On the endlessly rainy West Coast, this could be the answer for soccer parents and pedestrians everywhere – a drink holder that attaches to an umbrella.
The idea is simple and practical, but remained un-invented until a Saanich mom started taking her six-year-old son to weekend soccer games. With coffee and umbrella in hand, and as a busy real estate agent, she found answering her cellphone was a pain.
“Parents standing on the sidelines all have coffee,” said Kerry Couvelier, 34. “You’re juggling your umbrella when the phone rings, or you’re holding your dog, and you have to put your coffee in the wet grass.”
There had to be a better way. A first-time inventor, Couvelier came up with the idea of attaching an insulated drink sleeve to an umbrella using velcro and non-skid rubber.
Her mom dutifully sewed the many prototypes, and through trial and error, and plenty of walking around the house with drinks in fabric sleeves attached to open umbrellas, Joey on the Go was born.
She gathered a group of women to test it out and provide feedback, and consulted with a marketing company to see if it was an idea worth pursuing. All signs pointed to go. She found a manufacturer out of the U.S. and has applied for a patent on the product. “It’s been a wild ride,” she said.
The concept began about a year ago as a bit of a joke with her husband Graham Gilbert, who found it was a product whose time had come.
“I thought it was a novel idea, but thought where would it go? Who would need it? Sure enough everyone we talked to,” Gilbert said.
“Every time I’m at the field, people look and ask where I got that,” Couvelier said. “If you are going to be standing out there, you’ve got to hold your coffee.”
Couvelier and Gilbert presented the idea to the Dragons’ Den investors in Toronto three months ago, and the episode airs on Sunday, Jan. 20. “It was a once in a lifetime experience. It’s as crazy as it seems on TV,” Couvelier said. “They are a good group of people. It was fun.”
She can’t say if the Dragons gave her a deal, but Arlene Dickinson and Kevin O’Leary gave the sleeve a test run during taping. “Bruce (Croxon) could relate. He has kids that play sports,” she said.
A real test of the product starts Monday, when she launches her website joeyonthego.com. The plan is to market not only at parents who attend their kids’ outdoor sports, but to transit commuters in hubs such as Vancouver and Toronto, and consistently rainy places, such as the U.K.
“Larger cities like Toronto have a lot more commuters (than Victoria). We are definitely trying to hit the commuter market,” Couvelier said.
Dragons’ Den airs Sundays at 8 p.m. CBC television.