11-year-old entrepreneur on the "write" path with invention


One of Cincinnati's youngest entrepreneurs has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund manufacturing of his product, Grip Wizard.
 
Eleven-year-old Matthew Meyer invented Grip Wizard (originally named Right-Writer) two years ago while struggling with his handwriting. Grip Wizard is a fabric strap holding the pinky and ring fingers to the palm, allowing students to master the tripod grip necessary for holding a pen or pencil. When Matthew and his mother Elizabeth realized how many other children were struggling with the same fine motor coordination, they decided to pursue making the Grip Wizard available to a wider audience.

Matthew's invention won the Fourth Grade First Prize and Chairman's Choice awards at the 2013 Cincinnati Invention Convention and Grand Prize in the Secret Millionaires Club Grow Your Own Business Challenge, where he met billionaire and investment guru Warren Buffet.
 
“Meeting Warren Buffett was amazing,” Matthew says. “He encouraged me to continue on with my idea and said that ‘the best investment is an investment in myself.’ That means doing well in school, learning from your mistakes, believing in yourself and never giving up.”
 
Over the past two years, mother and son, have worked on refining Matthew's invention with input from occupational therapists, educators and designers.
 
“The main flaw in the original design was the elastic strap,” Elizabeth says. “The pinky and ring fingers could pop out too easily. But the fabric had to be very stretchy and very soft, as a lot of children with fine motor struggles have sensory challenges as well, which led us to a spandex/athletic mesh glove.”
 
Elizabeth and Matthew worked closely with Lisa Grey at Industrial Sew-Tech in Forest Park to modify Matthew's invention for mass production, going through 50 prototypes.
 
“We learned about pattern design and the sewing manufacturing process,” Elizabeth says. “Lisa understood how important finding the right materials and design were for our product. She says, ‘You can find a way to make anything once. Finding a way to make it a million times is my job.’
 
“We are so proud to be partnering with Industrial Sew-Tech so that we can be closely involved in the process and our business can benefit theirs.”
 
The Grip Wizard team also includes Cincinnati artists Erin Barker and Kevin Necessary, who created and animated the logo and brand mascots, Max and Maggy.
 
Matthew and Elizabeth are excited to be part of the startup scene in Cincinnati. Matthew recently attended his first Chamber of Commerce event to network with other business professionals.
 
“When I first start talking, I am a little nervous,” Matthew says. “I worry that they won't like my idea or I'll burp while I'm talking. After I get going though, I’m on fire! It’s exciting to be able to share my invention with people. I think my pitch is good but could use a little work.”
 
Meanwhile, Elizabeth has been helped by Michelle Spelman, a marketing consultant at Live Wire!
 
“She reached out to us after the Grow Your Own Business Challenge and has been a huge supporter of Matthew's invention,” Elizabeth says. “She’s mentoring us in the small business branding and development process. As a mother and business owner herself, Michelle inspires me to continue learning and growing, professionally and personally. We’re really excited about how far Grip Wizard has come, and we still have a lot to learn.”
 
The marketing focus for Grip Wizard is currently students, although the product will be available in adult sizes as well. Recent studies demonstrating a correlation between handwriting development to communication, memory, math and literacy skills are generating renewed interest in reintroducing cursive writing to the curriculum.
 
“Most adults were taught cursive and write in a print/cursive hybrid that suits their style and reflects their personality,” Elizabeth says. “Our children should have the same ability to create their own ‘font’ by learning both styles. Handwriting is the most personal form of communication we have.”
 
Matthew's invention also has potential for other occupational therapy audiences, something the team at Grip Wizard will pursue after getting their Kickstarter campaign funded and production up and running.
 
The Kickstarter campaign to help Grip Wizard “create fine motor magic” ends May 27 with a goal of $20,000. If fully funded, Grip Wizard gloves will be available beginning in September.
 

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter is a jack-of-all-trades with a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums and nonprofit organizations. She's a bit obsessed with the built environment and irregularly shares her musings on architecture, urban planning and city life on Facebook and Twitter (@StrawStickBrick).
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