Wayne Sikorcin learned the plastics industry first as a toolmaker, before moving on to lead the mold-base builder Craftsman Tool & Mold Co.
Now he's learning what it's like as an entrepreneur and product developer working in the plastics business, as the toy he first sketched out on the kitchen table an injection molded tool designed so that even small children can fill and close water balloons looks to expand into national retail stores.
It's exciting, said Sikorcin in a May 18 telephone interview. It's not a success story yet, but little by little, we're making progress.
The Tie-Not from Tie-Not Inc. with Wayne Sikorcin's wife Laura as president first hit the toy trade-show circuit in February, when Aurora, Ill.-based Sikorcin introduced it at the New York Toy Show and sold it to independent toy shops.
Now he's in negotiations with national retailers, with what he estimates is a 50-50 chance of getting into stores across the U.S.
Right now, eight would be the largest order we've ever seen. When you start talking about [national retailers], you start talking about minimum orders of 100,000 or 200,000, he said.
The Tie-Not began when Sikorcin who still has his day job with Aurora-based Craftsman was supposed to tie 200 water balloons for a family picnic, but soon found the task far too big for tying by hand. Children had problems doing it on their own as well, struggling to manipulate both balloons and water.
Convinced that there must be a better method, he started drawing out ideas when he got home, finally coming up with a notched handle that would hold the end of the balloon securely and create a knot.
Sikorcin said his daughter took one look at it, and said it looked like a Tinkertoy, so he used one of the notched toys to test his theory. Through continued tests, he finally ended up with a glass-filled ABS part, made with recycled plastic. The ridged handle is a good design feature, he said, while also allowing him to reduce wall thickness.
The Tie-Not creates knots in water balloons with a few simple twists, and has been easy enough that even pre-schoolers can do it on their own, he said. The complete package purchased from the store also includes balloons and a filler nozzle.
He turned to contacts in the Chicago-area plastics community to take it the next step. Pelco Tool & Mold Inc. of Glendale Heights, Ill. the same company where Sikorcin trained as a mold maker created the prototype tooling and the eight-cavity molds Tie-Not is now using. Tri-Par Die and Mold Corp. of Geneva, Ill., is the molder.
Sikorcin has mixed feelings about expanding Tie-Not nationally. While the success would put the startup on the road to profitability, he said he would also be forced to move production overseas to meet cost requirements.
It's a give-and-take thing, he said.
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