For our June Inventor Spotlight, we’re highlighting one of the ladies of Edison Nation, Colleen Noonan! A social worker and mother of three, Colleen has been an active Edison Nation member since 2013 and is an active participant on our community forums.
We had the opportunity to talk to Colleen and learn how she started inventing, how she comes up with her ideas and any advice for those trying to bring their inventions to market.
Where is your hometown?
Where do you currently reside?
I have lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since 2011. Between Baltimore and Pittsburgh we lived in San Antonio, Texas, for four years. I have three kids (7, 10, 13).
What is your professional background?
I received my Bachelor’s degree (West Virginia University) and Master’s degree (University of Maryland) both in Social Work with a healthcare specialization. I have worked in every aspect of Social Work (mental health, children/families, drug/alcohol, etc.), but for the last 12 years I was employed, I worked in the hospital and home health care setting.
When I had my first child 13 years ago, I decided I wanted to stay home with them and put my career on hold. There has been no bigger personal joy for me in this decision. My husband was in dental school at the time so I bartended on the weekends and started a small cookie business called Colleen’s Cookies to help support us. I sold to several speciality coffee and wine/cheese stores, as well as a few law firms in the city. I actually didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t make a lot of money, but I LOVED it and loved how people loved my product. The cookies were very thin, with the perfect balance of chewy AND crisp. Hard one to find IF you are a fan of that kind of cookie. I still make them today (but don’t sell them).
I’m hoping to return to Social Work part-time after my 13 year sabbatical in the Fall.
How did you hear about Edison Nation?
Andrea Zabinski. She and I connected at one point probably three or four years ago. She lives only 40 minutes away from me. I listened to her in an interview and was so impressed I tracked her down and emailed her to learn more about her. She’s a wonderful person, a great inventor and a perfect example of “get ‘er DONE!”
As a Social Worker and a mom of three, how do you approach the inventing process?
Great question because my whole career was about collaboration and communication with other healthcare professionals and families, so inventing, being a solo journey, is/was a little difficult for me. Me talking to me in my mind all day only gets me so far. I use my husband and kids to bounce ideas of of and have a few EN members that I respect and trust that I talk with. They are awesome!
My kids for sure are where I get my ideas from – whether its trends with the older two or difficulty in doing certain tasks with the younger one. There are many things I think of that would make my life a whole lot easier in doing simple tasks with my kids or on the go challenges.
Having worked in healthcare for many years and with the geriatric population for part of that time, you’d think I would have many ideas to send to Edison Nation Medical, but I don’t…at least, not yet.
What new product trends do you see as a mom?
Some of the trends I have noticed include: homemade baby food made simpler, products to make meal time clean-up easier, tween products and accessories, teen boy shoes and kitchen products to make things easier even for the youngest chef.
Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go to them?
I love this question because I love reading what others write. 98% of the time they have to come to me!!
I wish I could come up with ideas with ease for the searches. The few times I’ve done that I’ve loved the thrill of that ride, waiting in anticipation. I love that there is an end date and a presentation date. My inventing process doesn’t work that way naturally. Big time kudos to those of you who can – I totally admire that. Despite the longer wait, I’m more of an Open Search inventor.
Overall I’ve learned to be true to myself and my process and focus on my inventing strengths and try to improve upon my weaknesses.
What inspired you to start inventing?
My dad was in the building and real estate industry for most of his life. He employed me and my siblings at a very early age having us pick the dead flower buds on the model homes property, clean and supervise the model homes, complete secretarial work, bake cookies for his customers at Christmas, etc. My dad didn’t always make the best decisions, he took risks and some paid off and some for sure didn’t. My dad taught me to LIVE, to grab life and live, to do what you love and take chances, get your hands dirty. So when I thought of my first idea I said to myself “why not?!” and I just started moving on it. My dad lived with Alzheimer’s for 12 years until he died two years ago. He was such a great man 🙂
When did you come up with your first great idea?
In 2011, I had a babysitter and went out with some friends one night and when I returned, two of my kids were very sick at the very same time, different rooms. I was going back and forth every 10 minutes to care for them. My husband was out of town so I was alone managing them ALL NIGHT.
I immediately thought of a solution and actually a line of products to help kids and their parents when they are sick. I read, and read, and read everything and anything. I joined InventRight and followed along so I could learn HOW to license this myself. I had amazing renderings and a sell sheet and I went through the whole process of cold calling, etc. BUT, what I didn’t have was a product that was proprietary AND would have been very expensive to even start the manufacturing process. Didn’t have a clue that just the MOLDS would be so costly!
In the end I did not get a deal, BUT I did have initial interest and several calls from one of the biggest children’s catalogue companies. It took the wind out of my sails for about a year before I got back on the saddle. I learned so much and don’t regret ALL the time I devoted to that. Learning through failing at something is hard but a must.
I tried a few more on my own a few years back without luck. So, I was VERY happy to find EN!
You have been an EN member since 2013, can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?
I’ve had a great experience with EN – had a few R8’S which is the next best thing to a G8. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of when to let an idea GO but, lordy, I have maybe four that I just can’t move on entirely from. And I guess I shouldn’t since some of them have gotten very far. My mind always says “you can make it better Colleen!”
I read books, magazine articles, Facebook postings, internet articles on inventing almost daily. I listen to podcasts and interviews any opportunity I can. I read all the forum postings and, of course, all of Rogers lessons. That is how I learn. I’ve learned so much but still have so much to learn. You know that saying “You don’t know what you don’t know?” That’s how I feel – so much to learn, always!
Often I have so many ideas flooding my brain I just try and pick the most promising one and start somewhere, which is usually research online and in stores. Thinking of this quote ALWAYS helps me:
“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the first step.”
For inventing, I translate this to KEEP MOVING FORWARD – keep learning, keep reading, keep trying to make it better. Just keep GOING. You’ll get somewhere by doing so – it may be at the end but that’s ok sometimes.
What inspires me more then anything is knowing I know more today then I knew yesterday and that totally excites me to the core and keep me going forward!
What are some of the fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the Edison Nation community?
Fun facts hmm…Well, I can whistle with any two fingers probably better and louder then any sailor. It doesn’t matter where my kids are in the neighborhood they can hear my whistle and that means come home. I can also silence any room with it.
I love wine, cooking and opera – preferably all at the same time. Love Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffet too!
The beach is my happy place – lots of memories there. My mind is clearest there and my heart happiest!
I have the most amazing husband who works so hard everyday so I can stay home with our three awesome kids. He’s my best friend and the most dedicated, connected husband and father I could have ever asked for.
I’m a very optimistic person, can usually see the positive in most situations and always generally feel a situation will get better with time and perspective.
I cry super easily and my tears don’t discriminate bad news or happy news. So Edison Nation Licensing Team, when you call me with a deal I will NO DOUBT cry. Tears of joy of course!
I am totally addicted to the PROFIT – I love Marcus’s. I love his motto “trust the process”. That’s how I feel about EN! I love Shark Tank too! We watch all those shows as a family. These shows, of course, make me cry
Thanks for reading I love you guys!
We are so excited to have Colleen as a member of our inventor community, and have our fingers crossed that soon we’ll be sharing tears of JOY for that first G8!