StartupNation Home-Based 100: The Top Ten Most Innovative

Innovation begins at home

These mothers (and others) of invention capitalize on their creativity with unusual products and services.

By StartupNation

1. Child Shield, U.S.A., Tucson, Ariz.

John and Robin Raskob will let no child get left behind. Child Shield, U.S.A., is innovative not only in how it provides its child safety and protection service, but also in how it advertises (see "Child Shield takes aim to protect children"). The Raskobs take their bus across the United States each summer, delivering their mission and message to the streets. They provide educational products to children and families to help them be smarter about safety, and they provide recovery-assistance services in the event that a child goes missing. Innovative, yes, and very important.

2. Catherine Miller Designs, Buckhannon, W.Va.

For 33 years, Catherine Miller has pursued the dying art of intaglio crystal engraving. She hand-engraves original art into crystal and glass using a variety of stone wheels of different diameters and profiles on a lathe. All work is executed freehand without the use of stencils or patterns. Some items have taken close to 200 hours to engrave. She's engraved for Calvin Klein and Elizabeth Arden perfumes, been presented at the White House and sold her work to many corporations, including Lockheed Martin, Verizon, Disney and Canon.

3. Accu-Ruler, Macon, Ga.

Gerry Wynn's company invented and now manufactures disposable wound-measuring rulers. Volume has gotten high enough that the manufacturing is now outsourced, but company headquarters remain at home. Wynn's product line helps determine wound size, and by measuring weekly, a nurse or physician can know whether treatment is facilitating healing.

4. No Throw, Chicago and Huntington Woods, Mich.

Unlikely inventors, twin sisters Karla and Karen Kuhn literally played into the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" as Karen's baby kept dropping a drinking cup. Their product's original purpose was to prevent cups from being tossed to the ground, but customers started giving them feedback that the wrist strap was useful for leashing a host of baby products, including pacifiers, toys and more. The straps are now sold in Walgreens stores nationwide.

5. OnTray, Westerville, Ohio

Laura Hamrick created OnTray, a container that attaches to the handle bar of a shopping cart to cater to tots you tote while shopping. The device faces the child in his or her cart seat. You can place snacks in there so children can feed themselves, leaving your hands free to shop. Hamrick is selling OnTray from her Web site until bigger orders start coming in from retailers.

6. Your Mobile Gym, Smyrna, Ga.

Also included in the Slacker-Friendly category, Lauren Loper's former bus for the disabled has been converted into a mobile gym. She pulls up at your home, welcomes you aboard and puts you through your paces, literally, using her years of training experience from her stint at Gold's Gym. Like other capable trainers, she customizes the fitness training to your needs. But the breakthrough is in how she comes to you to eradicate any last, lazy excuses you might have about not wanting to schlep to the gym.

7. Preppymommy, New Brunswick, N.J.

Nicole "Coco" Quiroga is the founder and creative principal of Preppymommy, which offers beautiful and practical custom-designed accessories for women of all ages. Preppymommy features hip items inspired by Quiroga's own personal style and spirit. Her designs have been featured on "The View" and are a favorite of celebrity moms. Quiroga launched her business after several years as a stay-at-home mom. She now manages all marketing, publicity and design for a boutique collection that is completely updated each season.

8. The Organizing Wiz, New York

As a professional organizer, Ilene Drexler can change your life. In the confines of Manhattan's smallish apartments, we can't imagine a greater luxury than having things tucked away neatly to clear some space and let the light in again. In a personalized, one-on-one consultation, she'll assess your situation, decide on the right prescription and, with your green light, start sorting, weeding, categorizing, labeling and storing items. She currently focuses on residences, but this also sounds like a great service for rushed small-business owners.

9. MaxOut Swimwear, Loomis, Calif.

Allie Hennesy earned her share of sunburns as a competitive swimmer in childhood, then later got some great tans during college. This led her to the nightmare of skin cancer as an adult mother of three. The cancer was treated successfully, and Allie went to work to come up with protective swimwear to inhibit the damage caused by overexposure to sunlight. The resulting line of swimwear boasts a 50-plus UPF protection rating, shielding wearers from more than 98% of dangerous UVA and UVB rays.

10. Eyewear 2 U, Atlanta

Phillip Roman's Eyewear 2 U caters to busy professionals and other people who don't have enough hours in their day to get their personal errands run -- in particular, visits to the optician. With his hand-selected, tailored designer inventory, you can shop for eyewear at your convenience and at your location. Roman's slogan is "Eyewear and more . . . at your door."

Published Nov. 5, 2007

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