Making It: Laundry stain remover Forget Me Spot teams up with manufacturing nonprofit MAGNET
Makers: Jamie Peltz, inventor and founder, and Jeff Smith, technician and shop manager at MAGNET
Business: Forget Me Spot, a pretreatment laundry stain remover patch manufactured in Cleveland at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET)
What gave you the idea to create Forget Me Spot?
I was sorting through my kids’ laundry and was looking for stains not knowing if they existed or not, because I wasn't the one who created the stain. Like any inventor, I'm like, ‘There's got to be a better way to do this.’ So, the idea behind it was, if you could have the stain already being pretreated, mom or whoever was doing the laundry wouldn't have to go look for the stain on laundry day. Nothing like that existed on the market, so we went and figured out how to create it.
As an inventor, you saw a problem and set out to create a solution. Have you always had that ‘problem solver’ mentality?
I always look for how to solve a problem, any type of problem. Back when I was unemployed, I decided I wanted to be an inventor and create products. And so that was kind of the impetus. But if I look back, whether I was working for a corporation or in my house, I was a natural problem solver. Now I’ve turned that into a career. So, I start with a problem that I have and then look to see if other people have that problem. Just because I have the problem doesn't mean other people have it. From there, I'm like, ‘Oh, other people have this problem. Let's see if we could figure out how to solve it.’
At the very beginning, what was the process you went through to get your idea off the ground?
When it started, I worked with a chemist to develop the formula. The original setup was in a basement. So he's mixing chemicals, and one of the first times we met he's like, ‘This is really hard.’ I'm like, ‘Yeah, it's supposed to be hard because that way no one else will figure out how to do it!’ Then I had a couple of friends who were helping me with the market research area of it. We would ask consumers about how they did their laundry, how they approach stain removal, how often they did their laundry, just to understand the laundry market. From there, when we finally developed something, we'd give people prototypes to use to see how they liked it and how it worked for them. The commercialization of this product took a really long time, a lot of starts and stops.
Now that you’ve settled on a manufacturing process (and I mean, of course that will evolve over time), it’s not like you can take a break. There’s still much more to do, right?
Now that I have the patch out in retail, the next step is to bring consumer awareness to it. Good or bad, I invent products that don't exist. It's not like people are sitting at home and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I could find a patch for stain removal,’ right? So now I have to create that awareness and help them change their habits around stain removal, and that's the next challenge I'm working on. And those are the things that small businesses do, one day you're in manufacturing the next day you're in marketing. And so now my head is switched to finding the people to help us with the marketing piece of it to bring awareness to it.
Once you got to a point where you needed to start scaling your manufacturing process, you turned to MAGNET, a Cleveland nonprofit that works on many levels to help small businesses grow. What’s it been like working with them?
As a small business, it’s really about finding the right partners, you know? And [MAGNET] is giving their resources to help small businesses. So, if you think about the cost of a robot, at this point in time, I can't afford to buy the robot. They have the robotics they can use to help me achieve what I need to do now. Eventually, it would be great to buy my own little robot to do this, but you have to start somewhere and having a resource like MAGNET to get you there is really, really great.
Jeff, you learned the manual process for creating Forget Me Spot and then were able to make it much easier by adding robotics to the mix. What’s it been like collaborating with Jamie on her product?
Jeff: It's been incredibly challenging. It's a very interesting and difficult material to work with, so we've had to come up with some very out-of-the-box solutions for how to handle the material. A lot of trial and error here. This kind of thing you could tweak forever. Eventually, if [Jamie’s] sales are good, we could potentially be making a million of these a month. The little stencil setup like this with 72 dots per sheet is not going to make a million a month, so there’s always room for improvement and always room for scaling.