Debbie Oser hasn't come up with a cure for a disease, or developed a car that runs on air. She wants to make her mark on the world in a more modest way - by ending your cupcake-eating torment.
Didn't think there was any torture (beyond weight gain) associated with such indulgence? How about peeling off the paper baking cup, only to find cake stuck to it? Or the hassle of finding a trash can once you've disengaged paper from cake?
Wouldn't it be easier if you could just eat the paper?
Oser thought so, too. That's why the 41-year-old mother of two from North Wales has come up with Edible Cupcake Paperz, a wafer liner made of potato starch, water, and vegetable oil that allows one to "just bite right into the cupcake and enjoy."
Whether her consumable papers become a kitchen staple hinges on the same thing that Sandra Yewdall, an emergency-room nurse at Nazareth Hospital, needs for her Neck Saver Ab Isolator to become the workout device of choice; the thing that Young Kim of Wayne needs for people to make the switch to his more-forgiving razor with the cylindrical shaving surface; and that Downingtown's Kevin and Stacey Mitchell need to sell their Flip Case, a laptop-carrying device that allows for typing while walking without unpacking the computer:
A few big breaks.
They got their first last week. At an event Wednesday at the National Constitution Center that had the feel of American Idol meets Shark Tank, a panel of judges in search of the next hot consumer product heard pitches from 30 inventors from 11 states and determined that creations by Oser, Yewdall, Kim, the Mitchells, and six others were worth further exploration for possible licensing deals.
The 30 selected to deliver five-minute pitches at "Discovery Day" had been culled from a pool of 400 applicants.
Among the judges was Mark Reyland, executive director of the United Inventors Association of America, a Washington nonprofit group that teaches inventors the hardest part about their craft: getting their products to market.
Say what you will about the necessity of an egg-shaped contraption that shaves dead skin off feet, Reyland, himself an inventor, is no-nonsense when describing the value of creative individuals.
Without them and the generations of inventors before them, he said, "we'd still be living in a cave."
But the key to actually translating an idea concocted in a basement, a gym, a kitchen, or on the ride to work into sales - assuming it is a good idea - is exposure.
That is the forte of Discovery Day's host, Lenfest Media Group. The West Conshohocken company helps transform consumer products into household brands for the $300 billion world of direct-response television marketing, as well as retail distribution. It also aims to share in the sales proceeds of the products it discovers through licensing deals with inventors.
Are the Baggler, KwikSip, Alligetter, or Perfect Micro Crisper among your possessions? Lenfest Media's bottom line thanks you.
Though its criteria appear to be a little along the lines of knowing-a-hit-product-when-it-sees-it, Lenfest requires several fundamentals for products suitable for short-form direct-response marketing (not 30-minute infomercials), said Andy McKinley, vice president of strategy and business development.
A product must be: unique; priced at $20 or less; easy to understand and use; age appropriate (those over 50 are the largest audience); and retail-ready. It also must have mass-market appeal and solve a problem.
In the end, the Discovery Day judges concluded seven inventors' products fit that bill, including Yewdall's cushioned neck harness, which reduces neck strain during abdominal crunches.
"It explains itself very quickly," said judge Scott Hynd, cofounder of Proformance Marketing Group of West Chester and a regular product expert on QVC.
Jordan Pine of SciMark Corp., which specializes in short-form direct-response TV marketing, thought Yewdall's product would be more appropriate for catalog sales, adding he was not sure it offered "enough excitement" for television.
But it made the cut after McKinley cited a lack of abdominal-toning products on the market for under $200.
Yewdall, 36, of Warminster, seemed stunned before showering the judges with thank yous, and noting that her firm abs result from her invention.
Which brings us to the nemesis of a flat stomach: cupcakes.
Oser offered some to the judges, who sampled only the edible baking cups. McKinley said he was "struggling" because he did not think they were a solution to a problem.
Pine concurred. Calling the liners "cute and very clever," he said that baking products do not usually succeed "unless they solve a problem."
Ultimately, Edible Cupcake Paperz were recommended for further consideration as a product to be sold on a TV shopping network such as QVC, where more time is available to explain a product's relevance. The same recommendation was made for the Mitchells' Flip Case and Kim's Ellips Razor.
It was good enough for Oser.
"Oh, my God, I love you," she gushed at the judges.
Watch the inventors pitch their products in a video at www.philly.com/inventorEndText