Introduction:

Elia Martinez is a bird lover who had a little parakeet named Angel. Sadly, Angel was born with a clubfoot which limited her mobility.  After a while, she could no longer perch.  She then suffered a paralyzing stroke and her wings and feet simply gave out.  Angel found comfort when held in Elia’s hand and for three straight days, she nursed Angel back to health. The problem was, Elia was really tired of getting pooped on.  That’s when an idea behind The Percher bird perch was born.

The Percher® bird perch is a new and simple way to interact with birds while being protected from poop and bites. The Percher is a hand-held or free-standing device that allows a bird to perch and be trained.

From avian professionals to first-time bird owners, the Percher offers assistance when dealing and training our sometimes unpredictable feathered friends. The Percher® also addresses the issue of bird displacement and helps birds stay in homes instead of rescues and sanctuaries.

www.thepercher.com

Owner/Founder:  Elia Martinez

Location:  Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Successes

The Percher consists of four component parts — perch, cone, handle, base — that twist and lock together allowing for multiple configurations all in one product. Because the Percher is portable, users can enjoy their birds anywhere and at arms length without the threat or mess.

Designed to become part of any bird owner’s everyday routine, the Percher is a versatile product that easily assembles into a hand-held or free-standing device which makes it portable and extremely useful.

The Percher is a training tool that provides a fun and safe way to enhance the interaction between the bird and the human. It’s The Bird!®

The Percher evolved over many months.  There were hallmark moments that changed the design and function of my invention.  It was during a trip to Wal-Mart that I happened to notice funnels sitting on a shelf. I thought if I used a funnel, it would provide protection from both poop and bites from a bird. By modifying the design, it took the product beyond just a useful tool for a hospice bird. The concept allowed for a universal perch product and by adding threads to the components, I now had a product that could be configured seven different ways.   It literally changed everything.

I was surprised how expensive it was to file for intellectual property protection. And even more surprised to find out I might not get a patent and even if I did, that I would have to go after anyone who infringed on my idea. It took a long time to accept the rules of the patent and trademark office but it was a pivotal decision in moving forward.

After the intellectual property was filed, I had five registered trademarks and filed for a utility patent.  In 2009, I began attending the major pet industry trade shows in the USA. Without question, half the battle in bringing this product to market was just showing up. Showing up to do the fun things and the not so fun things about bringing a product to market. Like walking up to avian professionals at a conference and showing them my product because that would be the only opportunity I would have to do so. I disliked doing a lot of the things I had to do to keep this product moving forward. It was a great comfort knowing I had my weekly mentor session to discuss the always surprising results.

I had spent countless hours researching and developing this product and now I was ready to introduce it
to the pet bird market. However, since the product had not yet been introduced to the market, the true market size and demand for The Percher was unknown. Should I take the risk to manufacture, distribute, and market the product or should I license it to an existing manufacturer who would handle everything?  My target retailers were, of course, the pet superstores, but The Percher was rejected.

Those were some dark days and if I were ever going to quit The Percher, September 2010 was as close as I ever got.  Without mass distribution, I would not be able to sell enough to see a return on my investment in tooling, marketing and sales. I simply didn’t have the connections, resources and the distribution channels to bring a product to market. I believed in my product so I would have to find another way. I decided to expand my reach by consulting with a pet industry professional.  The goal became finding a manufacturer who would license my concept and use all THEIR resources to bring MY product to market. My reward was a royalty for each unit sold.

A chance meeting at a pet industry trade show pointed me in the direction of a pet industry insider with over 20 years of experience. We met for coffee where I showed her The Percher. She had not seen anything like it and saw its merit. I hired her to conduct market research on an audience I could not get in front of as an outsider to the industry. I knew the companies, but not the players.  Once the market research was conducted with a 100% positive feedback, it took six months to find the right partner. Six months later and several pitch presentations to pet industry professionals, distributors and manufacturers resulted in a licensing agreement in October 2011.

One year later, the Percher® bird perch was introduced to the marketplace at a trade show in Las Vegas.  It was awarded 3rd prize for Best New Bird Product at SuperZoo and was featured on the cover of Pet Product News magazine.

It took four and a half years to go from idea to market, but today, the Percher is now available in retail stores, online and in catalogs. The motivation behind my original idea was not being pooped on. The end result was more than just a potty perch, it was a tool that helped build better bonds with birds by providing an out of cage experience without the threat or mess.

What’s Great About My Mentor?

Once I had my concept refined, I went online and was quickly overwhelmed by the millions of search results for inventing a product. I did not know how to bring a product to market so I looked for local resources and I found the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce who referred me to SCORE.

My SCORE success story began with an idea for an invention and someone who listened.  I reached out to SCORE and was immediately introduced to Jim Batz, a SCORE counselor since 1994. Jim’s experience as a VP of Operations was an amazing skill set for an inventor in need of assistance. His guidance provided a road map to go from idea to market. Each week we would discuss the “critical path” to get to the next step. I was accountable and committed, and so was Jim.

From day one Jim encouraged me to build concept prototypes from off the shelf products. I spent countless hours at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, TruValue etc., looking for components to build functional prototypes.  I would have remained in this product development stage for years had it not been for my Mentor.

Once I had a fully functioning prototype, Jim encouraged locking the design and moving forward with the product.  I took his advice.  Documentation was a must and the intellectual property needed definition and protection.   Jim recommended a SCORE class taught by Don Flickinger, a retired patent agent and SCORE Mentor at the time.   Under Don’s guidance, a provisional patent application was filed. I now had the right to use “Patent Pending” on all prototypes and marketing collateral. I was also now free to show my idea to others without a nondisclosure agreement.

How SCORE Helped

Intellectual property filing deadlines forced my hand as to whether I would proceed with bringing a product to market.  It was now time to have a meeting with a patent and trademark attorney.  I had met Michael W.Goltry at a SCORE class.   During my first office visit, I filled his long conference table with a dozen handmade prototypes and design logos.

Even though The Percher is out in the marketplace, Jim and I still meet every Wednesday. We discuss The Percher but it is not the focus anymore. There are new inventions to develop.  I am forever grateful to SCORE and Jim Batz.  I now truly understand the value of a mentor. Their role is to keep you on course; the drive and tenacity to get everything done is up to you.