For developer of eco-friendly pump, inspiration was easy part
Observation sometimes leads to inspiration, which can lead to a new product.
But from inspiration to viable product? That’s a more challenging path, says Ray Arjomand of Sparks, developer of the Computer Dust Pump.
“I came up with this idea to have a pump for dusting keyboards when I was working for Bloomberg in New York,” Arjomand says.
In his research, Arjomand discovered that millions of cans of pressurized air are consumed annually to clean delicate gear such as computer keyboards, and the empties end up in landfills.
His better idea: A dust pump that can be used and reused many times.
But turning his Inspiration into a viable product has been a challenging proposition.
“The first one I made was quite big, and somebody joked that it was a bazooka,” Arjomand says. “I realized it was very expensive to build a prototype if I want to manufacture it.”
The current version of the device is very simple something like a small bicycle pump.
“The body of the pump is the same but the nozzle has to be cone shaped and have a special type of opening,” Arjomand says. “But my pump doesn’t have a one-way valve, which reduces the manufacturing costs and increases the air velocity.”
Once the design was finalized Arjomand began a difficult quest to have the pump manufactured. He approached about 50 businesses which either weren’t interested or wanted money sometimes as much $100,000 up front.
Finally he found a Chinese executive whose company was interested.
“Her company was making bicycle pumps and I paid her $1,000 for the nozzle molds,” Arjomand says.
He sold or gave away the first 200 pumps he purchased. By the time Arjomand needed more pumps the woman was working for another company. But she still had the molds.
“So she found me another manufacturer and gave them the mold. But they wanted a minimum of 2,000 or 4,000 units,” he says. “That was a big investment for me.”
An even bigger investment is freight, as the cost of shipping the pumps from China is greater than the cost of making them.
Still, a larger order reduced the unit costs.
“I did try and have it manufactured in the U.S. But they told me it cost more than $100,000 and I didn’t have the money. I’d rather have it manufactured in the U.S. than China,” Arjomand says. “Having them made here would save money on shipping and customs. And I could use that it’s manufactured in the U.S. as a selling point.”
The next challenge: Sales, a field that Arjomand acknowledges as a weakness in his game.
He’s been talking up the product locally to computer users as well as craftspeople who work with jewelery, antiques or other delicate items.
He positions the Computer Dust Pump as a green alternative to disposable aerosol cans, and he stands behind the pump’s reliability with a 45-day guarantee.
Arjomand also pitches the Computer Dust Pump to corporate users who might want to emblazon their own logos on the pump and distribute it to their customers as a promotional item.
Deals with big office-supply retailers, however, have proven elusive. They’re not much interested, Arjomand says, in a small single-product supplier.
He plans to extend the line of products with a version with a light that can illuminate small dark areas that are being dusted.
But financing the new product, he says, requires the revenues from a large sale.
“They’re very expensive for me at this point,” he says. “If I get a large order that would be a blessing but I’m finding it very hard to penetrate the market.”
“The thing that I like most about entrepreneurship is I can work toward something that I’m passionate about and be at the forefront of the change that I want to see happen,” said Priyanka Senthil, a senior at Davidson Academy in Reno and co-founder of startup company AUesome.