By Elizabeth Crouch
Elizabeth Crouch and the Baby Shower
In August of 2012, I was throwing a baby shower for my daughter, Shaanon. I wanted to contribute something unique, not just an ordinary cake for the party and was drawn to the creative and delicious display of a cupcake bouquet. Being the budget happy person that I am, I almost went into shock when I heard the cost of the delicious display! And being the type of person who thinks I can just do it myself, I decided to make my own cupcake bouquet!
Shopping for the necessary items, a Styrofoam ball, toothpicks, flower pot, ribbon, bow, tape, and more, and then trying to assemble this huge, time- consuming mess of items by sticking cupcakes onto toothpicks and expecting them to stay (let alone eating cupcakes stuck with toothpicks-yuck), I came to the conclusion that this baby shower would end up with a regular cake, but I would end up with an invention!
As a busy wife, mother, and grandmother who works a full time job and also runs a home business, time is in short supply. Lacking the skills of professional cake decorating, I was intrigued at the idea of inventing a cupcake bouquet rack that makes it extremely easy for ANYONE to create a beautiful cupcake bouquet.
Elizabeth Crouch and the Big Idea
Oh boy, this was getting exciting! I finally had an idea of something that I believed would be well loved in many households. This could be it! The big idea! This could be the idea that changes my future. And instead of allowing this idea to become fleeting, as most ideas are if you don’t know what to do with them, I made the decision that I was going to figure out how to take this idea and make it happen!
In my mind, The Cupcake Rack was an extremely simple solution to the problem I was solving. The envisioned rack was simply a holder of cupcakes that should be easily manufactured out of plastic and be machine-washable. No problem. It was August then and I figured I could get it on the shelf by Christmas! (Yes, I was very naïve!)
Elizabeth Crouch and the Prototype
A prototype was necessary to begin the inventing process. After many headaches and quite a few wasted dollars (learn as you go!), one night while I was in tears because I couldn’t find anyone to build my prototype, my brilliant husband told me he would make it for me. Thank the good Lord! My husband can make anything when he puts his mind to it!
As a super-fan of Shark Tank, I knew that I needed to protect myself if I wanted to take this unique idea from fruition all the way to the homes of American families and beyond. I realized I needed to file a patent. A patent? Hmmm. I wondered what the difference is between all the options they kept talking about on Shark Tank…Provisional Application, Design, Utility. I don’t know. But, Google does! Research time!
Elizabeth Crouch and the Utility Patent
Researching patents led me to the decision that my goal was to acquire a Utility Patent because they seem to hold more weight than Design Patents. Beginning with a Provisional Application for immediate protection, I wanted to be sure my patent application was filled out correctly so I would not jeopardize my chances of becoming approved by the patent examiner. Therefore, I hired an attorney to write up the Provisional Application and then the Utility Patent Application. PS Within a year my Utility Patent was approved!
By now a couple of months have passed and I only have a prototype and a patent application filed. Maybe my lofty goal of getting my product on the shelf by Christmas was a little unreasonable. Silly Lizzy!
With the prototype finished, I was thoroughly enjoying testing it out and playing with it. The very first cupcake bouquet I made with the prototype was a fall display with a cute scarecrow ornament. I learned through research on Google, of course, that with the right tools anyone can easily create a beautiful cupcake bouquet and decorate the cupcakes to look like flowers.
Elizabeth Crouch and Finding a Manufacturer
At this point I needed to find a manufacturer. I wanted to keep my manufacturing in America. I truly believe in supporting Americans with work opportunities. But, after much, and I mean much, effort, I could not find even one company that would attempt to make The Cupcake Rack, let alone manufacture it for me. The Cupcake Rack is made of iron and requires a lot of iron work and welding. I really and truly could not find anyone here in America to accomplish this task.
So I decided then to look abroad. I remembered the name of a website, Alibaba.com, given to me by one of my niece’s friends, of qualified and trustworthy manufacturers overseas. I perused the website and looked for a number of years worked as well as a good star rating for a manufacturer of iron or metal cupcake racks and similar items. Emailing a few companies, I came across my beloved John Tu. He responded to my emails and said he could manufacture my product. Keeping in close contact, I placed an order with him for a 20’ container filled with my future—3400 cupcake racks! John Tu and I have kept in close contact and I consider him like family to me. Someday we will meet face to face.
It was now time to find a shipper to ship my cargo from Hong Kong to Portland, Oregon. I got lucky by choosing a great shipper who handled all the import and tax paperwork for me, as well as handling all the shipping from Hong Kong all the way to my doorstep in Sheridan, Oregon. Can’t go wrong with that!
Elizabeth Crouch Builds Her Website
So what’s next! Oh, a website! I needed to sell my cupcake rack somewhere and I wanted a simple, yet elegant, website displaying my cupcake rack. To save money, I was trying to do most of the work myself with inventing The Cupcake Rack, but having a beautiful website was very important and I didn’t have the skill to build it myself. I hired a very well-known company to build my website for me.
After two months of poor results and a website that was completely unattractive, I told them I wanted my money back because they were not abiding by their contract. They told me they were going to keep $200 for fees, but would refund the rest of the $1200. Uh, no! After a bit of back and forth debating, I was given a full refund. Disappointed at the results of hiring a company that I thought was the best, I decided to build my website myself. I’d just have to figure out how. That’s OK. I’m learnable!
We’ve moved now to early spring of 2013. This whole process began in August 2012. I guess I kinda missed my Christmas deadline! That’s OK. I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun.
Elizabeth Crouch and Little Roy
The year was starting off great. My grandson, Little Roy (named after his Papa) was now six months old, my step-daughter gave birth to her youngest son in February, and my youngest daughter just gave birth to her baby daughter in late March. Easter was here. The best day of the year as our savior has risen!
Shaanon had split up with the dad of her baby and was now living with a guy who we would get to know a little better at brunch, after Easter service. I don’t know, I tried to like him, but I just didn’t warm up to him that much.
A few days later, I was staying up in Oregon City for a few days with my youngest daughter to bond with my beautiful new granddaughter. She is precious! I can’t stop kissing her!
I was there for a couple of days and planned on heading home on Friday, April 5, because my son-in-law would be home for the weekend, and then I would come back Monday for a few more days. That is, until the phone rang on Friday morning…
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