Hoopeston man comes up with idea for car safety device
HOOPESTON – Rick Payne has developed a safety tool that he hopes no one will ever have to use.
He is also hoping success in sales and distribution will bring production jobs to the Hoopeston area.
Payne's Breakout Safety Tool is designed to cut seat belts and break out windows, in the case of an extreme emergency, for a passenger to be able to get out of a vehicle.
"A press release will appear in eight publications of the National Rifle Association, because I have connections there, but also shooting and sports industries that I've been associated with for years," Payne said.
A Bismarck-Henning High School graduate, Payne got his start at Kmart in the sporting goods department in 1966. Over the years, he has worked in sales and marketing for sporting goods and tool industry products. He has built quite a networking system along the way.
"A friend of mine who is an inventor came up with the basic idea," Payne said. "He had one concept, but I sort of grabbed the bull by the horns to see where we could take that basic concept."
Payne said he could easily see adaptations to the instrument that would cut seat belts and break out vehicle windows, which now is about 15 months down the line from the basic concept.
"There was room to add magnets so it could attach to a vehicle and leave your hands free, and with the addition of a small circuit, LED lights could be added as an illumination for anything from reading a map to changing a tire," Payne said. He also added clips that allow the tool to attach to a windshield visor.
Payne has applied for a trademark and patent.
"I need to get it in a catalog, they need to be selling and I need customers waiting for it to be in commercial use," he said.
The first criterion will be met when the item is featured in the spring Ray O'Herron's catalog.
Unger's Jewelry in Hoopeston is probably the most unlikely sales point, but owner Marilyn Unger said she had heard about the tool and customers are always looking for something for men, so she took a chance and ordered a box of a dozen.
"I've reordered twice," Unger said. "I bought them myself for my kids and a customer bought for his wife and two daughters. A number of people are buying them in groups for spouses, kids and grandkids."
Unger said she is always trying to find unusual gifts.
"We're in a small town. I need some unique things to keep customers coming in," Unger said. "The safety tools are doing well."
Another small-town business owner has also found more than one way to sell and distribute the tool.
"I've known Rick for years when he was in sporting goods sales," said Albert Clark, who owns Clark Chevrolet and Darrell's Custom Firearms in Cayuga, Ind. "He's a real go-getter, a good salesman and always sold the best when it came to products.
"This really is not a new idea, but the tool is so superior to anything else out there that I really think it will sell well," Clark said.
Clark has bought some of the tools to sell in his sporting goods store and dealership's parts department and to give away to customers buying cars as well.
"If you've ever done any deep-sea fishing, the stainless blades will come in handy to cut heavy-duty line," Clark said of a sporting application for the tool. "But in an emergency situation, which you hope no one would find themselves, it could be a life-saver."
Payne said the tool hasn't finished changing yet.
"We have models under development that will serve more than individual customers. But for now, getting the word out in magazines and newsletters and word-of-mouth about the original tool is our way to go. I'm hoping after the first of the year things will just go crazy here," Payne said. "We have people who are trained to assemble the tool who work here or work from home. We're ready for a surge, it just depends on how big it is."
Payne's business, World Class Safety Products, is on his property southwest of Hoopeston.
"I'd like to put together a demonstration for using the safety tool that I can take on the road," Payne said. "There aren't many people who have found themselves in the situation where they would have to cut a safety belt or break a window. If you have the tool, it would be good to know how to use it easily and safely and know it's there for you so you don't panic."