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From Employee to Innovator, Bob Blankenship Became an Entrepreneur in a New Economy


Bob Blankenship
[email protected]
(480) 202-1994

From Employee to Innovator, Bob Blankenship Became an Entrepreneur in a New Economy

Phoenix, Arizona (September 13, 2010)

Working nine to five. It's what we do when we work for a company and depend on a salary to pay the bills. We may punch a time clock or we may work independently, but being an employee is distinctly different from being an entrepreneur.

Bob Blankenship was an employee in 2007. He toiled nine to five in a job he enjoyed, yet he yearned for something more. It was during a home renovation project that Bob made the transformation from employee to innovator. He was installing tile in the bathroom of his home when he found that the traditional tile spacers he was using just weren't up for the job. They kept falling over, twisting, or compressing. Yet after visiting several home improvement stores Bob could not find an alternative. Thinking that a round tile spacer would do the job more effectively, he went to the computer to research "round tile spacers." Finding none, Bob the Innovator was born.

Bob made a round tile spacer prototype, named it "Smart SpacerT" and visited Coverings, the trade show for the flooring industry. There he sought feedback from installers and manufacturers where the positive reaction he encountered convinced him that he had come up with an innovative idea to solve tile setting problems.

Bob then set about finding a material with which to manufacture the Smart SpacerT. Meeting with industry experts, he determined that he would use recycled and ground polypropylene, a hard material that would aid in the successful use of the product, preventing slippage and compression. Bob submitted a request to find a mold producer on a manufacturing Web site and received hundreds of bids, most of which were from foreign countries. Determined to find a U.S. manufacturer, Bob eventually selected a Phoenix company he found by luck at an industry show.

Next Bob realized that he had to go from Innovator to Entrepreneur. Bob says the most difficult part of becoming an entrepreneur is "Figuring out what it is you don't know and have to learn. I had to learn about bar codes, packaging, and marketing. I had to figure out who to trust." Just the same, Bob says he wouldn't have it any other way. "What I love about being an entrepreneur is that everything you put into your business is by your own effort. If your product succeeds, you'll make a profit. If there's a need for your product, you can find a market for it with a little hard work." Bob is in negotiations with several national tile vendors and finds this very encouraging. Being an entrepreneur has its drawbacks "The biggest surprise to me about being your own boss is the hours you work. Because I wear all the hats in my business, I find that my work is never done."

Getting the Smart SpacerT placed in retail outlets has been a challenge in the new economy. "Retailers are less likely to take on a product without testing whether it warrants taking up floor space. It takes more time and negotiation to arrive at an agreement. One advantage I'm focusing on with Smart SpacerT is that it is three sizes in one, helping to reducing shelf space." Bob's advice for those considering starting a new business in this economy is: "You need to come up with a new idea, something that is innovative. Then, work your business and never give up."