Jonathan C. Smith: My “Bed Lifts” Journey

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I vividly recall when I first heard about Everyday Edisons and Edison Nation. I was driving home from work in 2008 when I heard an interview with Louis Foreman on NPR. He said there was a casting call this weekend at McCormick Place in Downtown Chicago. ?From that moment traffic couldn?t move fast enough! The 23 miles I had left to drive seemed like it took forever! When I arrived home I checked out the site and saw the details of the event. My next step was to call my boss and ask him if I could take the next day off. It was a Thursday and the event was on Saturday. I used that next day to prepare some renderings for the presentation of a concept I had for crutches after observing the challenges users had getting in and out of vehicles.

I spent the rest of the night and the following day preparing my presentation boards. I thought about whom I might meet and the conversations that might be had and the friends I might make. I arrived early but I was clearly not early enough! The line was very long, but I wasn?t outside! After my number was called for the initial presentation I sat and waited for a long time to see if I was selected to go on to the next round, which I was! I then presented my collapsible crutches concept to a panel of people, each of who represented different companies. I was again selected to present to Louis and a panel of judges. The presentation would be recorded and may be included in the show, even if the idea wasn?t selected.

At the end of the day the idea was not selected by Everyday Edisons to be on the show, nor was it selected to move forward into production. But it was an awesome experience! I know that is the nature of product development and I wasn?t going to give up. After all, developing products is what I do for a living and I feel very fortunate that I am able to live out my passion.

Just a few months later, I was laid off from my job and was looking for work when I decided to see if Edison Nation was hiring. Unfortunately they were not, but I saw Bed Bath & Beyond?s Students of Invention search for back-to-school inspired inventions. Something that stuck in my mind from college was how little storage space there was in my room. Because of that problem I decided to get a loft bed so that I got back that floor space. Another thing that stuck out in my mind was that many people had lights in their rooms. When I asked them why they had them, they said it served as both a night-light and as decoration lighting.

Thinking on this further I thought about combining the two into a solution that would give them more storage space, something that is a premium in college dorms, and a convenient night-light that could have a pedal switch to easily turn the on and off. That day I sketched up some concepts, looked at the USPTO.GOV website and did some patent searches, then looked online for other examples of products in that category. There wasn?t anything that currently existed so I decided on one of my sketches and built a 3D model on my computer. Once I completed the design I combined it with the sketch I drew and submitted it to EN. I then got back to my job hunt.

?Bed Riser Sketch
Original sketch

viewer
Original 3D model

A few months into 2009 our lease ended. So we packed up all of our belongings and moved most of them into a storage unit and moved to Texas to live with my parents. There wasn?t any option at this point. I had a few telephone interviews and some face-to-face interviews but nothing solid. By this point I had completely forgotten about my submission to Bed Bath & Beyond?s search.

I later received an email/phone call telling me that my idea had been selected by Bed Bath & Beyond from this search! I was very excited and it took me a second to realize what they were talking about, the previous year of looking for work took a lot out of us, so this news couldn?t have come at a better time.

When they told me about the concept and how it had changed from a light-up bed riser to a USB bed riser, I was grateful that they had taken my concept and turned it into something that resonated with the retailer and aligned with consumers? needs. My idea wouldn?t have been selected without their efforts to evolve the idea into what it has become.

From 2009 until 2011, may seem like a long time, but that is how product development progresses. Even if the retailer likes it a lot, the focus group or individuals that assess the product might not like it or see a use for it at all. So this all could have gone another direction. In 2012, things really took off for Bed Lifts. It was featured in select stores for a test run. I later learned that it sold out in the test run! So then in 2013 they decided to sell it in all of their stores during the back to school campaign! I have a feeling that the individuals at Edison Nation had something to do with its success and growth. Setting sales hurdles and negotiating with the buyer at Bed Bath & Beyond must have played a role in its success.

BBB_July_Circular_BedLifts_v2Bed Bath & Beyond July 2013 circular

I was very excited to see what would happen and if the product would live up to their expectations. I received a call in September of 2013 telling me that it did exceptionally well and that BBB has decided to sell them year round in 600 stores across the U.S., and in all of their stores (again!) during the Back to School campaign! WOW, we are very excited to say the least! The team at Edison Nation has certainly played a role in taking this concept from a sketch for a product that hadn?t seen any innovation in its category for years to something that really resonated with consumers!

10 Comments Jonathan C. Smith: My “Bed Lifts” Journey

  1. Susan Van V.

    Way to go Jonathan and EN! Congratulations! This helps to put into perspective how long a process it really is to get a product to market.

  2. Jonathan C. Smith

    Thank you Stephanie, Greg and Susan for your encouragement! It has been a long road since 2009 when I initially submitted the concept. Because I work in R&D I have a clear understanding of how the process can go. I have to give all of the credit to EN and their entire Team. They took this opportunity, in a space where no innovation had occurred in a long time and developed the idea into what it is. Keep thinking about how you can add value to your life by changing or combining the solutions you see or have. Many times we develop solutions that we aren’t even aware of, it is human nature. That work around might be the next big hit!

    Best,

    Jonathan C. Smith

  3. Patricia Herzog-Mesrobian

    What wonderful news … big giant congratulations! It is an ingenious idea and I am thrilled for you.
    Patricia

  4. Jonathan C. Smith

    Patricia & Andrea,

    Thank you for your encouragement. We are doing well and we just had a baby Boy, Thomas Alexander Smith, born on the 27th of Dec. 2013. So any fruits of this effort are needed and practically already spent. The Team at EN did an excellent job and we have enjoyed the experience a lot.

    I do have a job again, at a Petcare Company in Nashville. I still have my Entrepreneurial interests, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for a very good year in 14′ as we move towards launching a product of our own.

    Happy New Year everyone and Happy Inventing!

    Jonathan C. Smith

  5. Jonathan C. Smith

    Update!

    2013 was an amazing year for the Bed Lifts! And 2014 will hopefully be an even better year!

    2013 saw them grow from being sold in all BBB stores only during the Back to School time frame to now being sold in 600 stores year round!, then during the Back to School season they will be sold in all stores! WOW! We are so excited to see how they do. I have had co-workers, at my day job, come up to me and as me about them after they saw my posts on Linkedin or read the article the Tennessean wrote about EN and I.

    The En team has done an excellent job of making this product a success. At the end of the day, the consumers have been buying them and that is what keeps them on the shelves! But if EN had not pushed them and saw the opportunity, I would be in a very different place right now.

    We are excited to hear how they do this year and i will be sure to keep this thread updated along the way! I enjoy sharing these updates with you guys so that you know that EN is focused on your success and taking your ideas to the next level, just as they did with mine!

    This success has allowed my wife to stay home with our new baby, and while things are still tight as the cost of goods rises and babies are expensive, we are managing a lot easier now.

    Additionally, we are also pushing to launch our own product, The Spyder 360? in the coming weeks on Kickstarter?! I am off to China from the 18th to the 27th to meet with manufacturers and get the manufacturing lined up. I want to make sure the quality, production, assembly, packaging, and quality control measures are tight and in-line with my high expectations.

    Again, we would not be able to do this without the opportunity BBB and EN has afforded us by selecting the Bed Lifts to be sold in their stores!

    I will keep you guys updated and Thank You again for all the encouragement!

    Best,

    Jonathan C. Smith

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