Wheel protector gets up to speed
Innovation is often said to be 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration.
Ideas are plentiful, but having the gumption to pursue an idea and see it to fruition is rare.
Debbie Chester, who founded RimPro-Tec with her husband Chris in 2009, is one of that rare breed.
“It’s a big risk at the start putting everything on the line and working as hard as you possibly can. I worked 17 hours a day for four years, building up our other business during the day so we could pay for R&D and IP protection for RimPro-Tec, and then working on RimPro-Tec after hours” says Debbie. “It was a hard stressful and expensive few years”.
If you’ve ever pulled into a car park only to crunch your gleaming alloy wheels on the kerb, you’ll understand the problem the Chesters are trying to solve with their product.
RimPro-Tec was created to help prevent kerb damage to car wheels, using a base that is stuck to the wheel rim that receives a hard, inner plastic cord.
The inner cord takes the brunt of the kerb impact and rotates inside the base to ensure the base isn’t ripped off the wheel. The product is designed to be one size fits all and the coloured inners can be changed out.
“The final product is so different from the first prototype we built”, Debbie says. “The design went through many different incarnations, however the concept remained the same. It took us a long time because we changed design and materials many times to ensure we had the best combination before hitting the global market”.
“Never think that your first design is the best - always look to better it before you take it to the market.”
She says this is one of the most important lessons she’s learned from developing RimPro-Tec.
She admits to a degree of paranoia when it came to dealing with suppliers of raw materials for the four prototypes she and Chris built and tested.
“Each time we got a different prototype, we told the supplier it was for drain spaces for our flooring company,” she says.
The pair has in patents and trademarks in 97 countries.
“If you have a product that no one else has, then IP is a must. There are a lot of companies out there looking for designs, going to trade shows, and looking for press releases. They can and will copy your product.”
She sees the value of IP from a licensing perspective and in creating exit value for the company.
“Implementing a successful licensing strategy requires that you identify relevant intellectual property and how this will help towards adding value to both the licensee and your company.”
Debbie confesses to dreaming up more than five other great ideas since RimPro-Tec was founded, usually at night.
“It pays to have a pencil and note paper at the side of the bed in case you can’t sleep. I just wish I could have the time to bring them all to market,” she laughs.
How did Debbie know RimPro-Tec was an idea worth pursuing?
“An idea that solves a problem, saves people money, and that many people need is always a good one. Once we started to talk about our idea to certain people within the industry and received such a positive response, then we knew we had to move forward with it”.
The next step was market research using a US-based company, which concluded: “RimPro-Tec was extremely well received by a population of new and used car owners and in 25 years of automotive research I’ve never seen higher ratings in any new product”.
RimPro-Tec is now licensed and distributed in New Zealand, Australia, North America, Dubai and Singapore.
Debbie's advice for budding innovators is you only get out what you're willing to put in.
"Never give up no matter how bad things get, as they can get very stressful. Remember the rewards come in the end and have faith in everything you do.”
Simon Rowell is the founder of Innovation Liberation Front, an intellectual property commercialisation consultancy.