Hi there! My name is Dan Martinson… Founder and CEO of the Bend & Hook Company. Thanks for taking the time to check out our blog! I’m excited to share with you my experiences as an inventor and a USA manufacturer. I hope you enjoy the journey!
About 8 years ago, I invented the Gear Tie Reusable Rubber Twist Tie. The idea came to me when I was trying to secure some items to an ATV Rack. I got frustrated with the bungee cords I had and immediately started thinking about how to invent something better. My background is in plastics and rubber, so the idea of extruding rubber onto a bendable wire wasn’t much of a stretch. That’s how it all started!
Today, I’m proud to say that Gear Ties are sold by leading retailers all over the world and still manufactured here at our plant in the US. Our Gear Ties come in many shapes and sizes for countless uses. Make sure to check them out!
Over the past few years, I’ve had many people send me pictures of how they use their Gear Ties. I was surprised to see that one of the common uses was for a clothes hanger. I guess they work really well because you can bend them into the perfect hanger shape and nothing will slip off the rubber surface.
So, about a year ago, I decided to start looking into modern clothes hangers. What I found was truly horrifying as 99.9% of all consumer hangers are made somewhere other than the United States! Can you believe that?! The only hangers made domestically today are sold to dry cleaners. You know, those cheap wire hangers that you toss in the garbage or hopefully recycle. Everything else is basically produced overseas and they are Junk!
That’s all I needed to know. There was an opportunity here that I had to take advantage of. The discovery process is definitely the most fun and exciting part of the process when inventing new products. Inventing the “Perfect Hanger” became an obsession that would take me a full year to work out.
First, I bought every hanger I could find in every shape and color. Then I started going through my family’s closet, friends’ closet, and everyone else I could think of. I looked at utility and design patents--some dating back to the early 1900s. I spent countless hours roaming the isles at Target and the Container Store to see what types and colors of hangers were popular, their prices, packaging, and packaging count. I read reviews on Amazon to see what people liked and didn’t like. Then I started developing my own design ideas.
Here’s the thing… Clothes are really hard to design for! Guys? No problem. We have shirts, pants, sweaters, sweatshirts, and jackets. The only thing we complain about is putting t-shirts on velvet hangers, pulling jeans off a cheap plastic hanger which usually breaks, and having our zip up sweatshirts and sweaters fall off wooden hangers. Women? Wow… Talk about a challenge!
Strapless, one shoulder, spaghetti and wide straps, low top, low back, camis, skirts, oversized sweaters, blouses, boatneck tops, etc. Ughhhh. Not easy. How can you design a hanger that will work with all that stuff? I guess that’s why my wife’s closet looked like complete “hanger chaos.”
So, after analyzing the market research data I had gathered, and doing a deep dive into the wife’s closet and her brilliant mind (countless annoying interviews), I made a list of what I thought would be most important:
- My hanger can’t break
- The clothes can’t fall off
- The clothes have to be easy to slip on (umm… #2 and #3 don’t exactly coexist very well)
- Can’t leave shoulder bumps
- Have to be skinny and minimal in design
- Need to be strong (kind of conflicts with #5)
This seemed like a good list to start from.
The first thing I learned is that a Gear Tie wire is not strong enough to be a hanger. It’s too easy to bend. Secondly, the rubber coating on them are too grippy. It’s just too hard to slide clothes on. I had to find a less grippy coating with a much stronger wire. After working with my suppliers, I was able to find a combination that showed promise. My wire supplier came up with a super strong option at the diameter I needed and my plastic supplier came up with a silky feeling rubber coating that had the perfect blend of grip and slip. Everything was coming together. However, at this point, all I had was a coated wire extrusion cut into a straight length. Now I had to design a machine to bend my coated wire it into a hanger shape. No problem, right?
Wrong! It turns out that typical wire bending equipment is not too friendly when you try to bend a super high tensile wire that is coated in a silky rubber coating. Every manufacturer I talked to said they couldn’t do it. Every method available would damage the coating on the wire. That’s when you start to think that there is a reason why there is no similar hanger on the market?
At the same time, I had to figure out how to make that shiny swivel metal hook on top. No problem, right? Remember, “Made in USA” was the goal. Well, it turns out that nobody makes chrome hanger hooks in the United States anymore. And, nobody makes equipment here to produce them. Everything has moved to China! So, I went to China (via the internet). I eventually found a company that made hanger hook machines. I bought two of them and shipped them here. Boom! Problem solved. Or so I thought…
More to the story coming soon!