I'll bet everyone reading this has invented something. Or at least improvised, innovated or improved something. Really, is there anyone out there who's never gotten out of a jam with a twisted paper clip?
Actually, inventing is usually the easiest part of the process. The patenting, manufacturing and marketing are where the trouble comes in.
Enter the Inventors Association of Georgia which meets at Ryan's Restaurant in Norcross the fourth Saturday of every month. Inventors from all over the state gather to share connections, resources, advice and knowledge about inventors' needs.
"We provide guidance and websites loaded with information for beginners," longtime member Dave Savage said.
And there are always experienced inventors willing to mentor, like Jan Janicek of Stone Mountain. Janicek, the most senior member of the group who has been paying his dues since 1967, has only one patent to his credit.
"It was for a homestyle soft drink dispenser, but it was too expensive to manufacture," Janicek said, noting that he knows the ropes from both ends.
For many, the old adage "Necessity is the mother of invention" was the driving force in their creations. Terry Dellinger of Lilburn holds five patents for inventions related to computers and construction he created while working in each of those fields.
Members don't all have degrees from places like Georgia Tech, either. Carlyen Cumbie, also of Lilburn, left home in 1949 at age 16 to make it on his own. After working for 50 years as a plumber, he retired to pursue his first love in life, inventing.
For years Cumbie made miniature farm wagons and received a patent for a lock he designed for a retainer pin in a miniature tractor.
"Details like that make the difference between these things being worth a few dollars or a few hundred dollars," Cumbie said.
Today he focuses on inventing devices to make life easier for people with disabilities.
"When I see people struggling to do something, I want to do what I can to help out," he said. "A Vietnam vet told me how it's impossible to wheel a chair and hold an umbrella at the same time, so I invented an umbrella holder for his wheelchair."
Larry Woods of Norcross never set out to invent anything.
"I stumbled into the world of packaging when I was young and discovered it's a field of continuous invention," Woods said. His company, South-Pak, Inc., can custom mold cases for anything anyone ever invented.
These "Everyday Edisons" as some members call themselves, always welcome newcomers like Victor Speight, a real estate agent from Lawrenceville, who visited IAG to sound out some experts on an idea he had in his head regarding recording studios.
If this column has put any ideas in your head, visit www.GAinventors.org.
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn with her husband, who has several patents.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.