To prepare for his Wednesday appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, Clayton’s Kevin Bunn pitched his invention “The Sock Dock” in his living room, using his son’s telescope as a stand-in for a TV camera.
Bunn and his family are among nine finalists in the “Today” show’s “Next Big Thing” contest, each vying for the $150,000 top prize and a Saturday morning pitch live on the home shopping channel QVC. It could be the big break for Bunn, who designed and tested his invention out of his Clayton home, but it’s an opportunity he almost didn’t pursue.
“We were getting everything ready and planning for a trade show in Chicago, and someone told me about the ‘Today’ show contest,” Bunn said. “I looked it up and checked the deadline and it was midnight that night (Feb. 19). It was about 9 o’clock then, so I thought there’s no way. But I did everything I could to try and get everything in by midnight, and we made it. Then I didn’t think anything else about it; I pretty much forgot about it.”
The “SockDock,” Bunn’s answer to the plague of misplaced socks, is a washable caddy that keeps socks when they’re clean and keeps them together when they’re dirty. Bunn, a former gym owner with an engineering degree, said he made the invention after too many mornings of mismatched socks souring his mood. He had been selling the docks locally since Christmas but marked last month’s International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago as its official launch.
A few weeks after applying, Bunn said he got a phone call from a QVC rep saying his invention was in the running for the “Today” show. Then, while he, his wife, Teresa, and friend Robert Poole were pitching the gadget at the Chicago show, Bunn said an NBC producer called and said he was in.
“She said ‘Congratulations,’ ” Bunn said. “And as soon as she started telling me, I had chills all over my body, I couldn’t talk, my wife and I are there at the booth crying.”
For his “Today” show segment, Bunn gave a 20-second intro into the camera, introducing himself and the “SockDock,” and then a separate 45-second sales pitch.
Of the nine finalists, viewers will vote for their favorite, and three finalists will make another pitch to a panel of judges on Friday. The winner will be announced Friday live on the morning show.
The winner will then go to QVC’s headquarters in West Chester, Pa., to sell the product live on the air. Second and third place will each get $5,000.
Bunn’s goal is to try to get the “SockDock” in national stores, and he said the Chicago show was promising.
“We were in a section of the show called ‘inventors corner’ with about 60 other inventions, and we were slammed,” Bunn said. He said he doesn’t have any contracts now but is sending the product to retailers who expressed an interest.
Drew Jackson; 919-603-4943; @jdrewjackson