Welcome to the Zip-It website! If you have an invention in mind, you’re in the right spot. From product developers and inventors, from the idea stage all the way to licensing and getting your product on the market, this is the place to be.
I’m Gene Luoma, the inventor of Zip-It, as well as many other inventions I’ve developed, designed and patented through the years, and a number of those I’ve even licensed. I was 15 years old when I came up with my first invention! I believe I was born with a talent to invent, it’s just in me to do that.
I’ve learned the ins and outs along the way, and here at Zip-It, I’d like to give instructions on the steps from building your prototype to designing a sell sheet which could be used for licensing your invention. This is why I created this website—to help other inventors like you!
My first invention
I was born in 1943 and grew up on a farm in Floodwood, MN with nine brothers and sisters. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we all pitched in to get the work done. My job on the farm was to keep the grass and weeds around the buildings trimmed. We had 13 buildings, and there was no weed eater back then, so I’d mow, but could only mow so close to the buildings. The grass right next to them had to be pulled out by hand or cut with shears. But then I had an idea—a way to make things easier. I was 15 years old then, and I took a soup can and on the open end I drilled a series of holes and attached short pieces of wire and then on the bottom of the can I drilled a hole and attached a bolt through it. I chucked it up on my electric drill and used that to trim all the weeds. If a wire broke off, I simply attached another.
What a feeling it was to come up with an answer, a solution. I focused on it, thought it through, and created something that was a great help to me. This was something I carried with me forever. And imagine my shock mixed with disappointment when in the 1970’s, the weed eater was invented.
If only I would’ve pursued my first invention a little bit more… just think what that could’ve meant for me…
I continued inventing
I went on to graduate Floodwood High School in 1961 and attended college at the University of Minnesota Duluth and then onto Dunwoody in Minneapolis, MN where I studied mechanical design and engineering.
In 1964 I married my wife, Kathy, and we had three children.
I’ve worked many places through the years. First for a Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis, MN, and then a move to Cloquet, MN where I worked for Wood Conversion Company in the engineering department. There I designed several pieces of machinery in the wood process industry. After this, I worked for Jenos Inc (Jenos pizza and wilderness pie filling). There I worked in the engineering department designing equipment for the pizza and frozen pie filling industry.
I eventually wound up at Moline bakery equipment and designed many pieces of equipment and machinery for the pastry and baking industry.
I patented the “Conewheel” machine when I worked for ADDCO manufacturing in St Paul, MN. The Conewheel places and retrieves traffic control cones. I also patented a portable traffic control signal, a solar tracking panel for a traffic message board, and a wireless “fail safe” remote control for hydraulic valves. I also built a floating “Gazeboat” which I have on my own little lake called Lake Berniece.
Finally, I went to work for myself and started several different companies. The first was Arrowhead Creative Products where I did custom engineer and metal fabricating for the local building trades industry. Next, I started a company called Luoma Design and Manufacturing where I did custom engineering design for many industries.
I started a website www.gizmoplans.com with my Son, Brian, where we sell plans which I have designed over the years. This website has many articles and Do It Yourself projects for metal fabrication, woodworking, hobbies and more.
One of my biggest inventions: The Zip-It drain cleaning tool
Who would’ve thought it would’ve turned into a nationwide drain cleaning sensation!
It began many years ago when I got tired of my daughter’s long hair clogging my bathroom drains. Whenever I’d take a shower, water would slowly fill the tub.
I tried liquid cleaners and plungers, as well as the classic—bending up coat hangers. Finally, on a mission, I went into my garage and spotted a plastic sled hanging against the wall. I grabbed it and cut a thin strip, about three eighths of an inch wide and a couple feet long, and cut notches in it. I stuck this in the drain, pulled it out, and it was like a dead rat came out. Zip-It drain cleaner was born!
I never imagined it would be such a big hit. There are even people competing on YouTube to see who can get the nastiest crud out using Zip-It.
One day I was flying back from a trip in Florida, and we were over these large cities, and I looked out the window and thought to myself: there’s a drain in every one of those houses down there, and every one of them could use a Zip-It.
I was right.
Life is much more convenient when you don’t have to call a professional or buy some chemical to try to unclog your drain. Anytime you need it, just insert it into the drain and pull out the clog.
I manufactured my Zip-It until one of the nation’s largest drain cleaning product companies saw it at a Large Big Box retail store. It’s rewarding to come up with a simple idea and see it hit the market with such volume.
There have been over 40 million of Zip-It’s sold to this day.
Some other things I’ve invented are a pizza crust perforating machine; a device for drawing back a bow—since I have muscular dystrophy, this device makes it so all you have to do is squeeze a lever; another device that puts down traffic cones on the highway; and still another machine that separates rims from tires, as well as a device that keeps solar panels facing the sun.
Some of my other inventions:
- Resettable target trap
- Portable traffic signal
- Traffic signal with solar panel
- Wireless throttle control
- Slip-N-Seal bag clip
- Coil spring compactor for the mattress recycling industry
- Hockey stick coat rack bracket
- Automatic blade deploying broad head for archery
- Drizzler for placing icing on pastry
- Clipper keeper for catching nail clippings when cutting fingernails
- Cluster buster for breaking up frozen clumps of blueberries
- Vertical grill
- Floating gazebo (boat)
You can invent too!
It’s common to come up with marketable ideas and never pursue them, even though companies are seeking out ideas today more than ever, so when I’m not coming up with ideas for myself, I love to help and inspire others to come up with their own. I like to help others foster creativity, and help entrepreneurs’ market their own new ideas. I have a lot of advice for emerging inventors.
My advice for you: don’t spend a lot of money, and don’t quit your day time job. But build a prototype, file a provisional patent application, and find out where your product will sell. Find key manufacturers and start cold calling them.
For me, there isn’t a better feeling than knowing my products are effective. But it has to be a passion, you have to enjoy what you’re doing. It comes ingrained in you. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas, and so I constantly have a notepad by my bed to write them down.
Some thoughts on the path to your inventions:
- Research your idea and educate yourself on the licensing process
- Stay organized
- Develop a prototype process
- Design a good sell sheet and marketing material
- Put together a good marketing plan
- Maintain good records and keep a log book of all your modifications to your invention
- Research the market and do a good patent search
- Protect your idea with a well written provisional patent application
- Do your research to search out potential companies to pitch your product to
- Put together a good sales pitch
- Contact the companies on your list
- Negotiate a fair licensing agreement
- Collect royalties from your licensed product
Thanks for stopping by my website! I’ll constantly be adding more to it, so I hope you come back again and again to learn more about how you can take that great idea you have in your head and turn it into an actual product on the market.