As some of you may know, I am a mechanical engineer with an emphasis in design. For the first third of my career I did mostly machine design which is a side that the consuming public rarely sees. I would design the machines that made the product that the public saw. Then due to a tech bubble that collapsed followed closely by 9/11, I found myself out of work and looking into a new line of work. I was fortunate and was able to hook up with a company that specialized in custom product engineering for anyone who walked in our doors with money and an idea. My first project there was to design an entire plant that made concrete culverts for a client in southwest United States. It was huge in scope and kept me busy for over a year and a half. Afterwards, I took on a number of smaller projects and clients that ranged from a RV manufacturer, forestry equipment manufacturer and right at the end of my time at that company, a entrepreneur who had a great idea (I thought anyway) for a product that he wanted to market to the likes of Walmart. I worked with the guy over several months turning his napkin sketches into an actual design, tweaking it here and there until he was satisfied. I sourced manufacturers for his various components and did a costing analysis for his design but just couldn't get the unit price down to where he felt it needed to be to sell at places like Walmart. I never got to see a fully functional model outside of a computer monitor. We gave him all our data and he went on his merry way. I assumed that it would never see the light of day due to the costs involved.
I hadn't thought about him until a few days ago when a co-worker was talking about a design he did for someone that never panned out and this design came back to me. I mentioned it to my co-worker and he thought it sounded like a good idea too and wondered why it never flew. So on a whim, I Googled the idea that the guy had and found several different manufacturers of similar things. Then one caught my eye. It was exactly like the one I had designed eight years ago. Even better, the name of the company and the president were the same as the one I had dealt with so I knew without a doubt that it was my design. It is way cool to see a creation of yours out in the world and someone making money off of it.
I decided to dig a little deeper and eventually turned up an article about his company (which he started with this idea back in 2002) and his idea which made no mention of myself or the company I worked for but I guess I'm not surprised. We were paid to do a job, not take part in the glory and evidently we did our job well enough where in 2008 he expanded his business into a barn and in 2009 he already had five full time employees. Still, it is exciting to learn that someone is doing well off with one of my designs and even if I'm the only one who knows about it besides you my readers. Perhaps one day I will have a good idea of my own that I can turn into a business like this one.