By GREGORY ZELLER //
There’s always something brewing at Mary Putre’s house, sometimes literally.
The relentless inventor – creative force behind Eyecatcher Gifts and much of its whacky inventory – believes she’s struck gold, again, with her latest doodad: the My Brew-Tini Kup, a portable, hand-held device that turns out steaming cups of joe, sans electricity.
Putre, a regular at meetings of the Nassau County Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club, showed off her latest invention at the club’s Sept. 12 showcase in Mineola. And she’s not stopping there: Still on a lengthy waiting list for a “Shark Tank” filming date for her EZ Throw Snow Shovel, the New Hyde Park innovator is now hoping to shine a national-TV spotlight on the My Brew-Tini Kup, with a fresh “Shark Tank” application in its preliminary stages.
It’s a marathon process. Putre noted three separate rounds to get the patented EZ Throw queued up for a “Shark Tank” spot, including two written applications and a test video, all to get the attention of one of the many producers behind the Emmy-winning ABC Network reality show.
She’s in line now – still no filming date set – and restarting the process with her coffee device, which has already earned a provisional U.S. Patent and stems from another of Putre’s “there had to be a better way” moments.
This time, the coffee-lover was lamenting the lack of space in her cluttered kitchen for a proper K-cup coffeemaker.
“There’s no room in my kitchen for any kind of brewing machines,” she told Innovate LI. “And using a percolator is too cumbersome.”
So the tinkerer got busy, removing the plastic cup-lid from a standard thermos, drilling out the bottom and adding a refillable K-cup sized pod and funnel. Just filter through some hot water, Putre noted, and “voila, you have the Brew-Tini Kup.”
Noting costs as high as $60,000 to develop an injection-molding process to mass-manufacture the device, Putre presented at the Inventors Club, which is sponsored by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, hoping to attract potential manufacturers. The club formed in 2012 to provide novice and experienced inventors networking and brainstorming opportunities, including a stage to present to potential investors.
The My Brew-Tini Kup is not Putre’s most practical lunge toward fame and fortune – the number of potential customers who can boil water but not produce coffee is surely limited – but practicality is not always this inventor’s trademark.
The EZ Throw is quite clever, designed to spare user’s muscles by preventing ice and snow from sticking to the blade. But other knickknacks on the Eyecatcher Gifts site run the gamut from the serious to the silly to the surreal.
That includes many of Putre’s own inventions, including the Look No Hands dog leash – a hands-free strap that literally binds human and pet together – and Tea Bands, rubber straps that keep tea bags from disappearing into the depths of your Earl Grey.
Other products on the Eyecatcher Gifts site for which common sense is not a major selling point – including contraptions from the sometimes-devious minds of Putre and other inventors – include mustachioed baby pacifiers; a DVD featuring an endless loop of lava-lamp bubbles; a child-sized catapult for slinging snowballs; and the classic, untearable “Revenge Toilet Paper,” guaranteed not to rip.
Many of Putre’s prizes can now be found on her secondary Cratejoy site, which leverages the popular subscription-box fad to spread the kitsch. For $29.99, subscribers receive a monthly package stuffed with “wow” items created by Putre and other inventors, with “a retail value equal to that of your subscription amount,” according to the site, which went live this month.
Putre’s products may soon be featured on other channels as well. Many are already available on Amazon and eBay, and she’s sent an EZ Throw application to the producers of CNBC’s “Make Me a Millionaire Inventor” show.
The inventor has also submitted both her hands-free leash and her Tea Bands to the Home Shopping Network for consideration. She has an inventory of about 1,000 pieces of each, she said, manufactured by partners in Elmont and Pennsylvania and stored in a rented New Hyde Park warehouse, and she likes her HSN chances.
“HSN is really becoming more proactive about bringing in the innovation,” Putre noted.
Even with all that swirling about, her attention now is focused primarily on securing the right manufacturing partner to bring the My Brew-Tini Kup to the masses – at least, to the niche audience for whom a portable K-cup coffeemaker fits the bill.
For the record, the coffee-loving inventor added, those popular Keurig machines really don’t do anything more than boil water and punch holes in plastic K-cups.
“That’s all the machine does,” Putre said, “for $149.”