Thursday, March 25, 2010

We're shooting a commercial!

Uncle Ken and Elliot making a great team effort on some delicious cookies.

These quilted back packs make great travel pillows when stuffed full of Knees and Paws. They are promo gifts for our two "star" actors.

If you knew me well, you'd be surprised that I'm doing this. I'm not even sure I'm ready to have it "out there" yet. The anxiety ridden over-analytic left brain in me wonders, what if you put it out there and no one responds? Or what if a lot of people respond? The right brain argues back: "it's better to proceed with the kind of thinking that says, "do it for the sake of experiencing what it's like to make a tv commercial" and forget about results.

My brother, Ken, will be taking the video and performing every technical detail, from music to graphics. He is a very talented and skilled "camera" guy who worked on the indie film "Alabama Love Story" and shot the video that landed the Terpenning family on Extreme Home Makeover. Our son Elliot has an incredibly deep bond with him despite the miles between our homes. The phrase "hero worship" insufficiently describes what they share. I'm exited to see them "work" together as an actor and director/camera tech team for the first time. This could be the beginning of a life long working relationship for both. In the end, making this shared family memory will be more important than any external material result.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Memory of Hobbes

I have just returned from picking up our cat, Hobbes from the side of the road. His body was heavy and I was shaking as I wrapped him up in an old blanket and slid him into a cardboard box. I had to do it myself, and do it quick because the neighbors (so compassionate) complained that he was slowing traffic. As I lifted him a little, one paw peeked out of the blanket. I am not going to be making any new paws for a little while.
We are all going to miss him, pain in the a*# that he was. He just showed up one week a few years ago, begging to be let into our back yard. Our son Elliot fed him a crust of pizza and he stayed. He loved our laps, but he was a biter and had no bathroom manners at all. But these are things a family accepts when they love you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jeananne Sizemore of ArtWhims on Etsy, beautiful creations from an artist with a generous heart

As my friends know, I'm new to all of this, new to business, to Etsy, to sewing, and a newbie in the blogosphere. But as I journey on this path, I've met fellow artists who have swept away all my preconcieved notions about what it means to be successful while being in business. Today I'd like to share the work and words of my new friend in Washington (the state), Jeananne Sizemore of ArtWhims.

Jeananne highlights Etsy sellers on her blog, and also has a wonderful Etsy shop as well, After meeting her in the Etsy chat room, I was impressed by her giving heart and the story she tells through her images and her art. When asked to share her thoughts on her work, Jeananne says

"When I first started painting, I remember sitting in the back of the craft store that my mom helped run. I would listen to Classic Rock and basecoat items for the store's owners. I think they paid me 25 cents a piece. That initial experience and my super crafty parents opened the door for me to be able to learn all about crafts and the world of craft selling. I am to this day learning and growing in my craft. Now my husband is my greatest support and inspiration; he challenges me, brainstorms with me and words through the shows with me! I am truly blessed to have this opportunity to create!

Thank you Jeannane, for sharing your work and inspiring words with us!

Friday, March 19, 2010

For kids who love chamelions and monkeys, a sneak peek

soft flesh colored fabric for monkey's hands

dark faux fur for monkey's wrists

and a great find...dimpled fabric for chamelion toes

I think we have a match!

Knees and Paws are no longer just for kids who love to play cats and dogs. Here's a sneak peek at the fabric I've chosen for a double toed, three horned chamelion and a monkey set of Knees and Paws. Many thanks to Jen of Tutu's Bliss for inspiring me to expand my vision.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Preparing for Madagascar

For several weeks, the love of my life has been reminding me about the importance of making travel plans. He's got spring fever and the urge to be on the road or in the sky. Every night at the dinner table, he mentions something about a deal on cruises or the latest gear he's collected for our Appalachian Trail adventure. While all of this talk of trips and adventure is stimulating to the imagination, the little voice inside my head screams, VACATION? I'm wearing two year old underwear with holes and haven't been to the hair salon in a year and he wants a vacation? So one night, between bites of pasta and garlic bread, I said, "Honey, why don't you just go somewhere on your own?"
Within days, he was asked to represent his company in Madagascar. I've enjoyed watching him prepare by renewing his Passport, checking the landscape via satellite images, getting immunizations, purchasing emergency food rations and bug guard chemicals, upgrading his phone plan to include tracking, and researching the cultural and political climate. It seems that Madagascar is not a very popular place to travel due to political unrest and poverty. We are a little nervous but excited at the same time. He'll be stopping in Paris for 20 hours before reaching his destination. Now I wish I was going too!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Knees and Paws Mascot Contest/ Deadline for Entry May 2, 2010

I'm looking for talented young artists who like Knees and Paws, children 10 and under, to create mascots for Knees and Paws. Please send a drawing of one cat and one dog, or a family of cats and dogs to me through email at, or
Knees and Paws
c/o Jennifer Hoppins
5703 Oak Tree Road
Greensboro, NC 27455

Please include the name of the cat and dog and include a short bio or story about each one. The winner will recieve a custom set of Knees and Paws in the fabric of their choice, a set of ears, and one personalized totebag to keep them all together.

