Thursday, November 1, 2012
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In the middle of a cold, windy North Georgia night, Herrick Kroeger wasn’t trying to invent anything — he was trying to stay warm. But when Kroeger made the bleary-eyed decision to carve up his sleeping bag so it would fit over his hammock, it was a decision that could be paying dividends for years to come.
All Kroeger wanted was a good night’s sleep, but his bag wasn’t keeping him warm. A devout hammock camper, cold wind whistling around his sling had been a longtime enemy. So he decided it was time to take action. “I was just like ‘Man I’m going to cut some holes in my bag,’” remembers Kroeger, 30, of Rome, Ga. “I slept like a baby after that.”
Once daylight came, he slowly realized he’d found more than just shuteye. Two years later, Kroeger is credited as the inventor of Grand Trunk’s Hammock Compatible Sleeping Bag and he says other outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t be afraid to share their inventions with the world. “It’s more intimidating to think about than it is to actually do it,” he says. “The hardest part is just telling yourself that it can be done.”
After breaking camp on that fateful night, Kroeger took his creation to his bosses at Blue Sky Outfitters in Rome. Everyone who saw the bag said it had serious potential, so Kroeger and his bosses set up a meeting with hammock-maker Grand Trunk at a gear expo.
Before the meeting, Kroeger paid $350 for a provisional patent and printed nondisclosure agreement for anyone who was going to see his creation. The Grand Trunk reps loved the idea and agreed to pay Kroeger a lump sum for the idea and then 10 percent of the bag’s net sales. This summer, after two years of testing and production, the bag (dubbed the “Herrick Bag” by friends) went on sale across the country. Without going into too many specifics, Kroeger said his first check was enough to buy a laptop, GoPro camera, a new whitewater kayak and pay off his student loans. “It all worked out really nice for me,” he says.
Now that he’s got his first invention under his belt, he’s considering several other ideas and says others shouldn’t be afraid to try and get their ideas to market. “After I’ve been through the process I know it’s just wanting it and taking it step by step,” he says.