While most would classify Mark Noonan as an inventor, the man responsible for popular tools such as the Snow Wolf (a wheeled snow shovel) and the Leaf Loader (a clean-up device for lawn debris), says that to him, the term is like “nails on a chalkboard.”

“I think of invention like water,” Noonan says of his design process. “You need it to survive, but you don’t spend your day thinking about how to get it.”

In a lecture delivered at the Dimenna-Nyselius Library on Monday evening titled “Invention and Entrepreneurship,” Noonan shared insight on the lengthy process of seeing his inventions through from the first prototype to markets, such as Walmart and Amazon.

Noonan is the executive director of Nootools, a company that designs, manufactures and distributes hardware and kitchenware products. He admits that the design process can often be “like a Rubik’s Cube.”

Yet according to him, coming up with an idea is the easy part.

The real challenge begins when inventors attempt to make their ideas a reality, according to Noonan. He recommends making a five-minute prototype to gauge the potential of an idea before pursuing it.

It is not uncommon for inventors to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of their beloved creations: “Nine out of 10 prototypes that I see are fatally flawed,” says Noonan. “They don’t work and they will never work.”

“We all know stories of people who put their products on the market and made $20 million right away,” says Noonan. “But that’s not the majority of products,” adding that it took countless designs to make the Snow Wolf commercially viable.

Another common pitfall to which even seasoned inventors fall victim to is the purchase of unnecessary patents: “Most patents that I see are so narrow that they’re completely worthless,” Noonan said.

Furthermore, he warned that the cost of purchasing a patent is usually insignificant compared to the amount that most spend defending their patents against infringement.

Regardless of possible invention pitfalls, the audience was filled with aspiring entrepreneurs, anxious to find a way to turn a profit from their latest great idea.

“I have an idea that I want to bring to the market,” said audience member Angela Chen. “I just have no idea how to do it. I’m hoping this seminar will help.”

Elena Cahill, a professor at the University of Bridgeport, attended the seminar with four business students in tow. Yet Fairfield students were much less enthusiastic; despite the Charles F. Dolan School of Business and the School of Engineering promoting the event, only one Fairfield student attended.

Sophomore Margo Duprey attended the lecture hoping that it would provide her with some idea of what she should do after graduation. Although Duprey is a biology major, she says that the life of an inventor appeals to her. “I’m always thinking of ideas,” says Duprey.

While Duprey remarked that she was grateful for the opportunity to attend the lecture attended by “a lot of intelligent people,” it was not what she had been expecting. “I thought it was more of a networking event,” she said. “And there wasn’t really an opportunity to do that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.