The proverbial light bulb clicked on when Michael Spray invented a way to improve the mixing of liquids, whether it’s a can of paint or a cup of protein drink.
But an even more important insight arrived when Spray and his wife, Michele Frye-Spray, figured out that they couldn’t begin to imagine all the potential uses for the now-patented Easy Swirl.
Instead, their Washoe Valley company, Easy Swirl LLC, is negotiating license agreements with manufacturers of baby bottles, protein drinks and kitchen mixers.
“We haven’t figured out 99 percent of what this can do,” says Frye-Spray, the company’s chief executive officer. “We’ve recognized that we don’t need to have all the ideas. It’s all about collaboration and creating uses together.”
The company’s patented system involves a flat fin of material — plastic, for instance, in a protein-drink mixer — that’s precisely curved along its long surface. Holes in the surface of the fin improve mixing efficiency.
Unlike other mixing systems that require shaking — think of that guy in the gym who walks around shaking his protein drink for several minutes — the Easy Swirl technology allows users to leave the container on a table and swirl it around.
(Strangely, the company’s focus groups have found that women are more comfortable than men with swirling a container on a tabletop to mix a liquid.)
Because the Easy Swirl technology doesn’t create bubbles as a liquid is mixed, Frye-Spray says the technology may find a home with manufacturers of paint — or, for that matter, nail polish, whose users often battle bubbles.
And as the couple makes the rounds of trade shows, makes cold calls to manufacturers and fields inquiries to its Web site, www.easyswirl.com, they continue to talk with the makers of the paper coffee cups that provided the initial inspiration for Easy Swirl.
Spray — a longtime inventor and former vice president of the Nevada Inventors Association — got to thinking a couple of years ago about the mild annoyance of the stir sticks that accompany cups of hot drinks.
Some sort of fin inside the cup would be less cumbersome, Spray figured, so he spent the next couple of months cutting prototypes, dropping dye into cups of liquid and watching how the dye mixed as it moved through the fin.
“We went through a lot of dye,” he laughs.
Nailing down the technology, Spray and Frye-Spray kept quiet as they worked with Reno attorney Mark Goodman to win patent protection. Nearly as important was the couple’s work to win trademark protection for the swirl logo that they hope will become ubiquitous on products licensed to use the Easy Swirl technology.
In all, the company’s founders say about an investment of about $100,000 brought Easy Swirl this far. While they’ve brought on an investor, they still own well over 75 percent of the company.