008 there was a “cattle call” in one of the Chicago newspapers for this NEW “inventors TV show” (we stood in lines and sat in hallways for over seven hours). In their defense, they had no idea that several thousand people would show up, the concept was so new. I remember them ordering pizza for everyone at one point.
Have you ever collaborated with another inventor(s) on a project? If so, how was that experience for you?
No, I have not, but much admire some of the forum posts with two or more innovators having their single concept move through the stages. However, I have a couple of EN Insider friends that on occasion, will trade PDF’s for submissions that have made it past Stage 5 or 6 in a given Innovation Search. We exchange honest critiques. A fresh set of eyes can be very extremely helpful!
What are some general industry trends you have noticed recently?
I’m amazed at the under $20 culinary market right now. A plastic 2″ X 3″ Kale “stem and leaf separator” for seven bucks?
Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go after them?
Naturally my thought process tends to gravitate towards innovation searches that I have some knowledge or interest in, but every once in awhile, I’ll take a stab at something like the Power Surge Protector/Extension Cord Search, armed with only an open mind and a stack of “What if’s”. In that search, I made it to presentation (G7) and an eventual R8.
Starting from the first day of a given Innovation Search announcement, the challenge plays over and over in my head (kinda like that songs you can’t shake). As ideas, concepts, potential product names, functions, all swirl in my mind (much like a scene from the movie Poltergeist), I will scribble, sketch and notate key words on a small pad (I keep a pocket sketch pad at my desk, keep one in the car and one in the night stand). This process has and can continue while I sleep, especially if I have hit a roadblock. My mind will keep configuring solutions much like a Rubik’s Cube at times. By the way I don’t recommend this process, even if it is a voluntary action, you can wake up exhausted at times.
Beyond this “hocus pocus” approach to inventing, I will then research and compare “like products” taking into account all the criteria that EN reinforces to us.
What advice would you tell others hoping to score a licensing deal?
Try and shoot down your idea before EN does. Don’t be afraid to investigate if your innovation has legs. “Hoping & wishing” is not enough. If your “greatest invention ever” gets the thumbs down at some point during the process, get MAD for one day, and then “GET OVER IT” and move on to another opportunity and find inspiration!
What are some other fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the EN community?
I created the winning design for the 2003 Illinois State Quarter/Part of the U.S. Mint’s 50 State Quarter program.
Telling people that I am color blind is always followed by 10 minutes of “What color is this? What color is that?”
I’m currently a finalist in the Chicagoland McDonald’s “Burger Build-Off,” thanks to some heavy ballot box stuffing by my fellow EN members!
What inspired you to start inventing?
Being a creative person, inventing was a natural progression. I mainly focus on “use” instead of something visual. I’m inspired by the challenge of envisioning and making something that can only be found in my head and putting it down on paper.
You have been an EN member since 2008, can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?
Well, there was a rather large gap between 2008’s “cattle call” and around the spring of 2013, I believe.
HSN was coming to the Housewares show and EN had presentation tie-ins here at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. My submission for this Innovation Search started a long string of having either a G7 or awaiting presentation results continually for well over a year, with a self-imposed rule of no more than two submissions for any given search.
I do submit to about 50% of the calls. Currently I do have a few horses on the track past Stage 4. Speaking of Stage 4, I refer to that stage as the “Wall”. It’s the hardest to get over. I refer to Stage 6 as the “trench” because you’re well on your way, and can suddenly get tripped up!
Any additional details you’d like to share?
Not a detail, but advice. I would encourage EN members to “participate” in the forums. There is a wealth of knowledge and perspective that can be shared, why not add to it? These are the people whose eyes don’t glaze over when you start talking about your big ideas. . .