Today we celebrate National Inventors Day. Every year on February 11th we celebrate past and present inventors. February 11th was picked as National Inventors Day because it is Thomas Edison’s birthday.
We are big fans of National Inventors Day at Time Timer because it means we get to celebrate the inventor and founder of Time Timer, Jan Rogers! In honor of National Inventors day this year, we asked Jan about her experience inventing the Time Timer and what advice she would have for those interested in becoming an inventor.
Tell us about your processes when you first invented the Time Timer.
“When I first envisioned the concept of “visualizing time”, I played with some primitive prototype materials, i.e., paper plates, deconstructed kitchen timers, etc. Once I had a non-operational example in hand, I went to a few companies to find a manufacturer for my Timer. I had no success with trying to “sell” the idea as being worth their while to invest their time and resources in. That lead me to my first “fork in the road”, the decision to drop the idea or have enough faith in it to strike out on my own and create the product I had envisioned – I decided to forge ahead. First, I found an engineer to create industrial drawings which would allow a factory to fabricate the Timer, then I found a manufacturer willing to take on my relatively small project. When I had fabricated parts in hand, I became my own assembly line working at night after my children were in bed or during the day when they were in school. What resulted was the first primitive models of the Time Timer. They were not perfect, but they worked and moved the idea out of my brain into the marketplace. Over the next 25 years plus, the Time Timer was perfected and manufactured in many different versions to accommodate various applications.”
Original Time Timer Assembly Line from 1997
(the upstairs of our current Cincinnati, OH office)
What challenges did you face while inventing the Time Timer?
“The biggest challenge was being taken seriously as a woman inventor. I was stepping into an industry lead by men, with a seemingly simple idea that had no real merit. With no business or engineering background, I had to depend on myself. Their lack of confidence in the idea made me even more committed to it and through perseverance and stubbornness I made it happen. The other challenge was financial. Being an inventor is not cheap, it takes a good deal of capital to bring a product to market. Fortunately, I was able to do that without outside lenders, but I was also committed to not endangering my family’s financial wellbeing.”
Time Timer Flyer from 1994
What is a piece of advice you would have for a young inventor?
“I would encourage a young inventor to follow that dream as far as possible. It must not be entered into blindly, as the saying goes “the idea is the easy part”. You must first do extensive research into the need for such a product — are there already products on the market doing the same thing? Do the existing products need enough improvement to make yours unique? Then create a plan including potential manufacturing costs, patent options, packaging and shipping costs and procedures, and marketing. Always ask questions, even if they may seem dumb. “Dumb” questions were often when I got my most significant information. Most importantly, stay passionate about your idea and proceed with knowledge and confidence – even if you have neither. No one will be as interested in your success as you are!”
Why did Time Timer seem like a product worth inventing to you?
“The need for a visual time piece became evident to me when my youngest daughter was about 4 years old. She was constantly interested in time, frequently asking “how much longer” or “when”. No timer available at that point could give her the information she wanted – the kitchen timer was a bell in space, she knew it was coming just not when; the digital clock and watches were just a series of numbers that meant nothing; the clock on the wall was confusing and difficult to interpret. It seemed to me that if my child was having difficulty with this basic task of understanding elapsed time, other children might need the same kind of resource to help understand time. In my daughter’s early schooling, time was taught as a position on a clock face, not a duration, so it was difficult for a child to manage time segments. I thought that if the child could actually “see” time move, they would be better equipped to meet deadlines, transition, self-monitor timed activities, etc.”
Jan at a Trade Show in 2002
What do you think is the best part of being an inventor?
“The best part is simply to find that you have created a resource to make life a little easier for all age and ability levels. Whether it is a life management tool or something to make life more enjoyable, there is great satisfaction in knowing that your product has made a difference.”
Over 25 years ago Jan Rogers had an idea and made it a reality. Because of Jan, the original visual timer was created and has helped people all around the world!