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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tom Smokov and H2O ResQ, an Emergency/Water Storage Kit. Instead of using chlorine water purification, H20 ResQ is a Copper sulfate/silver/ion additive shown to safely kill bacterial organisms in minutes. Utah entrepreneurs meet weekly to discuss new inventions and help one another in order to have all inventors succeed at the Davis Applied Technology Center July 12, 2012.
At Entrepreneur Launch Pad meetings, stalled innovation gets a boost

Breakthroughs » Group helps others reenergize and reinvent.

First Published Jul 17 2012 07:26 pm • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:32 pm

After months of low sales of his invention, Carl Snyder could not figure out what he was doing wrong.

He got his answer at the very first Entrepreneur Launch Pad (ELP) meeting he attended.

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For more information visit http://www.entrepreneurlaunchpad.org

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"It’s ugly," the group told Snyder, as he held up his black and bright orange portable door alarm.

The assembly of lawyers, entrepreneurs, inventors, doctors and businessmen and women let him know what they thought, and Snyder made his way home to fix it.

He repackaged the alarm in a grey box with a clear label and immediately saw his sales jump.

"I hadn’t thought about how it would appeal to customers, especially women," Snyder said. "I guess you really do have to please the whole household."

Hundreds of inventors and business owners have received similar suggestions and support in the group’s nearly four years of operation. Designed to help people in various fields network to achieve success, the Entrepreneur Launch Pad has grown substantially from its first meeting in 2008.

Co-founder Andrew Willis said early meetings would attract around a dozen people. Today, the meetings in six locations along the Wasatch Front attract upward of 40 or more.

Willis said the networking sessions got their start as the economy began to sour and initially were designed to help unemployed workers find employers and other opportunities.

"It was like we were on a desert island and ships were sailing by in the distance," said the director of the Utah Small Business Development Center. "We realized we were going to have to build our own life raft."

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Other co-founders were Jay Larkin, Michael Argust, Reed Walsh, Mark Freestone, Cary White and Scott Davis.

From those beginnings grew the idea of creating a support system for blossoming businesses. Each week in multiple locations eclectic groups of men and women gather to hear speakers who can help them succeed, to receive feedback on their ideas, and to help themselves to the buffet of business cards on the back table.

Tom Smokov said he can’t remember just how long he has been attending meetings, but said the help was instrumental in producing and marketing his Water Pure Technologies products.

"It’s like having a bunch of business partners without actually having partners," Smokov said.

Today, Smokov said his product, which purifies water, is growing in popularity and selling faster than he had ever imagined. One reason was the advice he received from those at ELP who had also experienced standstills in their businesses and were eager to talk him through it.

M. Troy Smalley sought help from ELP to make improvements on his invention, the KoolSpoon, a device that can be frozen and tempers hot foods for eating. He said he came up with the idea after blowing on countless spoonfuls of soup and other hot foods for his five kids.

Smalley stood before the roundtable of his peers at a recent meeting and asked why they thought the KoolSpoon had not tested well in commercials.

They said that marketing the product during a national heat wave probably didn’t help. The group then suggested that Smalley market the KoolSpoon as a promotional item.

"I would have given up a long time ago if it weren’t for this group," Smalley said. "Business is all about networking, and I think this group goes to show you why."

Just down the table from Smalley sat Joe Holmes, behind him a few models of his invention.

After struggling with poor health Holmes began walking to get exercise. He often struggled with the fact that there was no place to sit along the way.

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