He submitted the idea on March 13, 2016.
It reached Stage 7 on April 6, 2016.
It was presented to Health Enterprises on April 7, 2016.
It was selected for licensing on September 26, 2016.
In October of 2016, we shared the news that Health Enterprises (now Apothecary Products) had licensed his product idea..
Now, almost two years from his submission date, we’re BEYOND thrilled to share the news that Robert Pontius’ Nasal Aspirator has hit store shelves at CVS!
As we outlined in our recent InvENting 101 blog post, after a licensing deal is struck, the Edison Nation team shares confidential product updates directly with the innovator. Robert has been patiently awaiting to share the journey of what he originally dubbed the “Snot Shooter,” so we thought it best for him to tell it in his own words…take it away Robert!
I’m always trying to come up with inventions that include a bit of “magic” – some wondrous and perhaps unexpected effect that not only accomplishes something useful but also brings a little delight in a simple “form follows function” kind of way.
The spark for this invention came when I asked myself, “How can I make a device that sucks snot using the power and control of a parent’s breath, but does not require inhaling and the “ick factor” that introduces?” In other words, how can I convert blowing OUT into suction, or how do you suck snot OUT without risking sucking snot IN?
I was frustrated with existing solutions like the bulbs – they really don’t work well and have you seen the pictures of the insides of those things? Infants, toddlers and many young children don’t know how to blow out, so they need help to get rid of it and clear their noses. The human body produces between 1 and 1.5 liters of mucus per day (that’s 4-6 cups of snot) so there is literally an everlasting supply of the stuff.
The immediate and clear answer for me was – the Venturi Effect.
SIDEBAR: The Venturi effect is the reduction in fluid pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section (or choke) of a pipe. The Venturi effect is named after Giovanni Battista Venturi (1746–1822), an Italian physicist.
I’ve been fascinated by the “Venturi Effect” for decades since my Dad first introduced me to this phenomenon when I was a kid. For the last 10 years, I’ve been tinkering with all manner of Venturi-utilizing devices, certain that this scientific “magic” could enable some kind of incredible invention. In my mind, it was clearly a “solution in search of a problem.”
Using a mechanism to create Venturi Effect suction solved multiple problems and brought multiple benefits, which to me is the hallmark of an “elegant” solution: NO chance of inhaling snot; perfect control over the effective yet gentle suction produced; no need for replacement filters; no hidden cavities that could harbor germs; easy cleaning; intuitive use, drug-free, non-invasive. Other products out there can be ineffective at clearing blockages, or are frankly a pain, or even require a parent to “take one for the team” and risk inhaling snot for the sake of their child. This product requires no compromises for the parent or for the child.
I now have three young kids of my own and I deal with a LOT of snot/mucus – runny mucus, dry mucus, big chunks of mucus. There’s nothing like a baby that can’t breathe freely to make a parent feel helpless and desperate for a solution!
Teach your kids science! – you never know what the result will be, even 40 years later.
Developing the Idea
I designed a 3D model of the core Venturi mechanism in AutoDesk Fusion 360 and 3D printed it in translucent blue PLA plastic.
Then it was a matter of adding some tubing and other minor fittings to get to a working “proof of concept” prototype.
I think it’s really neat that the final form of the retail product is substantially identical to my first design, right down to the engineering of the Venturi orifice plate inside the unit. Even my little cutout directional arrow survived through to the final product!
My first working prototype demonstration video showed the device “shooting” grains of rice that were stand-ins for dried boogers, so as memorable/funny name I called my invention the “Snot Shooter” (I also worked in “Booger Blower” and “Mucus Master”). In my submission I did also take care to call it by a more technically accurate name: “Venturi Nasal Aspirator.” For the record, it never did “shoot” snot, nor will it ever!
To refine the design I iterated it a number of times (mostly size and the shape of the piece that goes against the nose) and continuously used it with my kids, who provided me with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of test material. The product is designed for babies but I’ve also tested it pretty extensively with my wife and even on myself.
I received really great updates from EN at every step along the way, even when the “pitching” was really between Apothecary Products and potential buyers for major drug store chains.
One memorable update involved some very encouraging comments from the President of Apothecary Products after a minor setback with a buyer that was actually interpreted in a positive light (and was later completely reversed). Along the way I especially appreciated having the benefit of expert guidance from Scott Dromms. For example, ahead of one of the pitch meetings Scott advised that he thought this group would be particularly persuaded by being able to hold physical prototypes in their hands, so I promptly made a bunch of working prototypes and sent them over. My instinct is always to “show, don’t tell” but had Scott not made that comment I don’t know that I would have focused my time and energy that way.
Scott Dromms: Every licensing opportunity is unique and has its ups and downs and twists and turns. Our objective is to always work to put the innovators idea into the best position to shine the best light on it possible with every partner.
I couldn’t be happier for Robert and the opportunity his innovation is getting from Apothecary (actually licensed originally as part of Health Enterprises search). The launch of his product is a testament to the thought he put into his idea, realizing a pain point that many parents experience and the shortfalls of existing solutions.
To have his product selected and make it to market, to continue on through an acquisition of Health Enterprises by Apothecary Products, and see our partners at Apothecary be as excited about the product as the Health Enterprises team had been is exciting! We wish Robert and his product all the best on it’s path.
Working with Edison Nation
The EN team was always responsive, always professional and always encouraging – even at my most unreasonably impatient moments I knew that I was in good hands. The only challenge I had was to discipline myself not to be like the kid in the back seat constantly asking “are we there yet?”
I received calls and emails from the EN team at regular intervals, sometimes just to let me know that things were still on track, sometimes with images of packaging mockups or pictures of factory samples, sometimes with a note about major milestones like the tooling being ordered. At one point I also unexpectedly received a nice check!
My favorite experience along the way, however, was receiving video of someone at EN or Apothecary using a prototype to suck up a bunch of ketchup – it was so cool to see someone else interacting with my invention.
That thing that was once just a concept in my head was now being experimented with and extended by someone else – I had a “team” now and they shared my curiosity and excitement!
When I got the call about the licensing deal, I knew it was a “real” deal because I had been in the loop and followed all of the steps leading up to that point. It might not have been easy and it wasn’t quick to get to that point, but it was REAL. I knew this wasn’t a commitment entered into lightly, so it really meant something – this was really happening.
Needless to say I was over the moon, even though I knew there were still more steps to be taken and more milestones to be surmounted. But as overjoyed as I was to get a license deal, the real turning point for me was when I heard that the decision had been made to go to production and that tooling had been ordered – it was on the verge of becoming real product!
When asked, “What was it like to get the product?”
Adjectives fail me so I’m going to have to go to an analogy. It was kind of like seeing your newborn baby for the first time. I thought: “I made that; there’s a little of me in that,” and (I have to admit) – “maybe this will grow to become financially successful and support me in my old age!”
The day the first sample product arrived my wife had brought the package in from the snowy front porch, announcing to the kids “I think this package will be very exciting for Daddy.”
I was only mildly excited and a little mystified at her words because I thought it was just something I had ordered from Amazon. Then I saw it was from Michelle at Edison Nation and I could barely contain myself! My wife and all the kids gathered around and we had a ceremonial opening of the package and ritual “unboxing” of this holy relic, followed of course by about a half hour of mock de-snotting all-around.
Now the box is sitting enshrined on the mantle while the actual product has been put to heavy use, replacing an old prototype, as the entire family has recently struggled through an especially bad, snot-filled bout of the flu. Even through all that snot and all that misery, I can look at my invention, now a real “product,” and it brings me great joy to know that it can now help not only my family, but also families worldwide, breathe easier.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves Robert and thank you for sharing your story!
We asked Apothecary Products to share their thoughts around the whole experience:
“Great ideas come from so many places that we embrace helping inventors see their product brought to life.”
The Nasal Aspirator is now in over 3,000 CVS stores nationwide with more updates to come (wink, wink) – stay tuned!