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How ideas are born

first_imgDiapers, blankets and dry ice. Lots of dry ice. Roxanna Bina had a curious packing list when it came to preparing her 9-month-old son, Felix, for his first trip outside the U.S. Then again, the Santa Barbara mom is far from ordinary. A foodie who had sworn off jarred baby food, Bina cooked and pureed gourmet organic dishes for her infant son nearly every day, including his favorite, Provence Chicken, made with premium butter, rosemary, sage and thyme. The trip in question was to Bermuda in March 2006. Bina’s movie-producer husband, Emmanuel Itier, was a juror at the Bermuda International Film Festival, and Bina was determined to travel as a family. Still, she worried about the spicy restaurant food she would find and its effect on Felix’s sensitive palette. “I Swasn’t sure we should even go. Then I figured, well, why not make a bunch of meals, freeze them and ship them with dry ice to meet us at the hotel?” Bina, 29, said. “It worked for 10 days, and it was perfect. From then on, I thought I could make a business.” Like lots of parent inventors, Bina developed her product out of desperation. The same goes for Eagle Rock dad Livio Scagliotti Jr., who invented a vibrating teething ring, and Los Gatos mom Claire Eukeland, who invented a fashionable nursing coverlet called the Hooter Hider. “Nobody does a better job of figuring out what parents need than those who are with their kids on a daily basis,” says Laine Caspi, owner of Granada Hills-based Parents of Invention, a company founded in 2002 to help parent inventors get their ideas to market (parentsofinvention.com). Caspi, a stay-at-home mom, says most of the submissions on her Web site aren’t viable. Take the strap-on pacifier or the high-chair straitjacket. But every once in a while an idea hits, like her company’s Teeny Towels product, a key-chain dispenser filled with anti-bacterial towelettes. A veteran entrepreneur, Bina didn’t need the help of a start-up service. Instead, she used the $50,000 she made selling a bed and breakfast in Providence, R.I., as seed money for Fifibear’s Brasserie (Felix’s nickname is Fifi-bear). After acquiring the necessary licenses, certifications and approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, she began selling her 4.5-ounce twist-cap tubs of frozen organic baby food both online and at shops such as Erewhon Natural Foods in West Hollywood. Bina says all her fresh ingredients are purchased from the Santa Barbara certified organic farmers market. And Fifibear also claims to be the only baby food that adds ground flaxseed — a source of Omega-3 fatty acids — to every meal. Livio Scagliotti Jr. invented his teething ring back in 1991. He got the idea after noticing that his vibrating pager was the only thing that seemed to comfort his teething son, Jeremiah. Scagliotti, a professional handyman, said Jeremiah would put the bulky pager in his mouth and find relief in the gentle massage and white noise. “But I knew most parents wouldn’t feel comfortable putting electronics in their kids’ mouths, so I sat down to design something safe,” he said. His first plexiglass prototype of the Je Je Teether was cumbersome at 8 inches wide. A subsequent model was smaller and used a child-safety cap from a Tylenol bottle to enclose the electronics. Scagliotti, now 40, eventually shared the product with childhood friend Mario Gonzalez of Canoga Park. A quadriplegic father of twins, Gonzalez was amazed at the ring’s soothing powers. He put everything on the line, selling his home and moving in with his in-laws to finance professional development. Gonzalez and Scagliotti patented the design and received FDA clearance in November 2004. They produced about 25,000 here in California, but high costs put the retail price between $12 and $14. “I couldn’t afford to get it into mass-market stores,” Gonzalez said, explaining that retailers such as CVS and Wal-Mart are ruthless at driving down prices. The pair finally gave up on local manufacturing, and Je Je now is produced in China. Soon its retail price will drop to $9.99, Gonzalez said. “Now we have two reps working to get us into CVS, Wal-Mart, Sears and Kmart,” he added. A careful and meticulous ramp-up can have its downside, the pair learned. A company called First Years has since introduced its competing “Massaging Action Teether” for $7.95. Still, the local dads aren’t deterred. “We’re definitely ready to go to the big boys,” Scagliotti says. “We’ve perfected our product over the last 17 years. It’s built right, and it’s built solid.” Inventor Claire Eukeland thrives on competition, saying she entered the market for nursing coverlets after shopping for one and finding “horrid” designs that looked like “hospital X-ray vests.” The mother of two young girls made her first Hooter Hider for herself