Contest season at Tim Hortons is firmly entrenched in our culture. Somehow, we all know rolling up the rim of one of their coffee cups leads to the possibility of wealth and riches. But when Paul Kind used to take the last sip of his double double, he had a quandary. How would he discover his destiny without shredding a nail, or worse, chipping a tooth? His instinct for problem solving kicked in. And so, in 2007, the Rimroller was born — a device that rolls up a stubborn rim with ease, revealing whether you're a winner.
"Initially I thought it would be a very easy thing," says Paul. "But I came up with a dozen prototypes that didn't work well at all or didn't work as I thought they should. Eventually, I did find a way that worked so well I thought others could use this too."
Bringing the Rimroller to market wasn't cheap. Paul and his wife Iona invested $100,000 on the project.
"Fortunately we had some savings and we believed sufficiently in our product that we were willing to bet almost all of it. We were fortunate we didn't have to find other investors to go forward."
Even still, in 2008 he went on Dragons' Den to ask for $150,000 in return for 25% of his company. Before he appeared on the show, Paul weighed the odds. "I thought this was a win-win proposition. Even if I got on this program and the Dragons tried to trash me or tried to trash my product, I would still get immense publicity."
The Dragons passed on the Rimroller, calling it a novelty item that wouldn't make enough to interest them. Paul is the first to agree his invention is a novelty, but five years later, at the retail price of $2.49, it's selling enough to keep him very interested. Most of his sales are wholesale, to 13 stores across the country. With approximately 400,000 Rimrollers sold since 2007, he has more than made up the cost of his initial investment.
"We also sell quite a bit to companies that want to use the Rimroller as a promotional item. We print their logos on them for that purpose, anywhere from 300 to 5000."
Tim Hortons has never officially come on board, but Paul has sold to a few individual franchises. While Canadian sales are leveling off, Rimroller sales to the US this year are higher than ever, most likely because Tim's continues to push south of the border, where their restaurants currently number more than 800.
Before Paul was an inventor, he built custom homes for 30 years. However, his innovative inclinations were instilled well before he started working. "I come from a family that wasn't well to do when we were kids," he says. "We had to make do with what we had, the key word being make."
The Rimroller wasn't Paul's first invention. He put the Bookhug, a device that holds books open for hands-free reading, on the market in 2002. Thanks to his biggest customer, bookstore Barnes & Noble, his company Novel Solutions sells thousands of units a year. Even people who prefer e-readers to old-fashioned books use the Bookhug to prop them up.
Both products are made in Canada, with the plastic molding and some of the parts built in small factories. Paul himself does the final assembly, quality checks and packaging in his home workshop in Ontario.
With his two products keeping him busy full time, he's not actively working on a new invention, although he won't rule it out if the inspiration comes. However, the opportunities for new customers who could use a novelty item like the Rimroller keep growing. With Tim Hortons restaurants in Canada numbering almost 3500 and ongoing expansion plans including 120 restaurants in the Middle East, Paul can probably rest on his rimrolling laurels.
by YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns.