Like many children, Tim Hayes remembers playing with a cardboard box as a child and letting his imagination take him to new places. He built a helicopter with that box, not knowing that it would be his business inspiration years later.
“It was the first time I remember using my imagination as a child and I believed it was going to fly by the end of the day,” says Hayes, who today is founder and CEO of industrial design and product development company Cardboard Helicopter
in Lakewood. “We kind of lose that blue sky mentality.”
But Hayes hasn’t stopped envisioning new ways to make things. A graduate of Cleveland Institute of Art
, Hayes and his team of five dream up and create those useful gadgets you just can’t live without. They produce their own inventions as well as work on projects for other companies that come to them with an idea. “We do a lot of different things here,” says Hayes. “The main thing is we have a lot of fun and design a lot of things.”
In three years of existence, Cardboard Helicopter’s inventions have been sold in stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and Target. The team’s own invention, the Splash Infuser
, in November had a successful Kickstarter
campaign. The Splash Infuser easily infuses water or cocktails with fresh fruit and herbs. The company just filled a large order for a French retailer and plans to sell it locally and to major retailers this spring.
Cardboard Helicopter also recently developed a self-sealing pour spout
for oils, vinegars and other liquids for Jokari
, a Texas-based home product retailer.
“We literally have hundreds and hundreds of ideas we’re working on,” says Hayes. “We’re trying to create multi-dimensional concepts and we have a great team here coming up with great ideas.” Hayes predicts they will have 30 to 40 licensing deals by the end of 2016 that could bring in 20 years of royalties.
Hayes wants to continue to support the Cleveland inventor community. “We want to help people who have an idea but not a lot of resources,” says Hayes. “We have services for innovators on a low budget.”
And, of course, the team at Cardboard Helicopter will continue to create products based on their own imaginations. “We want to reinvent the way you think of things,” says Hayes. “The real thing for us is to have that a-ha moment, draw it out, make a sketch, and it evolves from there.”