in 2003, choosing a retro blue and yellow design and using the coverlet to breast-feed daughter Ariana at her husband’s professional soccer games. A former midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes, Ronnie Eukeland is now the business manager for Bebe au Lait, the company the couple started to market Hooter Hiders. “The thing that makes (a Hooter Hider) unique is that it has a rigid neckline with some structured boning, so you can still maintain eye contact with your baby while nursing,” Claire Eukeland, 33, says. “That’s important because the baby might be fumbling around, trying to latch on, and that’s stressful if you can’t see what’s going on.” Now three years old, Bebe au Lait has seven employees, a manufacturing operation in Vietnam and sales accounts with more than 500 boutiques. “I get a lot of ideas for new inventions all the time, and I go off and do the research,” Eukeland says. “Maybe when my girls get older, I’ll start inventing things for teenagers.” — Nancy Dillon, (818) [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! 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Northrop quarterly earnings rise 62%

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Century City-based Northrop, which operates its Space Technology sector in Redondo Beach and its Integrated Systems sector in El Segundo, also boosted its earnings targets for 2007, citing outsize results for each of the first three quarters and continuing efforts to cut costs and improve margins. In the quarter ended Sept. 30, net income jumped to $489 million, or $1.41 per share, from $302million, or 86 cents per share, a year ago. The latest results included a gain from restructuring of $21 million, or 6 cents per share. The results topped analyst expectations for profit of $1.27 per share, according to Thomson Financial. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items. The company, also the nation’s largest shipbuilder, said higher sales, higher segment operating margin and lower corporate expenses boosted per-share results. Sales rose 7 percent to $7.93billion from $7.43 billion, about in line with the Wall Street estimate of $7.92 billion. The company said it received $11.5 million in funded contracts during the quarter, bringing its total backlog of funded and unfunded orders to $64.1 billion. “Our four businesses performed well, expanding segment operating margin rate to more than 10 percent,” Northrop Grumman CEO Ronald D. Sugar said in a statement. Sugar said the current legislative climate favors strong support for defense spending, especially in areas where the company is competitive. Northrop’s sales generated $1billion in cash from operations, a record for the company, he said. The company said it was raising its guidance for 2007 earnings per share to about $5.10 on sales of about $31.5 billion. Shipbuilding operations, especially at its Gulf Coast shipyards, were nearly recovered from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, the company said. Sugar also noted that several facilities in San Diego were closed as a safety precaution because of the California wildfires, although no damage had been reported at the sites. The company said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had asked the Air Force to deploy Northrop Grumman unmanned Global Hawk surveillance drones to operate around the clock to spot fires. The company also explained that its recent acquisition of the civilian space company Scaled Composites was not intended to gain a foothold in space tourism but rather as an advantage when competing for future advanced aircraft contracts. “Our principal interest in Scaled Composites was associated with the special technology they have in composite materials and the innovative culture they have in terms of very rapid prototyping of advanced high-performance aircraft,” Sugar told analysts in a conference call. “In addition, what comes along with it is a participation in the ability to get into near space. That is not a principal motivator for our purchase but it comes along with it, and we’re certainly pleased to have that,” he said. For the first nine months of the year, the company reported net income of $1.336billion, or $3.81 per share, compared with $1.089billion, or 3.09 per share in the same period last year. Revenue for the first nine months rose to $23.194 billion from $22.100 billion in the first nine months of 2006.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! CONTRACTOR: The military, aerospace firm links jump to more sales in shipbuilding, IT units. By Gary Gentile THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Military and aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. said Wednesday third-quarter earnings rose 62 percent, paced by sales gains at its shipbuilding and information technology units. last_img read more