Inventionland: Where your ideas come to life

    6:50 PM, Aug 22, 2011   |    comments
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    PITTSBURGH, PA (CBS) -- If you've ever watched an infomercial and thought "Hey, I could have come up with that," then listen to this.

    An innovative company called "Inventionland" helps wannabe inventors turn their dreams into retail reality. And it's a very, very unusual place to work.

    It's a factory that would make Willy Wonka jealous, and an office that would make the Wizard of Oz green with envy.

    This is Inventionland, a Pittsburgh-based development firm that turns unique ideas into affordable every day products and churns out over 200 new prototypes each month. This one-of-a-kind workspace is an invention in its own right straight from the mind of creator George Davison.

    He says, "We have a pirate ship because where else would you want to invent a toy than on a pirate ship? And then you have the robot for only electronics inventions. So they have symbols kind of attached to them into the imagination."

    The 61,000 square foot wonderland is comprised of 16 original departments ranging from a shack for pet wares to a cave for outdoorsy items and even a speedway for automotive gadgets.

    Davison says, "Inventionland is really a psychological playground for creative people. It's here to say, 'Have an idea? All right. Great.'"
    Davison founded Inventionland after spending years developing a tooth-brush sanitizing system only to find a similar idea in a mail-order catalog. He was devastated that his time and money had gone to waste. Now, for a fee, his company of 250 people helps other hopeful inventors bring their concepts to life.

    Davison says, "Sometimes, there's an inspiration that just pops into somebody's mind. Other times, people are looking at something, and they see a challenge, and they start, 'Hey. I think I could do that better.'"

    Minnesota grandmother and amateur chef Jean Rindfuss found such a challenge in her frying pan. Her beloved meatballs kept falling to pieces. She says, "I just went in the other room where my husband was and I said, 'Hon, I am going to invent a meatball pan.' And he looked at me and says, 'Yeah, right.'"

    After a quick internet search she found Inventionland. The company spent over two years shepherding her project to completion.

    Over 100,000 pans have been sold and this past spring jean and her daughter found her meatball baker in major retail outlets. And her once-skeptical husband is now the pan's biggest fan.

    The path from start to store shelf is a nine-step process at Inventionland, including engineering, graphic design and prototype building.

    This assembly-line approach to trial and error has led products to find success at over one thousand retailers. There's the hydrobone, the bike board, the bread it, even doggy shoes.

    Taryn says, "I have to say, looking at this, looking at these products, makes you feel really stupid. All these things, I thought of that, but I didn't think to execute." Davison says, "Now you know where to come!"

    Among them is the hover creeper, a modern mechanic's tool that boosts a person off the ground using compressed air.

    Davison says the best part is the people.

    "Inventionland brings in wonderful people. When they come in, I get to feel the inspiration, and I get to see them light up. And that to me is everything because they're in one of my ideas."

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