Please send in your drawings by May 2, 2010. I will announce a winner by May 3.


Squee. My favorite new word. It's not mine, but one I'm borrowing from a friend. My new goal is to create products that have a "squee" factor. What does this mean? When someone opens a box of Knees and Paws, they'll want to make this sound. It's something between a squeal and a smile. Of course, boys won't say squee but I think this is okay. Future reference for staff meetings: Folks, you know the product is good when it elicits squees! Let's commence with operation SQUEE! What I'm working on here is to engage people the way Mike does in Monsters Inc. We want to work on gathering all the funny, happy energy we can! If it doesn't get a squee, then back to work! Etsy needs to add a new feature; I like hearts but could you please squee me?
The headbands shown were a custom order which sold immediately. I'll be sure to add more to the shop in the next few days.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Google Greensboro

Dear Google,
Please choose Greensboro to receive your fiber optic Internet! Knees and Paws depends on revenue from sales generated online and would be greatly impacted if the Internet here were reliable and lightning fast. In choosing Greensboro, you increase the odds that Knees and Paws becomes a children's product that the world will love, a toy that children yearn for. Having this improved capability will allow me to market using video clips and animated stories. It would allow my customers to be interactive with the Knees and Paws website in a way that is not possible now.

Jennifer Hoppins, owner and inventor of Knees and Paws

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Quantum Moment

I can't exactly explain why I'm in business, except that I'm sort of compelled to act on an idea. I found some comfort yesterday while reading an an article in Working Mother while waiting for my son to have his hair trimmed. I was a little jealous reading about one woman's fantastic success as she reported that her cookie making biz turned a profit almost immediately and she was now up to 65 employees. If that wasn't fantastic enough, her work was purchased by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. She said that if she had to do it all over, she would go into something less labor intensive and more mom friendly. I guess you can only bake a certain amount of cookies when you're a mom to feel great about parenting. But the really comforting part of this article was that she believed many people in business over-plan the whole operation. She went into it with not much of a plan. Thank God, there's hope for me yet.

So today I'd like to share more about this idea of doing something that is driven by a compelling feeling and a loose plan, and why these elements are the supportive fabric underneath my endeavor. Almost two years ago, I married the love of my life. For both of us, it was a second marraige. On our big day, both sets of our parents were in a high speed car accident with each other, driving separate cars on the highway, on the way to the ceremony. Neither of them had ever met in person before (both our familes originate in different states).

I have to pause after writing that. We arrived on the scene five minutes later to see them standing next to their totaled vehicles. Standing, huggging one another, alive.

I could have been going to five funerals instead of one wedding that week.

That day was my quantum moment. Suddenly life had a completely new meaning for me. I became acutely aware of God's timing, feeling confident that there are an exact amount of steps that one takes before death. There is a plan for my life no matter how random it feels to me.

When we returned home, both my new husband and I quit smoking and started running. We feel so great now that we're planning a 5 day hike on the Appalachian Trail. We live with so much more energy and purpose and have both decided to stop holding ourselves back from experiencing life to the fullest. I don't have a clearly defined plan here, but I'm okay with that. It just makes me open to working with the master plan.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Knees and Paws in the Dog House

Camping out on a snow day, this puppy enjoyed playing in his dog house fort, eating froot loops from a bowl and lapping a little water from a shallow dish.

Knees and Paws in the Dog House

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Patent Pending Tutorial

Disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer and therefore any advice given in this tutorial is intended as general information for prospective inventors. It is a simplified guide to begin the process, not a detailed or comprehensive essay which is needed to patent new and useful products, methods and ideas.

