Rick Thibault was washing his motor home with a 5-gallon bucket, feeling sluggish as he crouched to scrub and hose the wheels and lower panels.
As he moved to the next section of the 42-foot recreation vehicle, he got to thinking about that lowly bucket.
"I was being lazy and pushing it with the long-handled brush that I was using," Thibault recalled. "I thought, this is silly. Five-gallon pails don't slide on concrete."
Or, do they?
Thibault looked online and in stores, and while he did find some 5-gallon bucket dollies, he wasn't moved to buy anything.
"Nothing captured my interest," Thibault said. "I thought it would be nice if you could sit down while washing your chrome rims and grilles. Then, I came up with the design of a side seat with a 5-gallon bucket with wheels on it."
Eureka, the PailPal Tradesman Cart was taking shape. After more thought, Thibault left a gap between the bucket and seat for tool aprons often used in the construction trades. He also put a handle on it to pull. He felt like he was on to something.
When Thibault ran it all by a patent attorney, he said the legal counselor rolled his eyes.
"The attorney thought there'd be a million patents like this," Thibault said. "But after he did the search, he told me, 'Rick, I can't believe this. I saw many buckets, but you're in the free and clear. There's nothing like it.'"
That was 10 years ago. Now there are similar bucket carts on the market that Thibault designed for his business, Workshop Solutions LLC. He reconfigured the tradesman cart, swapping out wheels for skis for ice fishing uses for one new product and he replaced the seat with a paint tray for another.
The tray on the PailPal Painters Cart can accommodate a 12-inch roller compared with other 5-gallon buckets that only fit up to 9-inch paint rollers.
"You can turn an eight-hour day into six-hour day because the roller is 3 inches wider," Thibault said, pointing out how his bucket carts can save employers man hours and money.
He will be able to make that pitch soon to a big-box retailer. He has a meeting on his calendar, and he's talking to a large paint producer and a fishing bait manufacturer.
Thibault is also set for a big production run of his workshop solutions at Butler, Ind.-based DeKalb Molded Plastics Co., which is ramping to produce what has become a line of 10 products.
"We've aligned our capacity with the expectations in the marketplace and we're ready to go," DeKalb Sales Director Kevin Bajus said.
With $16 million in annual sales, DeKalb ranks 287th among North American injection molders, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.