My inventions have always followed my personal journey. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well this mother had a daily struggle: although the Little Bee would always request multiple items at every meal, she never finished a single one of them. Since she was a picky eater, I tended to give her each of the things she asked for. (Was that good? Bad? I have no idea. Opinions seem to vary widely around this one.)
But the thing was, I’ve always had an issue with food waste. I can’t stand throwing away food. It pains me to see a half-eaten apple rot away in the fridge or a partially finished bag of goldfish crackers go stale. But life with a preschooler seemed to be filled with this so I got in the habit of consuming half-eaten apples and stale goldfish. Not my idea of gourmet cuisine.
This is the kind of thing that would happen all the time: I’d serve Marlo a divided plate with cut up strawberries, graham crackers, and a some sliced turkey. When she’d leave parts of each of the items over, I’d put the whole thing in the fridge to save for later. But when later came, the graham crackers would be stale from their time in the fridge. You know this experience, right? So even if I put a lid or plastic wrap on the plate, that wasn’t going to change. Yes, I could’ve put the graham crackers in a zip-close baggie, but as a busy parent, who needed the extra step? Plus, I’m not a huge fan of disposable plastic.
And then I thought: What if this divided plate could come apart? What if that one section could go in the pantry and those two others go in the fridge? As long as the sections had their own individual lids, no problem!
So I made it.
Of course it didn’t happen overnight, but I had a very clear vision and it came together pretty quickly. Homemade prototypes > 3D prints> sample molds > tooling.
And I almost nailed it.
This was one of those times when not having any training in engineering bit me in the backside. I had designed the plate(s) to have interlocks (the sections slid together to form a whole). Little did I know, interlocking parts aren’t easy to execute.
What. A. Headache.
I needed the sections to fit together tightly (but not too tight!) so they wouldn’t come apart too easily. Turns out it was very difficult to get consistency across the board. The user experience of sliding one on would often be different than the experience of sliding another on. It worked well, but I could never get it quite perfect—and I am a major perfectionist.
I decided the product needs to be reworked a little bit if we’re going to continue selling it. So when we sold out of inventory, I didn’t put another order into production.
Here are a few of the things we’ll adjust when we bring it back:
- We’ll put little anchor points on the interlocks to get a little “snap” when the sections attach. That way it’ll be no problem for the interlocks to be a little on the looser side.
- I’d made the lids to be leakproof previously. But as I collected customer data over time, I found that they really didn’t need that feature. Since leakproof lids are harder to take off and put on than a regular lid, we’ll ditch that feature. (This wont even require a tooling adjustment—it just means removing a silicone insert we’d built into the lid.)
- We’ll adjust the shape of the bottom so the sections are easy to stack when stored.
Why haven’t we already started the modifications? Because right when we would have, Marlo came up with her invention: the Marker Parker! Modifications require time and money, and we decided the time and money were best spent supporting Marlo’s idea. She’s my baby after all. I will always put her (and her inventions!) above myself. But stay tuned because that product will almost certainly be back!
Before we take on a redesign, I’d love to know what your biggest struggle was when feeding your toddler or preschooler. Please comment!