With a notebook full of ideas, the serial entrepreneur kept looking for the concept that would stick. Back in the early 90's, Rider says that during a long drive it came to him that it might be very useful to create a product that would allow him to use dental floss with one hand. He was crushed when sometime later he saw them for sale in a store.
But he didn't let that missed opportunity slow his drive to create.
Now Rider is the founder of Thriving Systems Design, LLC, in Ft. Collins, CO and he's also the inventor of the C-Bite Stake Clamp and Anchor System. His C-Bite System is a small but ingenious device which snaps onto most common garden trellising products to make a support structure for a variety of garden plants.
"I have a garden and love to grow tomatoes," Rider said. "The problem was that I had to use zip-ties, wire, and string to hold the plants to the stakes. When the plants get too big, they end up on the ground and I waste a lot of tomatoes. I tried to make a trellis, and that didn't work too well because of the difficulty in connecting the garden stakes."
So Rider took on the problem from an inventor's point of view, and he settled on 3D printing as his method for prototyping his solution.
"Necessity is the Mother of Invention, so I designed a c-shaped clip with hooks and holes that made the job of tying up my plants much easier," Rider says. "The issue was, how to get my idea into the real world. I started designing with TinkerCad, and that got me far enough to apply for a patent. I had seen 3D printers in the past and they were too expensive. I'm glad that I waited because the prices have come down and the capabilities have gotten better."
His introduction to the technology came back in 2000 when he says he saw a 3D printer at work for the first time. At that point, Rider was operating a company which provided digital projectors to schools in exchange for the display of advertising space on the screen while they were in use. He says that watching parts for those projectors being made by the manufacturer was a revelation.
"It was a real eye-opener watching the projector shells being created before my eyes," Rider said. "Unfortunately, it was cost prohibitive, at that time, but in 2013, I knew that I needed one for my current project."
So Rider began exploring the available options and settled on a system.
"As part of my research, I came across the Afinia Desktop 3D printer in MAKE Magazine's Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing. It looked really easy to setup and use, so I bought one," he said. "That's when my business really started to take shape."
But creating a viable product was just the initial step in the process.
"Being a bootstrap guy, I was able to collateralize my Colorado Enterprise Fund loan with my Afinia 3D Printer and my provisional patent application," Rider says. "When I had my design perfected, I printed out some models and presented them to the folks who gave me my loan. I also took the samples to garden stores and was able to get commitments from a large number of those whom I visited. I was not targeting just garden stores and greenhouses but also large retailers."
According to Rider, product adoption in the niche he'd chosen is relatively high, and he added that the fact that customers could see and hold the product was a big part of the sales pitch. And Rider didn't even need a finalized, manufactured product to sell the idea, but instead used 3D printed output in ABS from his printer for the original demos.
Rider says that prototyping with 3D printing had the benefit of speeding up the entire process of bringing his product to market.
"I came up with the idea for C-Bite in November of last year. I applied for my provisional patent in December, used the Afinia to perfect the design, went door-to-door getting pre-sales in January and now it's March and I am about 5 weeks away from delivering product," Rider says. "I took my prototype to a manufacturer and they were surprised to see that my concept was that far along. They're used to seeing drawings, not finished prototypes."
Rider is far enough along in the process now that he's seeking funds to begin full-scale production of the C-Bite System, and you can check out his Kickstarter campaign here...