The annual Wacky Invention Contest is among the many learning opportunities offered through the club, which meets monthly at Creekside Place, 102 Maple St.
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“This was a tough, competitive situation,” Jordan said. “I think the fact that we worked together as a team was to our benefit, and the really good ideas for the (presentation) ... helped our cause.”
Jordan was a member of the first-place invention team, which created an educational toy, dubbed E.T., for young children.
“It’s exciting and it’s innovative and we have a bunch of awesome people here,” said fellow team member Carol Zimney. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The Wacky Invention Contest requires that team members come up with an invention and a marketing plan to present to the judges. The whole process has to be completed in 30 minutes.
“It does demand that you get creative in a hurry,” said Sue Berg, club president. “But it allows you to be very expressive, because you don’t have to create something based on reality, but you have to be fast and you have to market it.
“You have to come up with a name, a presentation and convince people why it’s a cool thing and why they should buy it. It’s a neat event.”
John Gishnock III of Evansville served as a judge for the competition. Originality and presentation were big selling points for him.
“Regardless of how it might look, the sales pitch brings it all to life,” Gishnock said. “They have to have a big idea and a nice pitch.”
Gishnock is not new to the competition. He has been a member of the winning team three times during the past few years.
“I kind of think that’s why they made me a judge this year,” Gishnock said. “It’s a blast for someone like me.
“I don’t have a ton of people in the office, so it’s a chance to work in a group. You have to loosen up your tie and think creatively and have fun with the junk.”
When club members aren’t designing products from random parts, their meetings often include a guest speaker who talks about a business- or invention-related topic.
“They range on any topic that could inspire and motivate an inventor, from the garage tinkerer to the full-blown, currently-in-business, business person who is still looking for the next good idea,” Berg said. “In November, for example, we had a trademark attorney who talked specifically about trademarks. In December, we had the community development officer talk about all the resources right here and all the resources that are available regionally and statewide.”
The club also gives business owners and inventors an opportunity to network and share ideas. Between 20 and 30 people attend each month.
“We have inventors who actually hold patents, and they come partly to network, because that’s a key piece that this group does, or they might come to hear something that interests them,” Berg said. “One thing that I’ve noticed with this group is that each meeting brings at least one new face. I may see that one face once a year, but it feels good that we’re providing an opportunity for people to come here, learn something and hopefully be inspired.
“It’s going to kick them to that next level or renew their faith or passion and then they’re going to do something with it.”
Gishnock, who works as a landscape contractor for Formecology, has been attending the meetings since the group started in 2008.
“I like the education. I like the speakers the most. I like to learn ... and take that information back to my own business, and the networking is great,” Gishnock said. “I’ve gotten a job out of this. I meet people that help me with my business. I’ve had a writer help me write press releases. I’ve had help with social media. I enjoy learning about business.”
Paul Terpstra of Janesville said he attends the meetings to network with potential clients.
“It’s just good to meet new people and interact with them,” Terpstra said. “You meet some nice people and possibly meet some future customers.”
Halina Zakowicz, club treasurer, said being involved with the group helped her start her own freelance-writing business.
“It’s mostly business owners or people looking to invent the next big thing,” Zakowicz said. “It’s a motley group of people who are looking to get away from the 9-to-5 grind and start their own business.”
The idea for the group came from an economic summit meeting in Evansville about six years ago.
“It was during the recession, and we were looking at how to grow revenue in Evansville,” Zakowicz said. “One idea was to start an inventors and entrepreneurs club.”
Club members are looking to work with other groups to help attract more guest speakers, Berg said.
“We are trying to step up our activity,” Berg said. “Maybe we could pool our resources and get a major motivational speaker that would help all of our groups.”