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"I had a window fire escape seat for one," he says, recounting one of his favorite failures. "That was a portable seat you could attach to the bedroom window, and it had a little tool to smash the glass out, and a flashlight and a ladder so you could get to the ground safely."
He finally found a market for his madness with invention No. 51: the Microwave Caddy, a microwavable dish whose handle doesn't get hot when nuked. Before Media Corp found him at a trade show in Chicago, Wikstrom, who lives in Las Vegas, hustled it himself, carrying it from restaurant to restaurant and asking servers to try it out when he ordered a meal.
"They absolutely loved it," says Wikstrom, a high school dropout. "I never really sold them to restaurants, though. There's all this stuff you have to do to get products licensed for restaurant use, and I just didn't think it was a big enough market to be worth it."
Inventors send their ideas to Media Corp every day, and the company still scours the Internet for possible winners. But trade shows are the best hunting grounds. With everything on full display, there's no confusion about whether a product actually works.
"You can tell quickly," Pardo says. "I remember he put that Microwave Caddy in my hands ... and right away I knew, from personal experience, that that was perfect for us. I'll microwave a coffee mug and try not to burn myself. It's products like that, that everyone has some use for, that you want."
Jim White had one of those products. After being diagnosed with both brain and lung cancer, White was living on workers' compensation in a trailer park when he invented the GPS Pal. It's a GPS mount designed to fit in a cup holder — a handy-sounding alternative to the standard windshield mount.
White had been pushing his product for years, but nothing happened until Media Corp stumbled onto his website. He has since made about $80,000 off the GPS Pal, he says.
"I financed that through a couple of credit cards," says White, who also never graduated from high school. "Made the money back and paid it off."
If the Snuggie had been available only in powder-blue and crimson, America might be over it by now. But the marketing minds behind Snuggie know that the secret to real success is establishing a brand-name family. That's why the sleeved blanket now comes with sports logos and personalized designs. And it's why Media Corp is looking for ways to expand the Better Marriage Blanket.
"I'm big on nanotechnology right now," Pardo says, back in his office after the show-and-tell session. "I think that's where the future of these products is."
He holds out a blanket that he says is covered in a sheen of invisible nanotechnology particles. Then he pours a glass of water over it. The water beads atop the fabric. Pardo wipes it off, laughing. The blanket is dry to the touch.
"We mix that one with the Better Marriage Blanket, and you've got the Better Pet Blanket, and you're expanding the name," he says. "Imagine a blanket that keeps your dog from smelling and that won't absorb an accident. That'll sell."
He's also working on ways to get people to believe that the Better Marriage Blanket is more than just a gag to e-mail to a friend and forget. He's thinking about a show called The Doctors, on which attractive, young medical professionals test "breakthroughs," such as the e-cigarette. He imagines giving the blanket to couples with flatulence problems and coming away with convincing testimonials. The Better Marriage Blanket saved my marriage! Call today!