Do you ever get ideas for products you would use daily but aren’t sure if other people see your vision? If you pick up anything from this podcast interview, let it be the inspiring message of “Go for it!” You never know who else could be wanting the product of your dreams to hit the market.
Check out how BlueKube’s very own Brandon Kennington made his dreams of becoming an inventor come true by following his passion. https://www.youtube.com/embed/UysuqCKo7V0?start=1
On February 10, 2022, BlueKube CEO Brandon Kennington appeared on The Coriolis Effect podcast hosted by Cory Oliver to talk about his life, inspirations, and inventions. Notably, Brandon and Cory chatted about BlueKube’s latest product, the Kibble Katcher, a no-mess dog feeding station.
In discussing the Kibble Katcher, Brandon talked about his inventive process in coming up with the idea for dog bowls that prevented dogs from spilling food and water all over the floor. He considered a few possibilities but ultimately thought of a way to angle the feeder and add trays to catch kibble and water.
“The story is we don’t want to be stepping on kibble or in wet socks. Stepping in a puddle of water in your socks is the worst!” Brandon laughed.
Brandon’s first conception of the Kibble Katcher was an image in his mind of dog bowls in an angled tray that would allow loose kibble and spilled water to slide down into catcher trays. Then, he could pour the food and water back into their respective bowls, preventing food and water waste while saving floors from messes.
“We thought, have something underneath that would catch kibble and water and perhaps be able to pour it back in the bowls,” he recalled of the early process.
While Brandon wanted a functional product, he also considered design significant. Because dogs are part of our families, he wanted to make sure that dogs could join their families in the dining room or kitchen at mealtime. Too often, dog feeders are too messy with gross and soggy kibble bits hanging around that would cut anyone’s appetite.
Being a lover of Midcentury Modern interior design, Brandon decided that style would be perfect for the Kibble Katcher to bring functionality and beauty together in the same package. The Kibble Katcher is made from a mixture of woods, metals, and BPA-free plastic materials, creating a unique look to keep your floors clean.
Having gone through six to seven designs of the Kibble Katcher, Brandon’s main strategy for inventing is “prototype, prototype, prototype.” The more he can test the design in real life, the better. Because drawing it out can only do so much, he prefers to get the full scope of the product he’s creating through a prototype model.
“You just learn so much when you finally put it in your hands, and you start to play with it, and you start to realize, ‘Oh, that thing is flipping over, and I never would have thought that would have happened.’ Because on a computer, everything’s perfect. But in real life, ‘Oh, that’s not actually perfectly balanced,’” Brandon said of the prototype trial-and-error process.
Initially, there were issues with the floating disk in the water bowl of the Kibble Katcher. During the manufacturing process, the plastic walls of the divots underneath the floating disk weren’t flat enough to float in the water properly. Another challenge Brandon and his team faced was the disk flipping over, which was bound to cause major issues with dogs pawing at their water.
Solutions were needed to get the floating disk to float up and down rather than side to side to keep it upright. One possibility was to add another part to the disk, but Brandon’s main goal was to reduce the number of plastic parts used. In the end, Brandon and his engineering team thought up a design with ridges that would create air pockets throughout the bottom of the floating disk to keep it upright in the water.
Just like working with the prototype, Brandon prefers working directly with the customer rather than going to large retailers. He says the personal connection with the people who buy his products gets lost in all of the contracts, backend systems, and rules with larger retailers like Target and Walmart.
That’s why the Kibble Katcher is currently running a campaign on Kickstarter, offering special discounts up to 33% off the retail price for Super Early Bird and Early Bird backers. Brandon wanted to put the product on Kickstarter due to its strong community and a direct line to backers passionate about products.
“We chose to go with Kickstarter because it has a strong community. Yes, it is a great marketing technique to get the word out about it, but more importantly, we wanted to hear what others thought of the idea and then give us feedback. Also, offer any color changes or features they might like,” Brandon said.
Although BlueKube is new to the world of Kickstarter, Brandon added that the process of launching the Kibble Katcher has been enjoyable as well as a great experience learning about the tight-knit Kickstarter community.
Having a genuine connection to people and wanting to solve their everyday problems always came naturally to Brandon. His inspiration for products came from a place of wanting to improve current products to make them perform better.
“When you were a kid, were you one of those kids who were creating things or building things? Has this always been a passion of yours?” Cory asked.
“I knew early on that I loved inventing,” Brandon replied, “And I didn’t even know what the word ‘inventing’ was when I was twelve years old, and I started tinkering with making new prototypes of different products of ideas.”
From his childhood growing up in Laguna Beach, Brandon spent a lot of time around artists and picked up on the visually creative side of his interest in inventing. So not only did he want to create functional products, but he also wanted them to have a particular aesthetic in their design.
By thirteen years old, Brandon was taking a class at a community center. In the course, Brandon learned how to use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software used by civil engineers to plan, create, and design projects. Seeing his interest in inventing, his family encouraged him to look into becoming a civil engineer.
Brandon took a look at civil engineering but discovered that there were all kinds of engineering fields. After discovering the different possibilities with engineering, Brandon went to Purdue University in the Midwest to pursue mechanical engineering.
The first product to take off for Brandon was the Porch Potty, a grass litterbox for dogs. While living in an apartment complex with his family, Brandon wanted a better way to bring his dog outside rather than having to walk down flights of stairs several times a night.
“We need something I can put out on the balcony, so I don’t have to wake up three times a night to let her out,” Brandon recalled of his first dog who inspired the creation of the Porch Potty.
Even though not everyone believed in the Porch Potty product in its initial planning stages, asking Brandon who would need such a product, he remained firm in his invention.
Cory commented that you never know how far your invention could go as she mentioned several friends who had come up with prototypes for their inventions. But, because they were discouraged from pursuing their passions, they discovered years later that someone else had come up with a similar idea that was successful in the market.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for inventors, and I’m always open to helping them get to the next level if they want to do something,” Brandon said.
From Brandon’s own experiences testing out his prototypes, the message is clear: if you have an idea for a product, never hold yourself back! You never know who else in the world is desperately looking for a product that you’ve thought up. Anyone can be an inventor: it just takes a lightbulb moment and the determination to make your idea come to life.