Knees and Paws are a four piece set of plush hand and knee coverings for children who love to imitate cats and dogs. When people ask what I do for a living these days, I sometimes just say "I make paws." Depending on the person's level of interest, I might say something like, "I work from my home developing and marketing my patent pending children's product." If they're still listening after that mouthful, and ask what kind of product it is, then I offer the name Knees and Paws and describe them using a little more detail and mention my website. For the first month or so of doing this, it felt awkward to talk about my new endeavor. But with practice I find that I enjoy sharing the story of how I started this business. Recently, my brother asked if I might send him a summary of basic knowledge about the patent process for a friend who is thinking of patenting. So here are a few things to consider.

First, I believe that inside every inventor there is a silent, confident knowledge that the idea they are holding is meant to be manifested through them. What I mean to say is that inventors believe that that the structure, form and idea of their invention is absolutely new and useful and could make a positive impact for small or large groups of people, and that they are the ones to make it a reality. Perhaps you have a fantastic idea but are intimidated by the cost of licences, manufacture, legal fees, etc. Many great ideas can stall due to the inventor's anxiety. I carry a little of this anxiety with me every day. However, the helpful advice that allowed me to take some big risky steps came from a book called Patent Pending in 24 Hours by David Pressman and Richard Stim. They are patent lawyers who suceed in inspiring the most timid of inventors by breaking the process down into doable tasks. Of course, you could also begin by going to the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) website, but I suggest starting with Pressman's book and using the government website for searching prior patents and for forms and filing fee information.

Second, start keeping an inventors notebook if you haven't already. Perhaps you have several and I'm stating the obvious. Pressman and Stim insist upon keeping one in the event that there is ever a dispute that winds up in court. Write down all of your ideas. The notebook will also be a great help to you when the time comes for you to write your specification, which you'll need for your regular patent licence. A note about time:

Legally, a person must file a provisional patent application within one year of offering their invention for sale. Once the provisional patent application is filed, the inventor has one year to develop the invention before filing for a regular patent. So far, I am in the sixth month of my provisional patent and will be writing the regular patent very soon. Even though I have only sold two complete sets of Knees and Paws, it is my intention and belief that if I don't do this, someone else will with huge success. I'm also a pretty stubborn person, which in this case is a beneficial quality.

Third, work on structuring a written argument for your invention. Remember the most demanding English professor or teacher you had that made you want to scream? Write it for her (no offense Heather). You need to make an argument for the who, what, where, why, and how of your idea. The WHY that you are trying to prove is that your invention is new and useful. In a provisional application, you might research databases and compare your invention to something called prior art. Here's where the USPTO website is helpful. They maintain a database of inventions past that you can browse by subject. For example, I made my comparisons to three inventions that were similar to mine but argued that mine were useful in a different way. My knee pads and hand coverings were not for sports protection, but for very young children who wanted sensory stimulation (plush material that looks and feels like fur), flexibility, and something that was easy to wear.

Fourth, draw pictures. Pictures are a necessity and if you are adverse to drawing by hand, find a way to do this on the computer. (I did mine by hand but since my structures were simple, they were sufficient). The pictures will be a part of your specification that will help you describe how to make your invention, which is a neccessary part of your application. You must not only describe what your invention is, but how it is made and what materials are needed. The great thing about starting with a provisional patent application is that you can continue to tinker with the invention as new ideas come into your head.

Fifth, once you have a good working rough draft on your specification, think about your title. The title for your invention will probably be much different from the title you use to market your product. For example, my invention title is "A set of hand and knee coverings for children imitating four legged animals" but my product is called "Knees and Paws." The title can be as long as you like because it must describe the thing in succinct but informative language. Instead of saying "improved mouse trap" you need to get really specific, such as "device to choke the life out of small rodents improving the experience of death for the creature by reducing suffering" or something to that effect.

Sixth, you may hand write everything neatly in black ink, but I suggest using a computer, making several copies and keeping your copies in a fire safe box.

Seven, be sure to fill out and include the neccessary forms found on the USPTO website. I discovered that I only needed two forms, which were the Provisional application cover sheet and a fee tranmittal form. Also be sure to include the fee, which if you qualify for small entity status, is $110.00 for a provisional application. Important note: In Pressman's book, the address to send the application is wrong. The new USPTO address is

Commissioner for Patents

P.O. Box 1450

Alexandria, VA 22313-1450

I sent my completed application in a USPS express mail envelope, which was pricey at 17.50, but if you use express mail, you can use the mailing date as the date you filed. If you feel like you might be in competition with another inventor, then this is the way to go. I think I was just really excited.

A few weeks after I filed, I recieved an official letter with my licence number and the magic word "granted." This number is the one I will use when I go forward with my regular patent licence which I plan to file internationally.

Happy Inventing,


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