If asked to picture an inventor, you might conjure images of Doc Brown from Back to the Future. White jumpsuit, goggles, and hair standing on end. Lesley Miller isn’t Doc Brown, though she is an inventor. Rather than focusing on time travel, she concentrates on developing products that give people an easier time in everyday life. Instead of gigawatts for the flux capacitor, she has a megawatt smile that lights up a room. Yet Lesley and Doc Brown do have something very important in common. They both embody the motto: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
Lesley has five new inventions at various stages of development under her company 360 Adaptations. She detailed her unique story as a product developer and entrepreneur for The Startup Ladies.
What is 360 Adaptations?
360 Adaptations LLC formed about two years ago to develop innovative consumer products that solve problems and make life easier. My background and education is in occupational therapy. I’ve had the opportunity to look at obstacles and barriers to daily living activities for people who have been affected by illness or injury. Solving small problems sometimes can make a huge difference in the way someone lives her/his life.
What products does 360 Adaptations support?
I licensed my first product many years ago. It was a very simple children’s apparel product. I was denied a patent, but it produced royalties for several years and the lessons learned made it a very worthwhile experience. I then took time off from product development to focus on my family before I started working on more ideas a few years ago. We recently took one of our products, called Jamb-It, through to manufacturing and partnered with an awesome company that is preparing it for retail distribution.
We also have four other products that are through the initial market analysis, development, and protection phases. One of these products is a device called Puffen designed for young children engaged in a fit of negative emotion. Puffen uses the body’s own natural relaxation response to help children decrease stress, anxiety, and frustration. Puffen promotes self-regulation, diversion from negative behavior, and time for self-reflection to take responsibility for actions when children experience a loss of emotional control.
The device also comes as part of a kit with a parenting guide and children’s storybook to teach good behavior. Our goal for Puffen is to offer children and their parents a simple and effective way to develop healthy coping skills and reduce stress.
What distinguishes a product developer from an inventor?
I believe becoming a product developer is a combination of a God-given desire to create things and an inner seven-year-old child that wants to take things apart. Product development refers to the process of taking a drawing on a napkin through the steps to become a marketable product.
What drives you to keep developing new products?
Like most of the inventors I know, it really isn’t something you plan. A frustration or problem puts your brain in motion and starts the wheels spinning. There is a mindset for developing products, but I also think that mindset helps develop me. I really haven’t known any other way of thinking.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received, and what advice do you have for others with a knack for invention?
The best advice I’ve received is to try to avoid overthinking. When it works, stop messing with it. Advice for others is about seeking outside opinions. If you want honest feedback for your idea from people who care about you, ask them what they would change about the product. Sometimes they will give you more than you want to hear.
Creating new products is all about trial and error. How have you developed the fortitude to transform an idea into a marketable product?
The trial and error process actually is the fun part. If we don’t fail, we aren’t trying hard enough. There are times when failure is more than a learning opportunity; it leads you in a direction that gets you back in your lane and farther down the road.
What’s been your process for patents and why have patents been important to your work?
360 Adaptations has four products in utility provisional patent pending status. Vic Indiano from Indiano & McConnell LLP, which specializes in intellectual property law, has been my patent attorney since I filed my first provisional patent application and has become a lifelong friend. I believe every “serial inventor” should learn how to write a patent application because it prompts you to think about your invention on a deeper, more comprehensive level. However, it’s a good idea to have your attorney review and make necessary changes before it is filed. Once a provisional patent application (PPA) is filed, it essentially marks a place in time allowing the inventor to prove their concept within a year before a non-provisional patent must be filed if you intend to move forward with your invention. Intellectual property protection helps decrease the risk of another person or company recreating or profiting from my ideas.
How has The Startup Ladies helped you as a business owner?
The amount of education gained from the study halls has been so beneficial, but it’s the relationships and support that have been invaluable. Through The Startup Ladies I’ve had the opportunity to participate in PitchFeast to help fund 360 Adaptations. So far, all my product ideas have been self-funded, so PitchFeast provided the opportunity to bring in external funds. Presenting my latest product also really motivated me to focus on all its components. I’ve received a tremendous amount of support, encouragement, and help refining my pitch deck from other The Startup Ladies members and CEO/founder Kristen Cooper.
What’s next for 360 Adaptations?
We will be introducing three new products by the end of June 2019. Most importantly, we will continue to enjoy the things we get to do and cherish the people we get to do them with.