One December about eight years ago, as Kevin O'Rourke struggled with strings of Christmas lights and extension cords, he saw that he had too many cords and not enough outlets. It dawned on him that what he really needed was an extension cord with more outlets for plugging in electrical cords. A master electrician, O'Rourke went to his shop and started wiring new cords with multiple receptacles.
Since then, O'Rourke has spent a lot of money and hired expensive help, but he can now go to a store and buy the extension cord he invented, called the ElectraTrac or Multicord. And you can too. The cord is on sale in selected stores, including Wal-Mart, Sears, Ace Hardware, True Value Hardware, Mills Fleet Farm and Rockler Woodworking. It also can be found in many catalogs and on Amazon.com.
Getting back to you
Three years ago, O'Rourke's Multicord was included in a Farm Industry News story about new inventions shown at the Minnesota Inventors Congress. About 5,000 readers who were interested in buying the cord asked for more information. At the time, O'Rourke had no cords to sell, just a new patent and a lot of dreams. He packed the reader names away and hoped he would have something to offer them someday.
That day has arrived and O'Rourke says farmers will find the Multicord geared to heavy farm work. The thick cord, durable materials and solid construction (molded injection) ensure a safe and long-lasting product. He says farmers will not need to worry about the cord overheating; it will withstand temperatures from 221°F to -58°F.
The cords come in two lengths with different features. The 25-ft. cord with three receptacles is 14-gauge construction and is available in yellow or green. The 50-ft. yellow cord has six receptacles and is 12-gauge construction. This cord features lighted sockets to indicate power flow. A 25-ft. cord with four lighted receptacles and 12-gauge construction also is available. The cords range in price from $20 to $60.
After spending 22 years in the construction business, O'Rourke made sure there was some way to anchor the cords. They have molded holes on the receptacle sites to allow hanging or anchoring for construction or farm work.
Birth of a product
O'Rourke's tale of invention to commercialized product sounds like the American dream. But the modest electrician from Cleveland, MN, says he just hopes to recoup his investment in the product and make a living selling it.
“It's a long road,” he says. “I don't think people realize how long it can take for bringing a product to market. I never thought it would take that long.” After O'Rourke spent 11/2 years developing his product, he went to a top-notch patent attorney with the invention. It took him and the attorney three years to obtain the patent.
Once O'Rourke had the patent, he exhibited his product at the Inventors Congress. There he looked for partners to help commercialize the product. Eventually he found the right one. He licensed the patent for the product to Nextep Inc., a Reno, NV, company that specializes in taking new inventions to market. Nextep helped secure UL approval for the product. It took more than a year, but the approval is crucial to selling electrical products in the U.S.
Nextep also handled manufacturing, packaging, storage, distribution and marketing. About a year ago, O'Rourke sold his construction businesses and went to work with Nextep to market the cords to retailers. Since then, the cord business has boomed. Some 30,000 to 40,000 cords were manufactured in the 2½ months before Christmas last year.
Both O'Rourke and his wife Brenda are a little shell-shocked at how the product is taking off. The first time they saw the cord for sale in a store was last fall in the local Wal-Mart. Brenda cried and O'Rourke bought all the cords on the shelf. He still looks a little surprised when he mentions he'll be on the QVC TV station and possibly an infomercial.
The Multicord is not O'Rourke's only invention. He says he is developing other products to supplement the line. So watch for these introductions in the pages of Farm Industry News. O'Rourke promises that, whenever he invents a new product, his first interested customers will be the first to know.