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lightweight beach table doing well"
by Allison T. Williams
"Beach table inventor learns the pitfalls of patent process" by Melissa Gundel
Credle, Inventor and President of
Beach Table, Inc.
Summer of 1994.
© May 19, 2013
– As told to Pilot writer Carolyn Shapiro
I was in the cleaning business, carpet cleaning. I did some janitorial work on the side. I had done that for years, so I knew how to run a small business. I wasn’t looking to invent something. I was just messing around. This was in 1991.
I’ve always gone to the beach a lot. I’m originally from Norfolk. Ocean View used to be a very popular beach, when it had an amusement park.
There were some very, very nice and popular beaches in Norfolk in the ’60s, when I was a little kid. My father was from Swan Quarter, N.C., a water community. He loved the water, and they took us to the beach a lot, my parents did.
In the ’80s, I was married, had a couple of little kids and met college buddies down at Hatteras. We would share a cottage. We did it several years. One of the years, I wanted to bring a little table. I thought it’d be neat. So I cut it out, and then I figured out how to make it work: You have a sand spike, and you poke the sand spike into the sand or into the ground. You use the table to hammer it in. I came up with that idea, and I kept messing around with it. It has Velcro on the back here so that when you’re carrying it, you put everything in the Velcro.
I did not know I would be the one to do anything with this. Most people, when they have an invention, they don’t want to quit their job and pursue it.
But I was looking to move closer to home. We were up in Christiansburg. We wanted to move closer to Norfolk. I was looking at a franchise, like a Subway, while I was messing around with the Beach Table.
There was this book. The title is something like, “If You Have an Invention, Here’s What You Need to Do.” It says you are probably going to be the one that ends up doing this. Nobody’s going to come and buy it from you. That very seldom happens. You’ve got to decide whether you’d like to do this or not. In the early stages of having an invention, what you need to do is test-market it, but without exposing the idea where someone would steal it. So it’s sort of a tricky business.
I was not a woodworker at the time. I went to a woodworker, and he made something that looked more professional. I had to make 15 or so. I went to small craft shows. My daughter’s elementary school was one of them. We’d come down to the beach and go into surf shops and say, “What do you think of this idea? Can I consign a few of them?” I was doing that, and I was still working with my cleaning business. I came to this juncture where I said, “All right, I’m gonna do it.” We moved down here. I didn’t have a job. I was going to do this. This was 1993. Fortunately, my wife did get a job. I sold the business and tied up the loose ends, sold our house. That gave me enough cash to start this thing.
I actually have three patents on it now. The most important is the utility patent, where it describes the function – how to hammer it in, and the Velcro. The other two patents are design patents, which are on my best two designs. I have two fish, a small fish and a big fish, and two shells, a medium shell and a large shell table.
There was a show at a mall in Rocky Mount, N.C. I sold $700 worth. I already had my 800 number. The Internet was not big yet. I was selling them mail order. At the first show, it just so happened I met somebody who made wooden lawn furniture, and I’m still friends with them today. They were really instrumental in helping me decide what equipment I needed.
I use an oscillating spindle sander to sand the inside holes. Depending on the table, I spend probably 15 to 25 minutes per table. This is where the time is, sanding them out. I make them in batches of 50 or 100. But with all the smaller parts that have to be cut out, drilled and sanded, it’s probably an hour on each table. I can sand about 20 of my most popular tables in one day. It’s not glamorous, but sometimes you just have to do it to make it successful.
Now, I sell gross in a year about $60,000, about 1,500 tables. In total, I’ve sold over 33,000 Beach Tables in the 20 years.
With the economy, my mail order business seemed to go down. People just don’t have the disposable income they did prior to the last few years.
But then there’s this phenomenon going on where people say, “I want to buy American, something made in America. Better than that, I want to buy something handmade.
”The comments I get from people, there’s a lot of nonmonetary rewards. I very seldom get a complaint. Sometimes families have three to five Beach Tables, and they say, “We wouldn’t go to the beach without the Beach Table.” It’s really kind of amazing, the comments I have on this little item.