Save on drink spillage with tugo.

The tugo  is a drink holder for rolling luggage that suspends between the extended handles of the rolling luggage allowing for easy traversing of concourses while in the airport or busy transportation hubs.

The tugo is one of the featured exhibitors at the DaVinci Inventor Showcase, which takes place on Oct 13, 2012 at the Denver Merchandise Mart. This is your chance to check out how the tugo works and a wild variety of other amazing innovations!

Recently, inventors Tom and Karen Porte  took a moment to answer some questions about giving that travelers an extra hand, finding large scale distribution and domestic air traffic…

1) What was the defining moment that led you to create this product? What problem does it solve?

I was doing frequent traveling back and forth to Michigan taking care of a sick parent, getting stuck one too many times with longer dwell times at the airport. Being a coffee drinker, one day I needed to set my coffee down and there was nowhere that was clean, safe, and secure from spilling. I looked at the extended handles on my rolling luggage and thought, ‘If I could just put it here, that would be perfect’.

That was my ‘light bulb’ moment, because I instantly thought, “Of course! You should be able to put your coffee here!” It was such an ‘aha!’ that I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband and told him about the idea. The problem it solves is giving that traveler an extra hand to move about the concourse more easily while still allowing them the chance to have that coffee or drink they like to enjoy while waiting at the gate.

2) After you came up with the idea, how did you size up the market and decide who your customers would be?

We looked at as much data as we could find that reflected how many air travelers there were domestically. We found a much larger number than we anticipated (618,000,000 – total domestic enplanements for 2009) and decided it had enough potential to bring the product to market. We also found that 95% of all domestic air traffic goes through the top 21 airports in the U.S. As soon as we came to market, we realized that we also had the potential of the promotional industry to pursue.

3) How did you go about naming your product?

We were looking for something simple and catchy, preferably one heard the name tugo. The name also explains simply what the product does. The name is now a registered trademark and the patent for tugo issued in July of this year.

4) How long did it take you to create your initial prototype, and what problems did you run into along the way?

We spent the winter of 2006-2007 making prototypes out of every material we could conceive of. Cutting, pasting, sewing, binding until we had something, though not pretty, that worked. We took the prototype to a patent attorney and began the process of patent researching. When we brought an engineer on board, we then started to work with injectable materials that would allow for large-scale manufacturing. We wound up using TPE. The problems we ran into were finding the right durometer for flexibility and finding the appropriate fasteners that would allow for movement, but not too much movement. Initially we had a single stem that wound up creating harmonics and making the cup swing wildly. Eventually the ‘V’ shaped attachment was used as it provides ‘braking’ action to stop the movement when you stop pulling your luggage.

5) Funding a new idea is always tricky. How did you go about lining up the money you needed?

We were fortunate to have some savings to tap into, and thus far we have personally funded the entire project. However, we did have to continue working our ‘day jobs’ to allow for that. This presents some 24/7 work challenges which are difficult for 2 people to sustain!

6) Is this a product you’d like to produce and sell yourself, or are you wanting to license it to someone else? And if so, who?

Currently we are manufacturing and selling the product ourselves (made in Longmont, Colorado). Originally we thought that was what we would like to do, we now realize we cannot do that on a large enough scale and are hoping to find large distribution or licensing. We have always thought some of the larger players in the travel industry would be our best fit for licensing. The airport retailers, whose parent companies are Paradies, Hudsons, HMS Host. Or, within the travel industry – Lewis and Clark, LLC; GO; Eagle Creek Outfitters, TravelOn.

7) What all channels are you using to market your product?

Social Media, Our website, brick and mortar luggage stores, specialty retailers, e-commerce, and promotional distributors.

8) How many people do you currently have in your business?

Karen Porte and Tom Porte – Principals; Kelli Matthews and Megan McGregor – Social Media Team; Consulting – (Legal, engineering, packaging, branding)

9) How do you define success? What would hitting a ‘home run’ look like in your mind?

Hitting a ‘home run’ would be watching the tugo become an established, successful product in the travel industry. Having it become a ‘standard’ travel accessory that you see everywhere when you travel. Finding large scale distribution will help us achieve that. Having it be a monetary success would, of course, be wonderful too!

10)Where do people go to find out more about your product?