PLANO (CBS11) – A water balloon fight is a slice of summertime perfection: but, the process needed some work according to a Plano man.
“We’d get together and fill up tubs and tubs of water balloons,” said Plano inventor Josh Malone.
Malone admits to being a kid at heart, but when he had eight children of his own, the filling and tying became too much. “This is one of those things you look at and you’re like, there’s got to be a better way to do this.”
It took some tinkering. But Malone, a mechanical engineer, said he finally figured out that better way. He got a patent for his quick filling, self-sealing ‘Bunch-o-Balloons.’
“It was pretty magical,” said Malone of the first time his design actually worked. “I had my prototype, hooked it up to the hose, and turned on the water and they all filled up like you’ve seen on the videos, gave ’em a shake and they all fell off….and it wasn’t quite, ‘eureka!’ I thought: `this has potential’.”
According to Malone, the ‘Bunch-o-Balloons’ has been the number one selling toy for the past three summers with more than $200 million in sales worldwide.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said Malone. “Yeah, it’s been unbelievable.”
Malone said he worked for years to perfect his prototype, trying everything from mini marshmallows to surgical tubing, so he has this advice for other would-be inventors: Persevere.
“I don’t mean keep trying to sell the product as you have it, keep finishing solving the problem. The idea is just the beginning… so, there’s a big road ahead after that, and it takes lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of risks and a lot of things going your way.”
Crowdfunding provided that big break for Malone. He was able to raise $920,000 with a Kickstarter campaign and that caught the attention of toy manufacturers.
“I got a licensing partnership with a company called Zuru as a result of the Kickstarter,” said Malone.
Now, the company churns out the colorful bags of ‘Bunch-o-Balloons’ 24/7.
“It worked out,” said Malone, “I am blessed and thankful that I’ve been able to make this my living, now.”
Although he considers himself a full time inventor, Malone said he has also been kept busy fighting efforts to copy his patented invention. In spite of yearly preliminary injunctions, he says he and the manufacturer have spent some $17 million dollars in legal and court fees to fight an imposter that he says has stolen his design.
“When I meet people and they tell me that they didn’t work, I ask them, ‘did you buy them in a box? Or in a bag?’ Mine are in a bag.”
Malone said the best inventions always solve problems—so the most pressing of the moment—is which problem he will tackle next.
“I’ve had a moderate success, a complete flop and a home run… so I’m not a prolific inventor–I like to focus on one thing at a time– but, I don’t think I can top Bunch-o-Balloons.”