April MITCHELL: Inventor of “Right Height”

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  • Tell us something about yourself, your background

I am a proud military spouse and mom of four wonderful, bright, and creative kiddos! My background is Education- I am a certified Elementary School teacher. I consider myself to be a life-long learner-I love to learn new things and teach others.

As a teacher I made new learning games and resources for my classroom, which is a practice I brought into my home when I had my own children. I tried to make learning more fun for the kids, as at that time I felt there was a lot lacking in this space.  I did not think of it as inventing as this just came natural to me because I grew up in a creative family. The mindset was that if you don’t have something you need or want then you can make it or create it -we had a very hands on approach to life. I am so thankful for my parents instilling this in me. I now think of myself as a mom trying to solve problems and make life more fun! I fell into inventing because I was in the need of a few products that didn’t exist.

  • Tell us about the products you invented with a brief explanation
  1. The Towel Belt: fashionably secures towels to the towel bar where they belong -No More Towels On The Floor!
  2. Right Height: adjustable over the door hook
  • How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off? How did you get from idea to finished products?

The first time I identified myself as an inventor was when I came up with my first retail product that solved a problem: The Towel Belt. I was a busy mom who was tired of picking up towels off the floor and doing extra loads of laundry. With a couple little boys learning to potty train, if the towel was on the floor it was deemed dirty and we would need a new towel. We would go through a lot of towels every day! Keeping a towel from falling off a towel bar while drying hands is hard for kids and even adults at times- The Towel Belt fixes this problem.  After searching online and in stores for something to fix this problem, I realized such a product did not exist and I needed to create one. We bought a sewing machine and I took a basic sewing class. I tried different material and methods until I found one that worked. I patented and trademarked The Towel Belt and attempted to get it into the market by licensing it. I entered pitch contests and went to a few shows to try and get it to the right people.  In time, I licensed the product but unfortunately it was not a very good licensing agreement.  The Towel Belt never made it to retail during that contract period, but I am currently trying to find a home for it and do believe it will have its day.

About the time after I signed the contract for The Towel Belt, I started watching inventRightTV on youtube. I learned a lot of new tools and then read the book “One Simple Idea” by Stephen Key.  I followed the steps in this book thoroughly for my next product: Right Height.  As a military family we move around a bit. We have lived in all different kinds and sizes of houses.  The house we were living in at the time did not have a hall closet to hang coats in and the closet space in the bedrooms were not very big. The most difficult thing for me as a mother was that there was only one towel bar in the bathroom for 4 children – there was no way 4 towels were going to dry as they hung on one towel bar.  So what did we do? We bought over the door hooks to go on the bathroom and bedroom doors, but soon found out 3 out of the 4 kids could not reach them! One time I came into the bathroom to find my daughter standing on the bathroom sink, arms extended, trying to get her towel off the hook.  It was very unsafe to say the least. I thought, there has to be a better way! I tried to find an over the door hook to purchase that my children would be able to reach thinking there must be some that go low enough for children, vertically challenged, handicapped or wheelchair bound but I could not find any.  I decided there should be over the door hooks that everyone can reach, so I set out to create one. I followed the steps from book “One Simple Idea”. First, I did market research to try and find out what existed out there on the market and how could I make a hook that would go low enough to be reached by many- the answer was to make it adjustable. My husband helped me make my awful drawing better and I hired Blake Hodgson whom I met at the local Kansas City Inventors Group meeting to make a working prototype for me. He made CADs and 3D printed my adjustable over the door hook for me. I knew I would need to show it working in a sizzle video to get company’s attention.  Using the prototype, I made a short iMovie by first showing the problem-the kids not being able to reach typical over the door hooks,  and then the solution- my adjustable over the door hook, Right Height being easily used by all the kids. I then compiled a list of companies that were currently making over the door hooks-these would be the companies I would show the Right Height sizzle video to.  I reached out to companies via phone calls, email, and LinkedIn.  After pitching Right Height to several companies I started to get interest. I pitched my product to over 50 companies. With the help of inventRight, I was able to sign a licensing deal with an interested company, Richards Homewares, Inc.  Right Height made it to the market in the fall of 2019. It is currently available at Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Wayfair, and more.  We were very excited to recently get it into the Marine Corps Exchange on the larger Marine Corps bases.

  • Where are you now?

After Right Height was licensed and manufactured, I wanted to find a way to give back to the military community.  It is because of our military life that we found the need for Right Height so it only felt right to give back to the military and I felt the best way was to donate Right Height to the Wounded Warrior Battalion West, while we were stationed at Camp Pendleton.  It was an absolute honor to donate my product.

Since licensing Right Height I have licensed two products in the toy/game industry that are due out for retail this year. One is an active outside game and the other is a collectable/surprise plush toy. I look forward to sharing more when they are available!

Inventing and product development has become a family event. We now work as a family on games and toys- revamping games my children play and make up, to make them accessible to everyone bringing joy to other families. The kids help with art design, prototyping, play testing, and staring in all the sizzle videos! I am currently pitching products in the toy/game industry and the housewares industry. I am also open to creating in other industries.  I am enjoying the journey and am so thankful for all the mentors, friends, and colleagues I have learned from and have the pleasure of knowing and collaborating with in the community.

--END OF INTERVIEW--
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