Trevor McCoid, the manager of HireQuip New Lynn, talks about his invention, the Flexi Mower to Gill South.
The dream becoming a reality
In 2003 I had an idea that a line trimmer engine could power a hover mower to overcome the issues of emission control restrictions in many world markets.
Petrol-powered hover mowers were being outlawed in the US and European markets because the two stroke engines did not meet modern standards. However, line trimmer engines had taken a different turn with a lot of money spent developing engines that do not emit excess emissions.
So I decided to power a hover mower with a line trimmer engine. After many years in the outdoor equipment industry I had never seen anything like what I was thinking of doing. I hunted all information I could find and found no similar product.
So with the help of a great team of engineers and small engine mechanics, we designed and developed a prototype. Most brands of line trimmers have attachments, edgers, pole pruners, extention hedge trimmers, tillers etc. we gave them a lawn mower.
Our main focus was on the market we knew would welcome such a cost effective new type of lawn mower, for the small lawns that many units and apartment have. The mass market required simplicity in design and manufacture with very low price. We achieve all these things with the Flexi Mower.
Protecting the idea
My next step was to protect the IP of our design and with the help of Anton Blijlevens of A.J.Park we registered a PCT (Provisional patent in the world). We followed this up by registering full patents in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Europe and China. We covered most markets and countries that could manufacture. We still made anyone who saw the Flexi Mower sign confidentiality agreements. Once we had working prototypes we went out to find interested companies to manufacture and market our hover mower attachment.
Testing the product
We firstly tested our prototypes with our elderly neighbours, I wanted to see that it was easy to use for anyone. We are very familiar with the use and performance of hover mowers, the Flexi Mower is a little different. Instead of a handle the Flexi Mower is controlled from the same grip and position as a line trimmer. One only needs to allow it to hover and float over the lawn to work. It's very easy actually as long as the grass is not too long.
Introducing the product to the world
We did the YouTube video in 2005. I took that to the German fair (GAFFA) and had that video play continuously for the four days of the fair. We play it at all the trade fairs we go to. It sells itself. Once we get interest we send out samples for customer testing and orders follow.
Manufacturing and distribution
The only place that could manufacture our Flexi Mower was China, so we made sure we had very thorough and a wide ranging patent in China. We ensure that our licensed partners understand this patent. Our agreement also has provisions that those Chinese manufactures must look out for and inform us of any breaches to our patents in their markets. It's not fool proof but we are prepared to fight any breaches of our intellectual property,
Once we identified a manufacturer we went to China to demonstrate the Flexi Mower.
This is when we struck many problems, firstly none of the people we talked to in China understood lawn mower technology let alone hover mowers. It took more than one trip to get the message through, but in the end we produced a product to take to the international trade fair in Cologne Germany. This is where I met one of the product development people from TTI in the UK. They make the Ryobi range of products.
We sold quite a few units into the UK, Australia and New Zealand under the Talon and Ryobi brands.
Soon after the Chinese company that manufactured the Flexi Mower sold to a high profile branded company and we decided to find another company to manufacture for the Ryobi brand. This was not as easy as we had expected and as many companies copy and sell pirate products, it was just as well we had very broad and far-reaching patents in place.
We found a company and signed a non-exclusive manufacture agreement with them. It took many prototypes and improvements to meet the TTI standard and after nearly two years work finally made Flexi Mower to be introduced into the Expand-it range of line trimmer attachment that fit the Ryobi range of line trimmers.
These are at present in the UK market in B & Q stores. We are in the process of engaging another manufacturer to take the new generation Flexi Mower into the USA markets and another very large European company is interested in this new product.
The process is simple but expensive. We saved a lot of money by doing the business side ourselves. My team is very business-savvy. We know the markets and we understand outdoor equipment. We know who makes what in the outdoor market and we follow the trends. The most important fact to us is knowing our industry very well from how a thing is made to how it operates, and its strengths and weaknesses.
We look forward to the Flexi Mower coming to New Zealand.
To follow their dreams of starting their own businesses, people have to forsake buying homes, holidays, new car among other things. Tell us about the sacrifices you have made for your dream companies. Email me, Gill South, at the link below: