Makers unite: (Re-)inventor combines creative clubs

Another bright idea: Inventor (and re-inventor) Brian Fried has merged his county-specific inventors clubs into a single, Island-wide organization for tinkerers and early-stage entrepreneurs.

And then there was one.

And that was the plan all along, according to founder Brian Fried, who has merged the Nassau and Suffolk county inventors clubs he created into a single entity – the Long Island Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club, brought to you by the Farmingdale Small Business Development Center, located on the campus of Farmingdale State College.

That’s where the new organization will hold its monthly meetings, beginning this month – a fulfillment of a longtime ambition, noted Fried, who said combining his clubs into a single, Island-wide entity to encourage and assist regional inventors “was always what I wanted to do.”

“There are such great resources across both counties,” the innovator told Innovate LI. “I wanted to open up [the Nassau and Suffolk clubs] to what was available, to merge them together and find a good central location.”

The right location – and the right partner – was the Farmingdale SBDC, Fried said, noting the small-business center “provides great tools and resources for startups with new products, services or business ideas.”

“They have free advisors from the state, they offer business-plan help and they can assist with the basic fundamentals of starting a business,” he said. “They helped organize this from the start.”

The SBDC is also serving as a conduit between regional inventors and Farmingdale State’s copious product-development resources, which according to Fried often fit the bill for early-stage tinkerers just learning the ropes of commercialization.

“The campus has engineering and smart facilities and different initiatives going on that can help,” he noted. “Departments that will be able to collaborate with our group on things like design and prototyping. The SBDC is bridging those two worlds.”

Brian Fried: Inventor, smart.

All the would-be entrepreneur needs is an idea. Fried, who launched his Suffolk inventors club in 2007 and followed it with a Nassau County version in 2012, always intended the free monthly get-togethers to serve as mini-incubators of sorts, allowing inventors like himself to pitch ideas or show off prototypes to a largely amenable audience – other makers, IP experts, potential investors – and ushering them toward potential commercialization.

“We’ve had over 6,000 people come through the doors of the Nassau and Suffolk clubs,” Fried noted.  “Patent attorneys, engineers, manufacturers, designers, website people – all different types of professionals.”

Now, those innovators will bask in the business-building ambiance of the Farmingdale SBDC, where the new club’s free meetings will be held. The first meeting, slated for Wednesday, will devote time to laying out the new group’s “agenda and format,” according to the founder, who will co-host the kickoff with Farmingdale SBDC Director Erica Chase-Gregory.

There will be plenty of time for introductions and questions, Fried added, as well as “discussions on helping people get their ideas to the next level, and plenty of networking.”

Outside of his clubs-turned-club, the founder remains busy. Through his Melville-based for-profit consultancy Inventor Smart, Fried recently helped a California inventor push his “Shelf-Go-Round” pantry organizer onto home-shopping mothership QVC.

The incessant tinkerer has also worked up a new version of his flagship invention, the clip-replacing, twisty-tie-outperforming, bag-securing Pull Ties, which debuted on QVC this month.

But as much as he enjoys inventing (and hawking) his own products, Fried gets jazzed by helping other inventors along the commercialization path. Hence, the new united front for Long Island innovation.

“I want to continue to help people right here on Long Island and around the world,” Fried said. “I love to give advice and help them figure out if their idea really is an opportunity to commercialize – or maybe help them realize they should move on to their next idea.”

The platform beneath the Long Island Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club may be larger, Fried added, but the early-stage focus remains the same.

“Connecting businesses on Long Island with people who need help right here, and keeping business going on Long Island, is actually very effective,” he said. “And it’s a much easier way to do business.

“I’m just happy to continue bringing these professionals together and to continue providing free meetings for them to network and collaborate.”