Owen Claw Inventor
On a visit to Portland, Ore., about three years ago, Bill Leikam watched curiously as his brother used an odd piece of plywood to pull a hot rack from of the oven. "I said: 'What was that?'" recalls Leikam. It was the family's "oven buddy" he was told.
Like every inventor, Leikam believed that he could design a much better version. For about six months, the retired chief of a Silicon Valley high-tech firm ruminated on the idea and then headed to a local lumberyard to try his hand as a toolmaker. After devising five different iterations and plowing $12,000 of his own savings into the new venture, Leikam launched the Oven Claw in Palo Alto, Calif. Last Christmas he began selling the hardwood utensil online and at seven specialty stores.
Although there are other similar devices on the market, Leikam, 68, says the Oven Claw is sturdier and better designed. The 18-in.-long grabber can easily extract a cooked turkey from the oven without making a cook reach her arm inside. Eventually, he hopes his "high-end" Oven Claw will be sold in stores like Crate & Barrel privcapId= and Williams-Sonoma. By May, Leikam expects to be profitable and says the company will pull in $50,000 in sales this year.
"People tell me that I should come up with other utensils," says Leikam, whose cooking interests tend toward casseroles and Italian foods. "But for the moment I am focusing all of my energy and money on this one before I branch out."
Entrepreneur's Notebook: Practical Advice for Starting a New Business Venture
The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
The Big Book of Small Business: You Don't Have to Run Your Business by the Seat of Your Pants
Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success
Streetwise Small Business Book Of Lists: Hundreds of Lists to Help You Reduce Costs, Increase Revenues, and Boost Your Profits