Gary Peterson spent most of his summer walking the toothpaste aisle in Fred Meyer stores. He was looking for just one device, his Roll-It toothpaste tube roller. It helps people squeeze every last bit of paste out of the tube, reports OregonLive.com.
The gadget made it into 132 Fred Meyer stores in June, but staying there meant selling at least 480. Without an ad campaign or any marketing, 590 reached check-out stands that month.
It’s nearly unheard of for a first-time inventor to land in a major retailer’s health and beauty care aisle, a highly competitive category dominated by multinational corporations. And yet for Peterson, 71, the work has just begun.
He walked into his bathroom and noticed a toothpaste tube with its squeezed-out end secured tightly with a clothespin.
“I thought to myself, we need to do something about that,” Peterson said. He worked for two years on the idea, peddling it to a local grocery and hardware store. Though other tube rollers and squeezers are on the market, his pitch goes, the Roll-It offers a unique P-shaped holder that locks the twister in place. He’s already crafted prototypes for four other sizes, including one for smaller cosmetic tubes.
“In those early days, I maybe sold 1,000 Roll-Its,” he said of his sales prior to teaming with Fred Meyer. At a larger company, he said, that might have meant the end.
“The small guy really has a problem,” said Peterson, who made multiple calls to Fred Meyer as he struggled through the retailer’s vendor paperwork. He aims to help other inventors with what he’s learned.