Thursday, August 14, 2008

How a willingness to fail pays off for this bored inventor

Inventist,, describes how Shane Chen became bored with his job. Now, 20 years since then, the founder of CID Inc. had focused on his Camas business, selling electronic instruments to plant scientists. He wanted a change. “One day I saw an exercise equipment ad,” the Camas resident said. “I thought, ‘I can do better than that.’ ” He got to work: the result is the Body Toner, on sale six years ago through infomercials and QVC, the television shopping network. Suddenly Chen, 52, was not just the president of CID Inc. He was heading a new venture, Inventist, and he was enjoying his work again. Following the success of the Body Toner, Chen started seeing new ideas everywhere he went. Soon he was selling the battery operated Leantisserie on the Web and on TV, too, and Chen was starting to view the world like a professional inventor. Next came a series of skates, scooters and skateboards that do more than you might expect. The Swerver Ultimate Carving Streetboard is a two-piece skateboard that allows riders to propel themselves without touching the ground. The three-wheeled Xing Scooter moves when you wiggle your hips. Global scooter manufacturer Razor bought rights to the Xing, and is now selling it as the Powerwing. Chen’s daughter, Ywanne, often helped her father with his tests and ideas, he said. Now 18 and studying physics at Oregon State University, Ywanne’s name is on one of Inventist’s patents. Recently, Chen sold half of CID Inc. to Leonard Felix, who now manages day-to-day operations of the plant science business so Chen can focus on Inventist. Both enterprises are in Chen’s building at Camas Meadows. Even when he’s focused on a single area, such as scooters, Chen is working on dozens of ideas at a time. Discarded half-built scooters are piled next to a box of wheels and a shelf full of handlebars at Inventist’s store room. A willingness to fail is one secret to an inventor’s success, Chen said. That attitude has paid off. Born six years ago at the hands of a bored tinkerer, Inventist has grown into a business that does $1 million per year in sales and has four employees. Chen wants to keep the business lean, manufacturing in China and selling online or through third parties. He expects to hire a few more employees to help him build his prototypes, and he hopes that sales grow as he comes up with more inventions. “Right now I’m working on a new type of wind surfing device and a new type of skates,” Chen said. “You’ll have to wait until they come out to learn more.”

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